Welcome to the official website for the comedian Scott Bennett. Here you can find biography info, a gig list, a blog and some images and video that you can use as part of your Scott Bennett shrine (it’s okay, we know you’ve got one).
After starting comedy in late 2009, Scott has rapidly established himself as one of the fastest rising stars on the UK circuit. Likeable, with a warm and engaging delivery, he is a Yorkshire live wire with an undeniable no nonsense logic. In demand by many of the big clubs, Scott delivers wry observations on the absurdity of modern living. His sharply written routines have been delighting audiences across the country. In 2013 and 2015 he was selected to perform in the prestigious Big Value showcase show for Just the Tonic at the Edinburgh fringe, the show has previously been a springboard to success for many household names including Jason Manford and Sarah Millican.
His debut hour stand up show "About a Roy: Stories about me dad" was nominated for the highly acclaimed Amused Moose Comedy Award and was selected as one of the top ten shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. As well as receiving rave reviews, Scott was selected to perform an extract from the show as part of the famous Mervyn Stutter's "Pick of the Fringe Showcase". The show also received a Best New Show nomination at the Buxton Fringe Festival.
A versatile and confident performer Scott regularly appears at many of established clubs including; Glee, Jongleurs, Highlight, Just the Tonic, Ten Feet Tall, Funhouse Comedy, Buzz Comedy, Frog and Bucket, Baby Blue, Hilarity Bites and many other independents. He is a resident MC with Funhouse Comedy and is also making a name for himself on the corporate and after dinner speaking circuit.
Recently Scott was also thrilled to be selected to do a support slot for Michael Mcyntire as part of his work in progress shows at the Duchess Theatre in London alongside Keri Godliman, Russell Kane and Ed Gamble.
Scott is also a regular writer and performer on the new "Panelbeaters" show created by Gary Delaney and Ciamh Mcdonnell. The show, presented by Jason Manford, recently completed some sell out dates at the Lowry theatre in Manchester.
In 2017 Scott supported his comedy hero, Rob Brydon on two of his UK tour dates for his latest show "I am Standing Up"
Competitions and Awards
Overseas Shows Corporate gigs and Support
Sensatori Resort Gigs in Cyprus, Crete and Ibiza
Various Golf Clubs, Private Functions and Corporate events
Support Slot for Michael Mcyntire, Duchess Theatre London, Feb 2016
Support and warm up Rob Brydon Northampton and Nottingham dates 2017
Writer and regular panelist on Panelbeaters, 2016/17, Derby, Manchester and Leicester
Support Slot for BGT Winner Magician Richard Jones, Lincoln Engine Shed, Oct 2016
TV and radio credits
This month its an absolute belter! late night motorway adventures, the joys of skiving and the best things my daughter said to me this week, enjoy!
Running on fumes
As a stand-up comedian much of my time is spent behind the wheel of my trusty Sportswagon, thundering along the nations tarmac topped arteries delivering a wide load of comedy gold to the good people of Britain. It can be quite lonely and there is only so much Smooth radio and late night phone-ins about alopecia that can be tolerated before one is consumed by madness.
As a result I and another fellow comedian, Dan, have started using this dead time to have late night in car chats; we are like two truckers on CB radios, we even start the conversation with the words “breaker breaker!” It’s a great chance to talk about life before a gig and decompress after it. As any sort of social life has been sacrificed at the altar of stand-up comedy, this is the nearest we get to a chat down the pub. The only difference is that we are both behind a wheel, stone cold sober and going in opposite directions to the various comedy clubs strewn throughout this great island. Of course we have snacks, crisps between the knees or a cheeky packet of dry roasted, opened out into that underused alcove below the stereo.
Last night I performed at a function in a Bradford tennis club; smashing folk; everyone had a ball, well two actually in case they messed up the first serve. A Special mention goes to the man on the front table who kept his back to me for the entire performance. It was like doing a gig to a taxi driver; I even gave him a tip at the end, which was to “face the front” It was a steely determination to not participate that can only be admired. At one point I almost got him to rotate by ninety degrees, I wondered if he was just a big owl and would just move his round on the jokes he liked, but it was not to be. He reminded me of my father actually, mainly because he is often bitterly disappointed in me too.
After the gig I got the phone call from Dan, “Breaker Breaker!” We were so engrossed in our post gig forensic dissections that I failed to notice that I was running low on fuel and had just blundered onto the motorway without thinking. I knew I could be in trouble. Dan proceeded to stick with me like a wing-man; it was like a pilot being talked in for an emergency landing. "Stay at fifty six mate, just cruise" he said. I was like the hero Sully Sullenberger who pulled off that famous emergency landing on the Hudson River. The car fuel computer said thirty miles to go, services were twenty eight miles away, its going to be close. Then the computer blanked out, I was without instruments, I'd lost an engine, I was, in aviation terms, flying blind. You can't ring the RAC for running out of fuel like this, I mean you probably can, but they'll just come out, call you a bellend and charge you a hundred quid. With a sweaty arse crack and contemplating having to walk along the slow lane in my suit, it was unbearably tense for the next ten miles. I was now rubbing the dashboard of the car and offering words of encouragement; like that scene in cool hand Luke where they feed him the eggs. It was man and machine working as one. At this point Dan was on his driveway, but being a true professional and wonderful human he stayed with me, "I'm not leaving till I know you've made it" Fourteen miles to go. I passed a turning for Leeds city centre, part of me wanted to turn off, "you'll not find an Asda" said Dan, "stick with the motorway" he knew what I was thinking. You see that although I was in a predicament, my Yorkshire upbringing meant that I was still determined to avoid the inflated service station fuel prices. How would I face my father after paying £1.57 per litre? I now had just 4 miles to go, "does the car feel light" Dan said, "Yes”, I said “think she's fading" One mile to go. This was agony, but at this point I knew I could at least attempt a manful power walk from here should I need to. The turning then appeared, Salvation! The markers for the slip road, "three lines, two lines, one line" we counted them down together, like a New Year’s Eve countdown coming live from Big Ben, I’d made it!
It was at that point I looked down from the fuel gauge, where i had fixed my stare for the last twenty five agonising minutes.
"Ah shit Dan, I've had the air-con on too mate"
It was at the point my wing-man lost sympathy and hung up.
I skive to feel alive
The job of a parent is a thankless and relentless one. We live for those stolen moments, the respite of finally having some brief time to yourself. It can be like a little holiday, often you’ll just start to relax and enjoy it and then suddenly it’s over. So here is the confession, I Scott Bennett, am a serial skiver. A shirker of responsibilities, a conniving, devious excuse for a man who will take any opportunity he can to kill time and bask in the solitude of his own company. This behavior is addictive. Sometimes I will tell my wife I am going to put the bin out and just hang around behind the shed for forty five minutes. Sitting there next to the water butt just staring at wood paneling, it’s glorious. Whenever I feel low I think back to that special time and smile. On many occasions I’ve often hid in the house itself, pretending to count the saucepans in the pantry. I can hear my wife on the baby monitor, desperately struggling with the two children upstairs and I think, “I’m going to have one more brew, then I’ll deal with that” shameful. On more than one occasion my wife has come to find me, red faced with a baby under her arm. She asks what I have been doing, “I’ve been shouting for your help!” “work” is my reply. The reality is I was looking on you tube at interviews with the surviving cast members of the 90’s sitcom the Fresh Prince of Bel Air; appalling behavior.
I am comforted in that I am not alone with this obsession. There is a famous story on the circuit of a comedian who, having left his family at home, set off for a gig. On the way there he receives a phone call from the promoter informing him that the gig had been cancelled. At this point he was just three miles from home. Instead of turning round and returning to his fatherly duties, he carries on, arrives at the venue and read his book in the car park until the sun went down. I too have done something similar. A gig finishing at 10.30pm means I’m normally home for midnight at the very latest. I could get in, help out with the baby, prepare for the following mornings chaos perhaps. Instead I’ll often pull into my favorite layby with all the other truckers (“breaker breaker”), recline the seat, open some sandwiches and have a little nap….bliss. I’ve even considered booking a hotel in Nottingham and claiming I am gigging in Glasgow, I’d have to keep a low profile and maybe wear a disguise but it would be worth it for those twelve glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep.
