Me and my brain kind of get on. I feed it plenty of facts from books and the internet, and it gives me these back during pub quizzes, and occasionally when I don’t need them. In it I store things like the house phone numbers for people who no longer live there, the names of the house band from Mel and Sue’s light lunch (steve, matt, dylan and dan) and it does a good job of repressing all the memories of when I was a fool. Speaking of which, I was talking at a gig to Sam Gore about birthday parties and said I couldn’t imagine anything worse than a massive party for me with all my various groups of friends because they would have the chance to gang up and share stories of how i was a dickhead. He said “well, the solution to that is to just stop being a dickhead”. So true.
Where my brain and me don’t get on is my Dyspraxia (poor hand to eye coordination, which means i will occasionally knock a whole table of stuff over and then just stare at my hands, like a character in a bad movie who has just killed someone). I never mention my dyspraxia on stage, mostly because it isn’t very funny. Watching someone fall over is hilarious. (Some anthropolgists believe it was the first joke. Mind you, some anthropologists also believe that women grew breasts because they look like buttocks and that women like lipstick because it reminds men of vaginas. we can all agree anthropologists are, at best, chancers). But describing somone fall over isn’t hilarious. Weirdly, I’ve noticed a lot of women, when asked their most embarassing moment, will cite the time they fell over and loads of people saw them. I’ve held my tongue because there’s nothing more likely to annoy a woman than going “wasn’t it the time that were so drunk you forgot about your tampon and left it in, got toxic shock, went to hospital for it, and they decided to show students as it was a paticularly interesting case, and one of those students was a friend of yours from childhood who you hadn’t seen for 10 years and they tried to make small talk?”
This is where my brain and me don’t get on. because my brain will be sitting there going. “you should point that out. you should definitely correct her on that” most of the time in those situations, I ignore my brain. a few times this last month, I didn’t, and ended up making a dick out of myself.
I was offered a late gig (I’ll not say when or where in case it costs me work), for a decent sum of money and relatively close to my house. I’d done the gig before and it was joyful, and I was really confident leading up to it. Perhaps too confident. The compere did a cracking job and the room was lovely, set up perfectly for me to open. I started my bit about Stoke. This bit is pretty deadpan, then I get more energetic as I go on. One table had a bit of pointing at a woman who was from stoke and a bit of “ahh, that’s you that is” which winds me up. I talked to the woman. I asked her what she did for a living (teacher) and what she did for a hobby (drinking). My brain went “Aha. You have a drinking story. tell that. tell that now”. I told it. The audience, listened through it and went “ooh”. not in a good way, where you cross a line but you do it with skill and challenge a stereotype or even the word play is really good so they ignore the content and go “oooh…” and then burst into rounds of applause, like they do for Gary Delaney. They just went. “oooh. I don’t like that”
The story, which is true, is based on me being drunk and accidentally punching a woman. it is a funny story. but, in the baldest terms, it is still me punching a woman. It was accidental, it wasn’t hard, and it was all forgotten quickly. but I still punched a woman.
In her ovaries.
I’ve told this story a few times, and it’s always got a decent response. but then I have always told it later in a set, when they have seen my cheeky chappy persona and I have prodded around the boundaries of acceptability a few times. So they hear that story and go “Paul, you lovable scamp. what an inherently ridiculous thing to have done. but we liked your bit about the 3 musketeers and so we will go with this”
This audience didn’t know me. They didn’t yet like me. I had come on, deadpan, not reached the punchline of a joke and then bragged about assaulting a female stranger. This is not funny. For years, comedians have had the in-joke when someone tests a dark bit of material someone will go “i wouldn’t open on it”. I had done just that. I spent the next 19 minutes tensely trying to bring the gig back. I didn’t die, but I came close. The compere said he wouldn’t have blamed me if I came off at 15. Every time they laughed, they felt guilty “imagine us, laughing at that wife beater. we would be awful people. let’s stop laughing” they seemed to say.
Happily, it doesn’t seem to just be me inflicted by this. I was MCing a burlesque gig the other day. It was a newbie show, where girls who are just starting out try out in front of an audience. I had a blast, really enjoying the MCing and letting myself off the leash a few times, though holding back that bit of my brain that goes “say this, it’ll be hilarious”. I managed to watch a woman in her 40’s do a striptease and came back on without saying “That’s the last time I bring my mum”. Which I thought would be well funny but would be very cruel. The best bit was a girl doing a dance to the Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain”, otherwise known as the Formula 1 theme. I said that beer, breasts and sports were pretty much every man’s favourite combo. I then told them they should go one step further and do a striptease to the match of the day theme, then acted dancing seductively to a slowed down version. Sometimes I genuinely love my job.
Anyway, one of the acts had already done one dance and came back on with her female assistant. She seemed to be telling some sort of story with the backing track Atomic, by blondie. She was wearing an orange wig and a sparkly dress. Her assistant was wearing jeans and a white shirt. I used to work with adults with special needs, especially people with Down’s Syndrome, so believe me that I do not say this lightly when I say that the assistant appeared to be doing a “spastic” face. As the song progressed, the dancer lost her dress, the assitant got covered in fake blood, and she combed her orange wig with a plastic comb. Then for the big finish, she pulled off the orange wig to reveal a bald cap and poured more fake blood on her scalp, whilst her friend stood there, almost catatonic.
I have no idea what that was supposed to be. The audience seemingly didn’t either. I wonder if she did? I wonder if she went “I’ve had an idea. I’ll be a sexy cancer victim and you be a stroke addled simpleton and we’ll cover it in fake blood. that’s sexy isn’t it?” and she probably had a moment of self doubt before her brain went
“yeah. Definitely do that. Do it. That will definitely be amazing”