My Comedy Debut with Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith curtains

‘Why don’t you just buy a motorbike?’

The morning before the evening of my debut stand-up comedy debut. Some months earlier, I’d realised my age. I had been doing the same job for twenty-three years. I was 45 years old. I’d been a policeman for nearly half my life.

‘Why don’t you just buy a motorbike?’

I’d had a book sitting on my hard drive since 2005. Once upon a time, a publisher had turned my head. I’d almost signed a contract. Almost. They’d gone bankrupt. I had another go at it, some years later. This time a publisher told me it was just nasty people doing nasty things to each other. He’d obviously mistaken my opus for his internet search history.

I self-published.

‘Why don’t you just buy a motorbike?’ I realised that my wife was talking to me, and not our baby daughter. Neither of us holds a motorcycle licence, so the question seemed somewhat bizarre. My wife has a Cambridge education, so I often assume her mind works on a different level.

I sang. I find it helps balance the hormones. I avoid ‘Lady in Red’ to prevent difficult conversations after the children have gone to bed. I offer to sing to my wife – She declines.

It is the morning of my debt stand-up comedy performance. Or lie down. I lie down for part of the performance. See what I did there? I’m here all week. Well, just one night actually.

I’d persuaded the management of the Riverhouse Barn in Walton on Thames to let me use their salubrious premises to present my surreal tales. It was that simple.

No, it wasn’t.

I read Arthur Smith’s book once. My Name is Daphne Fairfax: A Memoir. Damn fine it is too. It turned out that Arthur’s dad was a policeman. Which is wot I is. I told Arthur that via Twitter. He then agreed to perform for free in support of my debut performance. There were a few more steps in between, but that’s the gist.

I told the management of the Riverhouse Barn that Arthur Smith had agreed to perform for free in support of my debut performance. They bit my arm off. Which was weird.

Tickets went on sale for free. A free gig with a mystery comedy legend. And compere Ben Clover, who, in comparison to me, is also a comedy legend. And, in comparison to me, is very young. I believe Arthur is in his mid-forties, so we are of the same age. Or he was once.

The night arrives. The bar opens. Friends buy alcohol to numb themselves. Local comedy fans find comedy legend Arthur Smith walking amongst them. I’d alerted the local police to the potential for large crowds in the area. They’d told me to get over myself. They also said I was ginger, which isn’t strictly true.

I experience the thrill of being a performer. I have access to the Green Room where I snort from a bowl of cocaine and drink champagne. Actually, there is a complimentary bottle of still water for all the performers. Arthur’s is noticeably larger. I believe that is one of his many conditions. He also demands a row of continually spinning plates, powered by a person of restricted growth dressed as a Welsh Guardsman.

The front of house manager ensures I have a clean towel. There is a shower. It’s filled with cardboard boxes. I imagine this is something the more experienced performer would understand.

I ask Arthur. He meditates in the lotus position. Edinburgh legend has it that he levitated for three days in 1985. Ben arrives as Arthur invites the spirit of Shiva to walk amongst us then goes for a fag. The front of house manager gives us free Coke.

Ben goes on stage. The crowd demand he stays then hands straight over to Arthur. My wife leads the demands. Sadly, its not to be.

Then I go on. I enter into a strange alternate reality where I do a comedy gig for forty-five minutes but remember nothing. Then I’m backstage again, and the bar manager offers me free alcohol after whacking his head on the door frame.

I drink Stella Artois as the audience filters into the bar for the interval. Some congratulate me. I assume they also buy the Big Issue. That sort of person.

We go back in, and I steal someone’s seat. I’m a policeman. It’s what we do. Ben comes back on and pretends to be old enough to have a child. Then it’s Arthur Smith.

People nearby pretend they’d come to see me, but I know the truth.

Arthur reads from his father’s memoirs, then quotes some poetry before calling Noddy a cunt. Outstanding.

And that, as they say, was that.

I’d lost my stand-up virginity by opening for Arthur Smith.

I asked Arthur what the elixir of comedy was. He said it was calling Noddy a cunt. What a legend.

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