My wife and I are as bad as each other. Only last week we found we had run out of nappies. As soon as it was announced it was carnage in that hallway; a race was on to see who could neglect their parental responsibilities the quickest. I’m trying to trip her up, she’s pulling at my sleeves, it looked like a fight in a prison yard; the children looked on in disgust. I lurch for my car keys, my wife grabs my wallet out of my back pocket, “you’ll get nowhere without this pal!” I shouted back, “you can keep it, I’ll steal them!” I race down the driveway still wearing my slippers and open the car. As I get in I can just make out her voice behind me, “don’t you dare be too long” I drive away as fast as I could, which on that day was nine miles per hour, I put on some Enya, turn on the heated seats and congratulate myself on my victory.
I’m not saying I took a long time, but when I came back with those nappies, my daughter had grown out of them.
Things my six year old said to me this week
Upon asking how her day was at school:
“I think I accidentally ate some soap”
When passing a discarded item of clothing on the payment as we walked into town:
“Look daddy, a dead sock”
The second installment of my monthly musings blog. This month its pets, audience etiquette, noise and sneaky toddlers.
A new addition to the family
As a family of four my wife and I thought that two children would be enough. Our house is already jammed to the rafters with mountains of soft toys and plastic landfill; I had to circumnavigate a course of Duplo blocks this very morning just to relieve my bladder. This all changed however, when last week my wife told me she wanted another, and this time we decided to adopt. It was a big decision but last week I found myself getting ready to welcome the latest addition to the family. We fell in love with him straight away, he’s from Beeston, he’s called “Squidger” and he’s a goldfish. My daughter desperately wanted a pet so naturally we started with Dog then gradually worked backwards until we compromised with a goldfish; it was either that or a worm from the garden. When I was a lad I remember getting a goldfish, I say getting I actually mean “winning.” Whenever the fair came to town, I’d go out with a fiver, lose a filling on a toffee apple, throw up my burger on the waltzers and come home with a live pet in a plastic bag. No one really knew what they were doing; you just got it home, stuck it in a Tupperware, called it Alan and left it on the windowsill to die. Dad would then have to go out and replace him with Alan MK2, who looked identical and then pretended that nothing was wrong. We had one for years, he was like some sort of aquatic Bruce Forstyth and he grew to a huge size. Frankly he was too big for the tank; it was like a human trying to swim in a foot spa. I half expected to come home one day to find Alan kicking back with his fins out of the tank, wearing a dressing gown, swigging brandy and smoking a cigar. Thankfully this has all changed; you now have to be assessed to see if you are responsible enough to allow Alan into your home. I thought it was ironic that the human I was buying this fish for was less well planned than the fish itself, but that’s just the way it is. We set up the tank a week before Squidgers arrival. Gravel had to be washed thoroughly, the water treated and a sample taken back to the garden centre to be tested in the lab. We were asked questions about where we were putting the tank and told what meals to give Squidger and how often. I’m pleased to say we passed with flying colours and Squidger is settling in well. They’ve said we need to go back in a month to assess how he is “getting on with everything” but so far so good. He’s not sleeping because he’s a goldfish, so the bedtime story drags on a bit, but apart from that he’s great. He loves the film Finding Nemo and has already got his 50M swimming badge after only one lesson. Sometimes it can get awkward however, last night we had fish and chips and had to eat them in the shed, it just didn’t feel right.
But I’m on the phone
As a performer I love being on stage, there in the moment, connecting with the audience. However over the years I’ve started to notice something, people are utterly ruled by their mobile phones. It’s getting to the point where you have to make a decision as an act to stop and deal with it or ignore it completely. I will often look out into the crowd and you’ll see that one person, face lit up like a low budget E.T, as they paw at their screens in the darkness. If you do confront them, they can often look at you as if to say, “but I’m on my phone?” It’s a strange phenomenon. I’ve been at the theatre and someone in the audience has facetimed a friend to do a live video. I doubt that Shakespeare ever dreamt that one day the majesty of the line “to be or not to be” would be punctuated by the beep of an Iphone and a tiny voice from Wigan asking someone to angle the screen so they could see Prince Hamlets Jacobean ruff. I watched some you tube videos of concerts from 1995 the other night, yes the sound and picture quality was poor but the crowd certainly wasn’t. They were all facing forwards, all united in that moment and not a mobile phone to be seen; pure nostalgic bliss.
As I sit and type this article I am working my way through my evening bowl of cereal, a regular night time treat and my wife is scowling at me. It’s not the fact that I’m using all the milk, it’s because the chomping and tinkling noises I’m making are getting on her nerves. Since the arrival of the new baby, noise, or should I say, and I’m whispering as I do, the reduction of it, has become the number one priority at Bennett towers. We always argue about it, which we have to do via sign language of course, which often looks like two angry mime artists facing off in an argument over territory in Covent Garden. I can’t eat an apple after 7pm, because I sound like a racehorse having its breakfast, I get told to turn the television down before I’ve even switched it on which is frankly impossible and all the creaky floorboards in the house have been marked out like a chalk line around a murder victim. It’s getting to the point where I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew. I’ve tethered cushions to my feet using the belts from my trousers and if I ever need to cough or sneeze I have two options, run into the garden and unload into the wheelie bin or reduce the outburst by plunging my head into the fish tank and letting it out underwater. The medical term for this is called Misophonia, which literally translated means “hatred of sounds.” There really should be more awareness of this condition but probably no one would be allowed to talk about it. Interestingly my wife has no issue with our one year old playing a drum or the six year old stomping round the house in tap shoes blowing a kazoo and wearing a skirt made from bubble wrap, so I can’t help wondering if it’s just me.
Our one year old is on the move now, bounding round the house like a borrower on speed. Every day is like a baby version of the film Final Destination, corners of coffee tables are missed by a whisker, and an open stair gate is pounced upon like a prisoner looking to breakout. Frankly it’s an achievement that we get her through a day unscathed. The latest hobby she has is to take our essential items, house and car keys, watches, jewelry and scatter them throughout the house. We’ve found remote controls in the bin this week and I couldn’t get my trainers on today as they were full of loose change a wallet and a angrily chewed Duplo brick. It’s like having a tiny gangster living with us who has been tipped off last minute about a raid from the drug squad and desperately shedding their stash of gear. If I see my daughter passing small parcels rolled up in a bib at the next “tiny feet” play session, I’ll know something is going down.
Here is the first of my new regular thing, "monthly musings" its basically me leaking my brain all over the internet on various topics, enjoy!
This month its Trump, TV dramas and kids clubs.
As I write this article we are about to see one of most potentially controversial presidents in living memory, being “sworn in" This is a term that is quite apt, as most of the world is thinking, “what the bloody hell happened there.” America has raised a star spangled middle finger to political elitism and voted for a man of the people. Yes, to the rest of us he’s a figure of ridicule, a wig wearing toddler with a temper problem and a penchant for grabbing females in their unmentionables, but to many Americans he is a blueprint of the American dream. A self-made man, one of their own, you can see this in that famous family photograph. He, sat on a gold throne in a tailored suit, Ivana draped in fur and precious gemstones and his youngest son riding on the back of the lion. In an eerie parallel with our own Brexit vote, I can understand how it happened. Poor opposition, campaigns embroiled in dirty tactics and lies and a desire from the electorate to regain control and kick out at the establishment. Americans have voted for change and this is much easier to sell than more of the same. It’s hard to tell what will happen when Trump takes over. As a comedian people have said it must be a gift from the gods having him in charge. In truth, yes he is perfect comedy fodder, I mean which other president fires out tweets at four in the morning in a slanging match with an Oscar winning actress?, he’s like an angry, drunken uncle with a broadband connection. To be honest though I would prefer some stability in the world, comedians are not that masochistic, that’s like saying a lifeguard only does the job because they want to watch people drown. However I do think the world has changed. I hate the way that showing compassion nowadays brands you as a “lefty” or “snowflake” since when was this trait categorized as a bad thing? I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months, Trump may trigger Armageddon, but I think they’ll be plenty of laughs along the way.
No more dramas
It was the finale of the series Sherlock last weekend and I must admit I am a fan. It’s all about that 9pm Sunday evening slot now and it’s a firm favourite in our household. I like to watch the Antiques roadshow first, because I’m basically a pensioner trapped in a 37 year olds body, Imagine, if you will a Yorkshire Benjamin button. I like to watch it on catch up, that way you get the extra frisson of excitement knowing the items are worth even more. Anyway I’d love to tell you about the series finale of Sherlock, I would, but I’m still utterly confused. There is an irony in a detective show being so baffling you need a degree in criminology just to be able to follow it. It appears Sherlock had a long lost sister, who had been dressing up as various characters and stalking him, it was like an episode of Scooby Doo. The final straw for me was seeing Paul Weller (of the Jam) laid out on the floor dressed as a Viking, I don’t know why and I don’t think he does either; utter twaddle.
Television drama is having a renaissance at the moment. Ever since the mumblefest that was Wolf Hall, I said ‘WOLF HALL!” it’s all about the feature length drama. Apparently people are writing in to complain about the lack of diction from some of the main characters in these dramas. I think they should have an interpreter, like they do late night for the deaf community. They could bring in Brian Blessed, a man who's known for vocal projection skills so impressive they could start an avalanche, you wouldn't be able to have your television volume above eight but at least you'd be able to follow the plot. The latest hit is Taboo starring the intense and brooding Tom Hardy, (“cheer up son, give us a smile!”) I haven’t seen it but my father in law offered a succinct but devastating review; “It’s all filmed through chair legs and mist.” They turned it off and watched “How stuffs made” on Quest instead.
It's not the winning it's the taking part
It's a natural thing for parents to think their child is unique and wonderful. It's true some children will go on to achieve great things, future leaders, scientists who have moments of genius and cure diseases. However statistics dictate that some of them will reach the dizzy heights of middle management in an estate agents in Wigan and stay there until death brings the freedom they crave; but there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios.
It's in the environment of the kids club we see this competitiveness magnified. Parents of children in the junior football team, screaming at their first born from the touch-line "mark him!" "spread the ball!" and my favourite "let me live my dreams vicariously through you!" In the case of my daughter we had to endure the nightmare that is ballet lessons. I've sat through hours of recitals and paid thirty odd quid a month to essentially watch her bow in pumps. She enjoys it but she's not a natural, she's clumsy, which is an issue for the ballerina. Yesterday she fell over on a lino floor, just collapsed into a heap like a controlled demolition, she's passionate and enthusiastic but she's no Darcey Bussell.
But it doesn't matter, it's all about confidence. I myself did karate as a child, albeit only for two weeks. I failed to see how doing my little routines up and down the floor of a working man’s club in Yorkshire, taught by a man who I’m convinced had just been recently released from prison, was going to help me in a real time combat situation. Imagine it kicks off in the middle of Nottingham, fists are flying, men wrestling each other to the ground, broken glass everywhere and then here I come, doing my little moves, "stop everyone, look at this, we appear to have been joined by an angry line dancer!"
I'm not worried about my daughter she's already an independent thinker. I realised this last week when I tried and failed to put the fatherly foot down. "Olivia" I said, "if you don't get dressed this minute, mummy, daddy and your sister will all go out and you'll be left here at home all on your own!" She looked up at me from her my little pony magazine, thought for a moment and replied, "okay daddy that sounds great" "no!" I said, "That’s not how this should go!" She continued, "you're right daddy, I need to be punished, I'll just stay here in bed with my magazine and think about how bad I've been" I tried again, the desperation evident in my voice "this isn't right Olivia, you're meant to be scared!" "I think you're the one that's scared daddy" she said smiling, "it's Sunday morning and you've got to go to IKEA"
Comedian Scott Bennett pays tribute to his mum and dad, also known as Mr and Mrs Christmas
Well the festive season is almost upon us, where families come together as one. It’s the same every year; you’re welded to the sofa, unable to move due to the calories consumed, it almost becomes normal to hurt after every meal. Sitting there in an ill-fitting Christmas jumper wearing a pair of slippers bought for you by someone who doesn’t understand either you or modern fashion trends. You cast a booze addled eye around the room and look at all your relatives; uncles, aunties, Grandparents, parents and cousins all in your house and you think, “aww, look at them all, sitting there, isn’t it wonderful, you know I reckon its time they cleared off. Come on then, one more game of charades Nanna, two words, sounds like “your taxi” times up old cock.”
Christmas is a strange time to be a comedian. We are all now familiar with the phenomenon of “Black Friday” a tradition passed to us from our friends in the US, which sees retailers bombarding us relentlessly for a week with offers on the cheap tat that has been sat gathering dust in their warehouses for most of the year. We have seen people lose their minds in this capitalist orgy, men punching other men for coffee makers, and televisions being ripped out the hands of a frail pensioner in the foyer of an all-night Asda. For a comedian the term “Black Friday” is something very different. It refers to that Friday before Christmas where a comedy gig can quickly resemble a bad day in Beirut. People on a works Christmas night out, sat in wonky Christmas hats, drinking heavily just to blot out the resentment and anger they feel for their colleagues sat just across from them. Shows that start hours late because the venue has tried to serve two hundred people a three course Christmas dinner with only three members of staff and being heckled mercilessly by an accountant called Nigel who thinks he’s the office joker.
I’ve had a few experiences with Christmas gigs over the years and it inspired me to re-write the classic Christmas hit Happy Christmas (war is over) by John and Oko. I see this as a fitting tribute to my fellow comedy warriors venturing out to entertain the British public this festive season:
A comedy show at Christmas oh what have you done
Another show ruined, no ones' had fun
Comedy at Christmas It’s not a bad idea
But the bellends, the pissheads, they're here every year
A very Merry Christmas, let’s try again next year
Please make it a good one and stay off the beer
Comedians at Christmas (the shows not over)
We try to stay strong (get off your phones)
We’re here to entertain you (the shows not over)
And It won't last long (please stop talking)
So Merry Merry Christmas (the shows not over)
We stand in the lights (you’re the office prick)
Ignoring the heckles (the shows not over)
And avoiding the fights (stop being a dick)
A very Merry Christmas let’s try again next year
Please make it a good one and stay off the beer
Now I like Christmas, but some people just love Christmas, and I mean LOVE it, my parents for instance. They embrace the festive season like no-one else I know and it’s truly a sight to behold. Every year since I can remember they have had a party at their house for Christmas Eve. There are games, a lucky dip tub of presents, and food galore. My mum starts cooking early, normally mid-November, the party goes on late into the night and only comes to an end once dad is too drunk to make it up the stairs and mum gets out the Dyson for some festive hoovering.
When I was much younger, my dad would even dress up as Santa Claus himself at the party, to give out presents to the other children. At the time I didn’t know this obviously, I assumed it was the man himself, particularly when I was very young. However I vividly remember the Christmas where I found out the truth about these bizarre moonlighting activities. I was nine years old and, as had happened every year before, with the party in full swing and the guests settled, at about seven o’clock my mother would suddenly announce to my father, loud enough for everyone to hear:
“Oh look Roy, we appear to have run out of beer and you’ll have to go to the shop for more”
My dad knew his line and played along with this ridiculous farce to the confusion of the assembled guests:
“Oh no love, this is a disaster I will go now I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
I’ve often wondered for years whether my mother and fathers friends thought he was a raging alcoholic or just incompetent when it came to judging drinks quantities for a social gathering, but no one ever said anything. Then came the moment, my mum, right on cue would switch on the outside light and we’d all have to look out of the window into the back garden. “Look everyone!” my mum exclaimed, “someone very special is here!” We’d all press our faces to the window and there sat on the garden bench, on the patio next to the water butt was Santa himself, it was a Christmas miracle. I remember one year when the snow started to fall, this was the mid-eighties before global warming, when seasons were still individually recognizable. With Santa Claus sat there it was like an image straight from a Christmas card. All the children would then take it in turns to go and visit him, telling him what they would like for Christmas.
Most kids are quite gullible and most were none the wiser, “Santa comes to your garden Scott, how cool are you” “Yeah me and Santa are pretty close” I’d say, enjoying the adulation, “we go way back” I had quite good patter for a nine year old.
Then came my turn. I walked down the garden path and approached Santa. “Hello boy, said a booming Yorkshire voice, have you been good this year?” “Yes I said.” “Well come a bit closer and tell me what you would like me to bring you for Christmas” I moved in towards him, he had a jolly face which was strangely familiar. I looked him up and down, the red hat, the white beard, the red suit and belt, and then I looked at his feet. It was at that point I knew. Santa Claus appeared to be wearing a pair of knackered old Reeboks, spattered with magnolia emulsion that my own father would use for doing the decorating. My heart sank, the game was up. “I know it’s you dad” he looked at me and whispered, “I couldn’t find me wellies son, don’t ruin the magic” “Of course dad I said, I know Santa doesn’t come till I’m in bed anyway, I love you”
I walked back up the garden back to the house smiling. We then all had to turn and wave goodbye to “Santa” and then went back to the party. At that point there was commotion at the front door as my dad blundered back in with six cans of lager, (he still got the quantity wrong) “What a nightmare, everywhere was shut, did I miss anything?” “Santa has been!” my mum shouted, “You missed him, like YOU DO EVERY SINGLE YEAR!”
A Tribute to the partners of stand-ups
When people ask me why I do stand-up comedy, I find it very easy to answer them. I am and have always been, obsessed with it. I’ll always remember the time when I first heard “The Day Today” or the first time I watched “Blackadder”. I learnt them off by heart. The rhythms of the language and the mastery of the character creation still thrill me to this day. I was always a bit of an awkward, anxious child and comedy provided the perfect escapism. That hasn’t changed. Six years ago I discovered stand up and I was immediately addicted, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for just how it would ensnare me. When I first started people would often ask me if it was a hobby, at the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.
Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.
When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I'm weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it's because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.
I’d been toying with the idea of doing stand-up for a while and at the age of 30 I finally decided to do it. I do think stand-up is an inherently selfish pursuit, which is ironic as many comedians sacrifice their own social lives to entertain others, but we can’t deny it’s a moderately narcissistic activity. I'll often have to wrestle those feelings of guilt. It can be a difficult sell in any relationship, “when is your cousin getting married? A Saturday in the future?” “Oh, sorry I think I am in Wigan.”
This isn’t a whinge, it’s my choice to do comedy, and it’s a privilege to do it, but I certainly think having a family and a marriage makes it a challenge. I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. The apprenticeship in comedy can be long and varied and rightly so. It can take years to get noticed, many of my favourite acts had their breaks in the late thirties and early forties and you can’t expect real life to wait in the wings.
Doing comedy continues to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done. It’s both infuriating and exhilarating in equal measure. The long nights and early starts are hard, but I never feel like I don't want to perform, if anything it's made me wants to succeed even more. Everyone makes sacrifices to do comedy, late nights, endless miles on the road, but I particularly admire the acts that are maintaining the balance between stand up and family life. They give me confidence that it can be done. It’s not easy but I feel if you have the support it’s only an obstacle if you regard it as one. People outside of the world of comedy may assume that it’s just like any job and comics are no different to anyone else who works shifts. However I think they are, performing comedy often requires the investment of your own personality, it certainly is in my case. It can be an emotionally draining experience, you don’t just clock in and out. You might have just had a standing ovation or died on your arse so badly you feel you’ve left a bit of your soul behind. Either way it’s difficult to get up the following morning and build Duplo with your kids, you need an hour or so to decompress.
It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous. I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.
Having responsibilities does bring pressure but it also brings a way to connect with the audiences every weekend. More experienced acts have said to me, “you need something outside of the bubble” the “bubble” being the world of stand up. There is certainly some truth in this, if all you do is gig, what else can you talk about?
Being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material, an expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it's effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.
I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn't tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I'm dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.
My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it's the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day.
I recently took her with me to a festival where I was performing at. She was allowed to hang around backstage and was well looked after, although she was intrigued enough to pop her head around the stage door of the tent, she did this right on cue I might add, she clearly already has better comic timing than her father.
I don't know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.
An article about my lack of love for the summer months
So I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a few weeks now, but frankly it’s been too hot and it’s sapped every last drop of my motivation. I’ve spent most of this month padding around my house naked, the electricity meter whirring round to power my ever increasing collection of inadequate desk fans. Any energy I may have had has been used to take the wrapper off my Lollipop (and no that’s not a euphemism). We are now in full summer mode and although I can’t argue against the benefits of the much welcomed injection of vitamin D into my pasty white carcass, I must admit I’m not a fan of the summer months. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the longer nights, a beer in the garden (but that’s mainly because of the beer) a chance to give friends and family food poisoning at my own BBQ and that mood of optimism in the air; but despite that I don’t think the summer agrees with me.
Recently I was fortunate enough to perform comedy in Ibiza, to the British holidaymakers. I had some time off before the show and thought I’d go and relax on the beach. That’s the other thing that I hate about the summer; having to compete with all the beautiful people. We’ve all seen that advert “get beach body ready” well mine was ready in 1997 when I was 18. I was sat there on the beach amongst the toned and tanned locals, my blotchy white body spattered with badly applied factor 50, having to position my sunglasses carefully on my nose so I wouldn’t brand myself with the piping hot metal frame. I’m holding my kindle and wearing my brand new Clarks’ sandals to stop my terrified feet being burnt to a crisp when I waked over to my sun lounger. I wasn’t exactly blending in.
In the UK we seem to have extremes when it comes to the weather. It’s always so unexpected, it catches us off guard. Snow that comes so heavy that everything grinds to a holt, floods that border on the biblical and days so hot and humid you feel like you’ve been parachuted into an oil field in Iraq. I find it hard to even think when temperatures creep into the thirties, small tasks seem as daunting as an expedition to Everest. On the hottest day of the year my wife and I had to change the bed, a task that makes me want to weep at the best of times. After the first pillow case I was already wet through, the sweat was pouring down my back and running in between my butt cheeks like a river and I had so much sweat in my eyes I couldn’t see the buttons on the duvet cover.
The thing the summer does though is give us Brits something to talk about, our favorite subject; the weather. As the temperature increases our ways of describing it becomes more and more bizarre. “Ohh isn’t it muggy out there!” No, unless you’ve just being mugged, that makes no sense. “The problem is, it’s just too close” well yes it will be close, it’s the weather and it’s all around you. In Yorkshire they used to say “eeee its crackin’ flags out there!” meaning it’s so hot it’s capable of causing fracture to your patio slabs, quite poetic, but still sounds like utter bollocks. “It’s warm we can’t work; pass me a beer” that’s all the words you need.
Everyone has their own methods for coping with the heat; particularly at night. I’m almost used to falling asleep now to the gentle white noise of a humming desk fan. There is always that moment when you forget wear the fan is and proceed to trip yourself up over the cable on the way to your 4th pee of the night. I don’t wear my bed clothes in a heatwave, but I like a single sheet on me, there has to be a small amount of weight there. I can’t do totally naked, laid out like a human sacrifice, I feel far too vulnerable. Also the hot weather brings with it the increase in midges and blood sucking insects and the last thing I want is to offer myself up like some sort of human all you can eat buffet.
It’s normally the early hours of the morning when the heat subsides enough to allow you to drift off. You’ve then got at least 4 hours of fidgety, sweat soaked sleep before you are rudely awaken by that “summer soundtrack”. The buzz of a Strimmer, a lawnmower, the neighbour building yet another outdoor “project” that just seems to be him hammering the same nail in again and again for three straight hours, or a determined mosquito who proceeds to fly back and forth past your ear until you eventually declare war, put the light on and chase him round the room with a rolled up newspaper.
The daytimes are easier; you can always find relief in an air conditioned shop or supermarket. If you’re crafty you can spend twenty minutes in the frozen food isle leaning over some Aunt Bessies roast potatoes, wearing nothing but your underwear. It’s heaven and really reduces your core body temperature; the hour interview in the manager’s office and the subsequent court appearance is a small price to pay.
As a blonde haired white man, I burn like kindling in the most moderate of heat. I think we underestimate the weather in the UK, like the sun is somehow a different one to the one that you lie back and bask in on a foreign holiday. We seem to think nothing of doing a full day’s work in the garden, bear chested, without sun cream and with only the one cup of tea to hydrate us. “Its fine love, we are in Wigan on a Wednesday, it’s not going to burn me, this is British sun; best in the world!” the day after we are in agony, peeling sheets of skin of our bodies so large you could wrap presents with them.
In the summer months my hayfever condition announces itself with a new found anger and aggression, like a pitbull on steroids. With eyes streaming like I’ve just been tear gassed, a nose itchier than that of a supermodel with a grand a day coke habit, hives and bumps on my skin a blind man could read as brail and body riddled with so many antihistamines I can barely stay conscious. All in all it’s not a good “look.” They always warn you about not operating heavy machinery when you take antihistamines, which makes me feel sad, how many forklift truck drivers and welders are struggling out there? Unable to work because they have to walk that fine line between sleeping or sneezing.
Summer attire is also stressful. I am completely lost with the sock, sandal, plimsole, deck shoe or moccasin etiquette. There are normal length socks, sometimes worn with leather sandals, which only geography teachers and bible salesmen are allowed to wear. There are trainer socks, which seem more socially acceptable, white socks though, never black, particularly if you are wearing shorts. Black socks with trainers and shorts looks like you’ve been doing P.E at school and forgotten your kit and had to rummage around in the lost property box. There are now invisible socks, which sit below the shoe line, providing that that barrier between your sweaty trotter and footwear, without anyone knowing, it’s the fashion equivalent of a magic trick, like the strapless bra but on your foot.
I find picking clothes for a heatwave is difficult. I never go commando though, I don’t care how hot it is, I still need some organization down there. When it’s warm my testicles seem to be constantly in love with my inner thighs, I often have to peel them away from each other like I’m removing a sticker from a windscreen. It’s like a battle down there most days and both parties need to be segregated for their own good.
I can’t and won’t wear a vest and going topless isn’t something I feel comfortable with. The other day I saw a man with his top off, riding a ladies bike with a basket on the front. In the basket of the bike there was a pack of lager and a small dog keeping looking out; it was like a low budget version of the film E.T. It was 24 degrees and we were in a car park outside Lidl, it’s not the Algarve but your top back on. A vest can look good, it certainly keeps you cool. However it also gives your body odour free reign to cause chaos to everyone in the local vicinity. The last time I wore a vest was a few summers ago. I had to run for the bus that morning, hot and fighting a raging hangover and no money to buy deodorant, I knew I was in trouble. I could sense the pungent, onion flavored stench festering in the alcove of my armpits. I spent the rest of the day walking round with my arms rigidly locked to my sides like I was in an imaginary straight jacket and remembering not to reach, high five or wave to anyone.
It’s quite late now and the heat has subsided, I’m going to attempt to turn in for the night, or maybe the whole season? I might find the coolest spot in the house; black out the windows, fill my socks with ice, and survive on nothing but a freezer full of Magnum Classics.
See you in October
Trailer Trash: My most memorable cinema visits
Last month, on a Thursday I found myself alone in Manchester. I had time to kill so I did something I haven’t done before; I went to the cinema alone, in the middle of the day and it was bliss. It’s something a lot of travelling comics do to avoid the car park that is the rush hour on the M6 or to distract them from their own thoughts; one of the two, anyway it was about 2pm when I made my solo trip to the Odeon in central Manchester.
I’d opted to see Deadpool, a film which I heard a lot about but hadn’t really shown much interest in. It’s another one of these Marvel comic book adaptations and I must admit I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t prepared however, for just for how violent and non-family friendly it was. I understand how it’s subverting the superhero genre and is knowingly self-aware, I just I didn’t expect to see brain matter spattered across the screen 20 minutes into a superhero movie; I’d barely started tucking into my popcorn.
It got me thinking about some of the cinema experiences I have had, both as an adult and a young movie goer. So here, in no particular order, are some that are the most memorable, for various reasons:
Terminator 2 (1991) Wakefield ABC Cinema (Now demolished) Certificate 15
I was 12 years old when Arnie hit our screens, in arguably his greatest ever performance. As an Austrian body builder, with zero acting range, playing a cyborg that is unable to covey any emotion; was always the role he was born to play. I remember the hype around this film, everyone at school wanted to see it, some had indeed claimed they already had. This was 1991, the era of the first ever pirate videos. There was always a lad at school who claimed he had already seen all of the blockbusters years before. He had an uncle in America who had a camcorder and sent back recordings to his dad hidden in the belly of a Care Bear on a British Airways flight into Leeds Bradford airport. You have to remember that this was in the days where camera technology wasn’t very advanced, they were massive for starters, they looked like something you’d win on bullseye. Getting that into the cinema would have been a challenge. Smuggling a family sized bag of Malteasers is one thing but a 3 foot Sanyo camera that weighs the best part of a sack of gravel would’ve been impossible. It was a false economy anyway; £10 to watch the back of a blokes head, and the awkward moment when he whispers that he needs the toilet and you are forced to watch a director’s cut of him taking a leak.
Now Terminator 2 was a certificate 15, I was 12 and I looked it. This was a problem. I remember when I ventured into the world of underage drinking, the barmaid in the local boozer (where people were served in school uniform) confronted us all once in the booth in the corner of the pub, as we were plucking up courage to go and buy a round, and pointing at each of us in turn, like she was selecting players for a football team said: “I’ll serve him, her, him, her” and pointing at me, “not him obviously, look at his face!”
Anyway, my dad was taking me and a friend to Terminator 2, he was also 12 but he was lucky enough to have a face ravaged by the effects of puberty. Lying about my age wasn’t new to me but it would often be in the opposite direction. My brother and I had both been classed as “under 3” for years by my thrifty father whenever we went swimming or travelled on a bus. Surprisingly getting me into a certificate 15 wasn’t too much of a challenge; I just tucked in behind my father, strode confidently and remembered to keep puffing on the cigarette. There was a sticky moment when an attendant asked my father for my date of birth and I thought he would be rumbled like Gordon in the great escape, but he nailed it.
The film was brilliant, it’s a classic. The high point was where Arnie was in pursuit of the T-1000 and my friend and I got a bit carried away and shouted “Go Arnold, kill him! Kill Him!” we blew our cover as moody 15 year old teenagers in an instant, but we didn’t care, it was the best film we’d ever seen and we were transfixed.
50 Shades of Grey (2015) Leeds Odeon Certificate 18
It was one of the most anticipated films of the year and nearly two hours of my life I will never get back. My wife suggested that we should go and see this as she was a fan of the books. I was concerned, not because of the sexual content I’d heard about, mainly because I’d been led to believe that this Christian Grey fella had converted is own basement into a dungeon. Frankly DIY isn’t my forte, It took me two weeks to put up some shelves so I think a dungeon is probably beyond me. Also that’s not the sort of project I could ring my dad to ask for help with. She said to not be so ridiculous, we were all adults and that we were going to go on a double date with my brother and his girlfriend, which was not at all awkward in any way? We decided to sit in couples, to make things less uncomfortable, because the last thing you want during the sex scenes is to look to the left to see your own brother trying to bury his head in his popcorn just to avoid eye contact.
Incidentally I had another worry during the screening due to an earlier mishap. I am a person often afflicted with an involuntary muscular spasm; I think it’s quite common. It mainly affects me at night as my body starts to relax, I’ll often kick out in bed just before I go to sleep and it’s like my last little fight to see the day off. Well, we were at the concession stand and I was buying my wife and I some popcorn, as I was about to pay I had a muscular twitch and proceeded to throw about eight quid of loose change into her popcorn. I was mortified, I just said to the guy on the counter; “Just take it out of that pal” and walked away ashamed. It made things tense though, every mouthful she took I was worried she was going to choke on a pound coin and pulling off the Heimlich manoeuvre during in erotic thriller would have been awkward to say the least.
The film is dreadful, turgid and probably one of the most confusingly misogynistic films I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. The message seems to be, if a blokes obscenely rich, good looking, takes you out in a glider, buys you a car, then happily sign up to be his slave. I’m sure the attraction to Christian Grey wouldn’t have had the same level of potency if he was a middle aged balding lorry driver from Wigan who took you into his mum’s conservatory when she was at Bingo, to spank you on the bum with a Greggs’ Steak Bake.
I know it’s popular, I’m not been a miserable old prude. I’m old enough to remember the controversy when the film Basic Instinct came out; in fact my wife and I will still often recreate the infamous legs crossing and uncrossing scene, although she thinks I should just buy a dressing gown that actually fits.
Marley and Me (2008) Nottingham Showcase Cinema
Many films are classed as date movies, which often means a film which I have no interest in seeing but will go along to appease my wife. The weepfest that is Marley and Me was one such movie. Starring Owen Wilson, a man with all the charisma of a dish cloth and Friends star Jennifer Aniston, or was it Iggy Pop? I can’t quite recall. It was a film about a family who buy a dog, the dog becomes part of the family and then the dog dies. I am sure I am simplifying the plot but essentially this is the main thrust of the story. Now we have never owned a dog, we can’t I’m allergic, but we’ve never planned on owning a dog, yet my wife was inconsolable. Even my offer of some chilli nachos or a hot dog (arguably not the greatest suggestion on reflection) could distract her from the all-consuming grief she had for this family and their canine bereavement.
I’m not totally unfeeling don’t get me wrong. I understood why she was moved to tears. There are many films which often turn be into a gibbering wreck with puffy eyes; Planes Trains and Automobiles, (particularly the ending when John Candy confesses his wife has died), It’s a wonderful life (obviously) and Sylvester Stallone’s’ heartfelt speech at the end of Rocky 4. Clumsily delivered, with over the top anti-Russian sentiment and blundering American pride, it often makes my want to grab a flag of the stars and stripes, order a burger and weep like a baby.
The Lion King/Big Hero 6/ (kids films in general)
Going to see a children’s’ film at the cinema quite an experience. Before I had children of my own I remember taking my brother, who is 10 years younger than me, to see The Lion King. It still remains one of the most stressful and intense two hours of my life. I don’t think I was prepared for the carnage that is a screening rammed full of 6-7 year olds, high on Haribo and unable to hold their bladders for more than twenty minutes.
I think the cinemas vastly overestimate the concentration span of young children. To this day, with my children, I try and avoid going to sit through the trailers. Some screenings have trailers lasting forty five minutes. They are as good as gold for the forthcoming releases, BMW adverts and the Pearl and Dean music, but as soon as the feature starts you turn round and they have disappeared under the seat in front and are trying to make a den out of used popcorn holders.
There is also the trend of many of these films having a theme of death in the storyline. The Lion King, Big Hero 6, Bambi all feature relatives snuffing it within the first half hour. It can leave children traumatised, they don’t see it coming. At my daughters age (6) death is an ongoing fascination for her, I have to answer constant questions about the mortality of the human race; but it’s not something I want to have to explain at length for two hours in a Pizza Express on a Saturday afternoon.
Saving Private Ryan (1998) Curzion Cinema Loughborough
Netflix may be the beginning of the end for the humble cinema. Let’s face it, it’s not as cheap as it was, (especially without a Yorkshire dad to smuggle you in for free) and it’s a hassle to organise baby sitters and make the effort to get there. However what Netflix can’t recreate is that sense of excitement and tension when a full auditorium of cinemagoers is spellbound by the power of a movie.
When I was a student the local Cinema in Loughborough would offer a student night where you could go and see the latest releases for £2.50. We practically lived there, it was amazing value. I remember the night when we decided to go and see the new Tom Hanks war film, Saving Private Ryan. I recall it was about 8 of us who decided to have a night off from our studies (drinking) to venture into town to see it. With most films I’ve seen there is always that frisson of excitement before the film starts, the chatter and excitement during the trailers and as the lights dim. This night was no different. We sat there passing down snacks, which we’d smuggled in one of the girls’ handbags, and then settled down as the film started. Now those first twenty opening minutes, I don’t know if you can recall, are probably some of the most raw and visceral things I’ve ever witnessed, they took your breath away. It came completely out of the blue and was such a contrast to the jovial atmosphere that preceded it. I remember looking round at that packed cinema and noticing one thing, absolute silence, we were all transfixed and remained so for the entire film. That’s the power of cinema and in a room full of people all sharing it together, it can take it from a simple passive medium into a total immersive experience. I love it.
A look at coffee culture through the ages and my love of that naughty bean!
As I sit down to write this I am sipping away at my 6th coffee of the day. This one has been made using my brand new coffee maker I received as a birthday gift. My kitchen is like a fragrant, noisy, caffeine infused version of Breaking Bad. I love coffee and in the midst of the sleep deprived rabbit hole that the arrival of a 10 week old baby brings, I need it.
The stronger the better is my motto. I’m not content until I am kept awake for nights on end, with just the sound of my grinding teeth and vibrating eyeballs punctuating the silence. My job as a comedian means driving, endless miles on Britain’s motorways, with late night diversions that take me forty miles out of my way, plunging me tired and emotional into the heart of the Derbyshire countryside. The thought of doing this caffeine free is unthinkable.
I often take a coffee with me in the car, even though the cup-holders are shockingly woeful in design. I have to make the choice between putting a coffee in the holder and changing gear, which is awkward. The diameter of the cup is also such a tight fit that I often pull the top of the cup off and spill coffee all in the car and over my jeans. On more than one occasion now I have had to drive, partially naked from the waist down, with my jeans drying over the heaters.
Coffee is a passion; for me it’s a bit like a good bottle of wine. I like my coffee to have a story. I’m not interested in some freeze dried, corporate, mass manufactured bastardization of that beautiful bean. It needs to have a soul. I want my coffee beans to be exotic, to have been grown from seeds first passed through the digestive system of an ageing mountain goat at high altitude. It should have a caffeine content that borders on the illegal and a body smoother than a chat up line from an Italian waiter who has took a shine to your wife. It should be gentle with a finish so long that you could watch the Lord of The Rings box set and still be able to taste it. Afterwards I want that lingering smell to permeate through my entire house like a plug in air freshener and every time you inhale you experience that magic all over again.
I heard recently that in many university campuses the planners now are choosing to avoid the sticky floored boozer and are opting instead for a coffee shop, with leather sofas and free wifi. At first I was stunned by this statistic, I mean how many student liaisons were nurtured near the jukebox in a sweaty union bar on a wet Wednesday night, where a snake bite and black was only £1? I include myself in this group. I met my wife in freshers week and I dread to think what she would have really thought of me if all we had swimming round our bellies was a soya chai latte with a hint of cinnamon. However now I understand, coffee is big business.
Coffee culture exploded into the UK in the mid-nineties and we have never looked back. I’m old enough to remember a time before there was a Costa or Nero’s on every street. The Gold Blend coffee adverts, where viewers where captivated with a blossoming romance happening over a cup of instant coffee, showed how we regarded the drink at the time. We brits were not seduced by the fancy coffee shop culture of our French or Italian cousins. My dad still to this day secretly prefers the instant variety, he thinks the freeze dried granules are the nearest us mere mortals will get to consuming foods made for astronauts. He’s convinced that the best cup of coffee he has ever tasted was served in a polystyrene cup out of a van at a rainy car boot sale in a field in Doncaster in 1989. Although this may have something to do with the fact that it was 25p and came with a free Club biscuit.
During my childhood there were very few options for coffee enthusiasts. You had two main choices, a flask or a greasy spoon café. I even to this day remember my mum and dads flask in great detail. An old Stanley Thermos Tartan printed one, with a screw top. It never poured properly and it had a removable cup that the whole family had to share. Our summers seemed to be on repeat. We always seemed to go to an airshow, it always rained, I was always in a cagoule and I always had the last go on the cup from the flask.
No one ever sat down and relaxed in a coffee shop back then, we always seemed to be on the move. We did go to a greasy spoon café on a Saturday afternoon in Wakefield before going to see an afternoon matinee at the cinema. With chequered table cloths and a big plastic tomato sauce holder in the middle as a rudimentary paperweight, the place was a bit of a dive. It had a glass window with water running down it, I used to think it was quite a stylish addition, looking back it was probably a creative twist on a leaking condensing pipe. I would have a steak Canadian and a calypso pop (the E numbers kept you going all day) and my dad would have an egg butty and a cup of tea. Everyone seemed to drink tea back then; rumour has it that we won wars on tea. My wife’s family are huge tea drinkers; my father in law was pushing fifteen brews a day when he used to “work” for the council. When he first met me he offered me a brew, I refused (as I didn’t really care for it at the time, I preferred Ribena) he looked at my wife as if to say, “not sure about this one love!”
A visit to a coffee shop is part of our family routine every weekend now. The people who work in these places are proper cool; I think I’m ever so slightly in awe of one of the dudes in our local establishment. I use the term “dude” deliberately. They are like the kids at school who had a motorbike at sixteen, smoked roll ups and could play the guitar. With a quiff in the hair, a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves and those things that the youth put in their ears now which make the lobes look like the eyelets in a tarpaulin or camping ground sheet, it’s the job I would have wanted when I was younger.
It’s interesting that the coffee shops never really suffered during the recession. It’s the one luxury we are not prepared to forfeit. I worked out recently that I’m spending on average ten pounds a week on coffee, that’s over five hundred quid a year on beans! Even Jack wouldn’t have gone with that deal and he got a beanstalk out of it. But, I don’t begrudge it, particularly if it’s going to support the independent guys of the coffee world. I won’t mention the corporate giants; let’s just call them “Tarducks” who attempt to make a connection with you by asking your name to write on the cup. It didn’t wash with me, I used to say “HMRC” and then quickly take my coffee and leave.
A new addition to the family
A week ago I became a father again for the second time. My second daughter Sophia was born in the early hours of 4th Feb after a labour and birth so fast; she could have broken the Olympic record for the baby luge. You hear horror stories about women enduring hours in labour, our second daughter was born in just over 30 mins; we didn’t even need to pay for the parking. My dad said, “She’s got Yorkshire genes that one, you could have kept the engine running son!” When they gave her to my wife she still had her coat on, a parker with a furry hood, it was like Kenny from South Park had just given birth.
Our first daughter, Olivia, who is now 5, although she’s 3 when we go to the local swimming baths (an old trick of my fathers, “get on board with the fraud” as he used to say) was born just as quick too. My wife seems to be able to push out children with the pelvic power of a Russian gymnast who’s spent their life in the circus. With both births we were a traffic light change away from having them in the car. I often think it’s a shame we didn’t as it would have made naming them a doddle. “Have you met my daughters, Ford Focus Saloon and her sister Kia Sportswagon!”
At the NCT groups they encourage you to write a birthing plan for when you have your baby. We wrote one for our first child birth, it was quite specific. We would arrive in plenty of time at the hospital, my wife, dressed in a new silk Kimono with matching toenails, would stride though the hospital to her room, listening the best of pan pipe moods on the Ipod, I would be behind her scattering fresh lavender and whispering motivational thoughts. She would then hop onto the bed and gently and calmly, give birth.
The reality was of course very different. Her waters went in the car, we ran across the car park screaming, my wife due to the pain, I over the extortionate parking prices and our daughters’ head appeared in the corridor. I didn’t even have time to scatter the lavender; we had to make do with a few squirts of Febreeze. I also suggested this as a name for our daughter but was sternly told to shut it.
If the first birth was dramatic, the second one, like any good horror movie sequel was faster, louder and way gorier. People often say that child birth is magical, beautiful even. I agree it’s pretty amazing, but to describe it as magical isn’t correct. If it is magical then that magician is a psychopath who’s strangled his rabbits, chopped off his assistants head and forced his doves into a blender. I really think childbirth is the one thing that reminds us that we are all indeed just animals.
This time we almost didn’t make it to the hospital at all. As I skidded into the car park, pulling off a handbrake turn that even the Stig would’ve been proud of, the baby’s head had appeared. This was incidentally, a new car. It’s an unwritten rule that as soon as you are about to father a second child, you are marched at gunpoint to the nearest car dealers and forced to purchase a people carrier. There are many optional extras; a scattering of yogurt covered raisins across the back seats, the best of Deep Purple on compact disc and a setting built into the back seats to trigger your children to need the toilet on any stretch of the motorway with no services and no hard shoulder.
Obviously when we were asked where we would like to have the baby, I didn’t say in a mid-priced family car with extra leg room and air-conditioning; I said Queens Medical Centre, City Hospital or my preferred choice, Waitrose. Mainly because I would like her to have the best start in life, it’s the nearest she’s going to get to a private education. Imagine the advantage of being born in between the Quinoa and the Quails eggs; she’s bound to excel.
Once again I got the chance to cut the umbilical cord; I felt like I was a mayor opening a supermarket, “I now declare our social life, over!” This is the thing you need to understand about me, I make jokes to try and diffuse tension. If you’ve ever watched the programme “one born every minute” you’d know that in the mayhem of a labour suite a man is already surplus to requirements; you’re just generally getting in the way. Well a man who is also a comedian is as useful in this situation as a Yorkshireman at a charity auction. My wife made the passing remark; “oh, ignore my husband he’s a bit of a comedian” the midwife didn’t understand that she meant this in a professional context, she may well have said: “oh, ignore my husband; he’s a bit of a dickhead.” Yet despite this I think I still managed to pull a pretty good joke out of the bag. Emotional, under pressure and whilst cradling my new daughter I said; “When you think about it a midwife and a comedian have a lot in common, it’s all in the delivery!” the midwife didn’t laugh, she just looked at my wife, who raised her eyes, looked away and then said; “Well, I suppose I best fetch the weighing scales” what an idiot I am.
Now it’s been five years since we’ve had a baby in the house and these are the top three things I’d forgotten all about:
There is nothing filthier in the world than the folds of a baby’s neck. Given the choice of cleaning that or a bottom crease, I’d take the bottom any day of the week. It’s unbelievable, she’s barely been on this earth for a week and it’s like running your finger inside the hem of a marathon runners shorts. It’s not just the stale milk, its fluff, and other substances that even scientists’ in a lab couldn’t identify. I feel like I’m rummaging down the back of a sofa in a crack den. My wife lost my car keys the other day, “I’ve checked everywhere” she said, “Have you checked the baby’s neck?” I replied, “Have a look for mine in there too whilst you’re at it!”
Seriously there is more DNA and bacteria in that neck, if you took a swab you could go home and grow yourself another child.
I’ve also forgotten the sheer terror of running the gauntlet of walking down my own hall way whilst avoiding the incoming shelling of nappy bags been thrown from the landing by my tired and irritable wife. I got hit yesterday, full on the back of the head; it’s like living in the trenches.
I forgot how much noise babies make. I’m not talking about the crying, I’m talking about the continual low level grunts, snorts and whistles. Like fridge freezers babies just make these low level noises all night. The first night when we got home it was like sharing a room with Gollum. Last night she let out a wheeze so long and deep it was like someone had trod on a bagpipe.
Old people love babies
It’s amazing the power having a new born baby in the house can bring. People have been very generous. We’ve had amazing presents; as much cake as you can eat and all we have had to do in return is let them look at this tiny human. I always feel it’s a bit one way at the moment; she can’t even say thank you. It’s like looking after a pork loin joint, you just have to make sure you check on it every now and then. She is amazing but doesn’t do much. Although I have noticed that, like with many newborn babies she only looks like two people at the moment; an angry, miniature Jack Nicholson or a generic nightclub doorman.
When you are out for a walk that’s when things get interesting. Old people love babies, regardless of whether they know who you are not. I’ve often wondered if they think that babies have some sort of life giving power, a bit like the character Rogue in X-Men, who could remove the powers, physical strength and memories from anyone she touches; I wonder if they think they can grab the youth from them by giving them a quick cuddle. I regular have to run the gauntlet when I’m out with the pram. I got ambushed the other day by two of them in the park; they came at me like police squad cars boxing in a joyrider. Lovely old ladies and they did mean well. Their heads went straight into the pram, cooing with excitement I then had to then field the usual questions:
“What’s her name?”
“When was she born?”
“How much did she weigh?”
That last question I have always found a little baffling. It’s a human not a fish, what is the obsession people have with this statistic? Is there a massive game of guess the weight of the baby that I am unaware of? Congratulations, the winning weight was 8lb 7oz; you’ve won the George Forman Grill! It’s always the question people ask, but I suppose when she is a new born baby that’s the most appropriate time to ask this. You couldn’t approach a fully grown adult in the park and ask them how much they weighed; I mean you could, but expect to get slapped.
Right, I’m off to check my warranty booklet for the people carrier to see if “almost having a child in the front seat” is covered.
I would say that becoming a father again has been an unforgettable and amazing experience and just like with the first birth I am left with one overriding thought; thank Christ I am a man.
My first of several essays about stuff I find intriguing, this ones all about social media and Generation Z.
I write this having just put my daughter (Olivia, 5) to bed after reading her a bedtime story. It’s one of the perks of being a parent and one of the rare times in the day where both of you feel totally free from distraction. The format of the reading is often the same. First she reads to me one of her books procured from the school library. She is a library monitor (I have no idea what this role entails) and claims to have the pick of the books to bring home. Yet despite this we always tend to get books that cover two main topics; Witches and animals. Occasionally she will bring home a Star Wars book which contains detailed drawings of the Millennium Falcon and a family tree of the Skywalker family. Not exactly ideal for night time reading.
Modern teaching focusses on using phonics to teach children to read. They sound out the words and say them out loud. It’s very effective, although Liv tends to shout these out which makes you feel like you are being read to by a town crier or an evangelical minister from the Deep South giving a sermon. Still, its brilliant and you can see the pleasure she gets from being able to read a book herself.
Olivia is part of “Generation – Z” a group of children brought up entirely immersed in technology. They are often nicknamed “digital natives” as it’s a part of their life from birth. Many of this generation will have careers related to the digital world. They are also one of the generations most influenced by advertising; whether it is spewed onto their Facebook timelines, adverts on you tube or clogging up their email accounts. I have watched my daughter when she picks up a mobile phone and it’s amazing. She enters the key code, fires up the Cbeebies app and gets cracking on a game, not before switching it to airplane mode so she’s not interrupted by an incoming call. When she comes into the living room to watch television she’ll often ask if I can “switch it to channel 603 (Boomerang) please daddy, Scooby Doo is on” “Ok darling, I think it’s just about to finish”, “Ah, okay, put 618 on then Daddy, that’s Boomerang+1!” It’s like living with the head of digital programming.
It’s all on demand and they are in complete control. I still don’t think she fully appreciates the power of being able to pause live television. When I was a kid that would have blown my mind, it would have been like wizardry. I overheard my daughter telling her friend, “it’s okay; I’ll watch that on Iplayer!” I had to plan to watch television, meals had to be rescheduled, social events had to be cancelled and yes, I could have recorded it on the video, but I was often out and I wasn’t going to trust my mother with the task of having to record it for me. I’m not saying she struggles with technology, but let’s just say that still to this day on her coffee table there is a thing called “the idiot book” which my dad has written for her. Spiral bound, written in large fonts, it contains step by step instructions for operation of household appliances, from toasters through to televisions. I’m not saying she didn’t try, she did, but more often than not the tape would run out fifteen minutes from the end or she had recorded a late night Channel 4 news special instead.
Look, I’m not a Luddite, I love technology. As a stand-up comic it’s part of the business now to have a social media profile, website, show reel. Although often I’ll just use it to try and get free stuff from companies or tweet along humorous, but ultimately worthless comments about “The Apprentice” “The Bake Off” or my new favourite “The Great Pottery Throwdown” (honest, its brilliant and I’m getting a potter’s wheel in the shed). However I do think we are losing something in this technological age.
As a consequence of spending more and more time in our digital worlds we neglect the simple pleasure of conversation. My wife and I will often spend many quality hours together, snuggled on the sofa, each of us looking at our own phones, just browsing through Facebook to see how other people are living their lives. I think there is a certain amount of pressure associated with social media. I often feel, and this may be because I am an insecure funny man, an urge to upload happy family pictures, status updates about perfect day trips and stuff my daughter has said that could melt even the coldest of hearts. There is an element of competiveness to convey that life through a social media profile. In many ways it has replaced the phone call or the catch up down the pub. For comedians the lure of Facebook is just too great, not only do we often get work through it, but it’s that feeling of having an audience, a platform to entertain from. I often wonder how long it will be until a comic tries a joke on stage and when it gets no response says “Oh Come on, that got 58 likes on Facebook!”
There are many articles online which talk about the dangers for Olivia’s generation of the lack of actual physical interaction with other humans. The digital world is comfortable, you set the limits and if you are shy it can be a fantastic way of discovering who you are and friends who feel the same way. I’ve not been a parent long, I am away a lot, mainly weekends, and my wife is the one who steers the ship most of the time, but we are both concerned about the world my daughter is growing up in. She is still too little at the moment to be fully embraced by that digital universe, but it won’t be long. She will probably grow up with a shorter attention span but an ability to truly multitask. Using a tablet or phone whilst watching television will be second nature, but getting a conversation out of her will be practically impossible; I’d probably have to tweet her using the #speaktoyourfamily.
Parenting by devices
I often think it must have been so hard for my mum and dad without all this technology and social media to distract them, back then you had to actually interact with your kids. Don’t get me wrong I totally understand the lure of giving your kid a mobile phone or ipad to keep them occupied. Before children the important things about choosing a restaurant to eat in where things like; is the food good, what’s the atmosphere like, do they have a good wine cellar. After you have kids, the only pre-requisite is that they give out crayons and a colouring sheet….and that’s just to keep me occupied!
Despite this I always try and put the phone away during time with the family, although it is hard. My wife will often call me on it with a shout of “phone” it’s a technique similar to that of teaching a child not to pick their nose. I’ve seen some terrible examples of this sort of behaviour though and it does make me question whether we as humans can regulate ourselves with this sort of technology. I think we are all crave attention to a certain degree, we like validation, it makes us feel good. I think this explains the birth of the “Selfie” I have never taken one although I do spend an awful amount of time looking in the mirror and trying to perfect my hair. Just as a side point here, why is it my hair always looks its best just before I am about to go to bed? It’s incredible; it’s as if it takes a whole day to bed in. Sometimes I will be in the bathroom, catch my reflection in the mirror and think, “Wow, it’s a shame to sleep on this, what a waste keeping this from the world” my wife walked in behind me at that point, she’d come in to brush her teeth, even she said I should go out. I’ll often nip down the supermarket just to feel like I have made use of it, thank god for 24hr shopping. Ten years my wife and I have been together now, we met in a nightclub during freshers week at university. You wouldn’t think that would last would you? I remember it well, it was 2.30am, I’d just arrived in the club, I wasn’t planning on going out, but then I saw my hair and thought, let’s do this.
Anyway, back to the point. We were once out for a family meal and we were sat next to another young family on the neighbouring table, a father, mother and their young daughter. The daughter was doing some colouring (as mentioned earlier this is now a must for family dining) and was trying to get the attention of her parents. After several minutes of ignoring her she began to get quite agitated. I looked over and it was at that point I saw both parents on their own phones, flicking through pictures of their child and trying to decide which ones to upload to Facebook. The kid is in front of you, in 3D, in perfect resolution, stop living through that screen and experience life!
I don’t want to come across as condescending here; I am not a perfect parent by any means. There are times when I have given my daughter a device to keep her occupied when out in public, although in hindsight handing her a phone on a Sunday morning walk around a lake, may have been naive. I’m joking of course, but I have done it. How can I compete with a phone, its amazing technology, you’ve got a whole world of cbeebies games and puzzles or your dad waffling on about squirrel habitats and “how much carp is probably in that lake” which would you pick?
Still, sometimes I am stunned by the trajectory technology is taking us in. You can now buy a child’s potty with an Ipad stand (I’ll try and dump a picture on this blog). I mean is this where we are now? A child has to have a screen constantly in front of their face and we won’t give them a breather from it just to take a shit? The toy boasts “A wipe clean touch screen cover in case of accidents” well thank god for that. Presumably they are concerned that during a particularly explosive case of diarrhoea that the child could spatter your beloved technology like a scene from a slasher film. There is even a potty training app, which you can download (if you pardon the expression).
Recently I went to a concert, a metal concert, a high energy sweatfest at Rock City in Nottingham, to see the fantastic Queens of the Stone Age. They were brilliant, close up, giving their all and it was an amazing night. I was however slightly troubled by the amount of people who were filming the concert and watching it simultaneously through a tiny screen. What is the purpose of this, why would you ever watch this back. You have a brain and a face and you are able to remember, that’s what makes the human being so incredible. You can make memories, associating good times with sounds, smells or defining moments. How can you substitute all that for an experience through a mobile phone. Who is watching this footage back? The sound is terrible and your camera work will be worse than a clip from “you’ve been framed”. It’s baffling. It’s like we have to record things continually, in some sort of virtual scrapbook. Art galleries throw up the worst offenders. Works of art that have taken years to paint, beautiful brush work, incredible feats of skill and dexterity and you’ve reduced it all to the click of a camera phone. It’s like an SAS manoeuvre, “click and move, click and move, now to the café go go!”
Social Media and Stress
I heard recently on Radio 4 (where I get most of my facts) that we have a growing problem with stress and anxiety on our society. More people are on antidepressants and seeking counselling for stress related illnesses. One of the main contributory factors is the dominance of social media. Scroll through your Facebook timeline and you’ll see family bereavements, opinions on world politics, victims of war, often including dead children, stories about cancer and other life threatening diseases. All interspersed with adverts for clothing, movies and pictures of your mate Daves ‘cheese soufflé. We can’t process all this, our brains can’t cope, particularly when we feel like we can’t solve most of these problems. The world is a miserable place; people are dying, what’s the point? and I can’t even make a bloody soufflé!
All this stuff rushes into our lives unchecked and it’s difficult to stem the flow. It’s good to be informed, of course it is, we can’t live like hermits, but I think I have to regulate the frequency I expose my brain to all this information. I am an anxious person, I have had moments of depression in my past and I’m a committed show off with a platform from which to spout my opinions, jokes and ill thought out ideas; it’s a potentially toxic mix.
So where do we go from here? Social media is here to stay and the fact that I am writing all this on my own blog as an irony I am well aware of. Even the older generation, my mum and dad have felt the need to move with times and embrace social media. My dad has been on Facebook for nearly a year now, admittedly in all that time he has only “liked Lidl”, but it’s a start. I know that I need to ration my use of it, like drinking and eating, moderation is the key. My wife and I have employed a “one screen rule” in the front room. If the television is on, get off your phone, you can’t do both. We have also decided to leave the phones out of the bedroom. It’s hard to maintain a level of romance in a relationship when one of you has their face lit up like a shit ET in the candlelight, “sorry love I’ll be right with you, I just have to have a look at what Twitter is saying about tonight’s pottery showdown otherwise I can’t relax.
I think that’s why I loved reading with my daughter last night. It can’t be rivalled by any interaction on social media; human contact will always win through. It’s wonderfully relaxing and I cherish every special moment of it.
Having said that I am considering getting her a Kindle.
An ode to the humble motorway services
Word up, I’m the Yorkshire rapper Mr B
I love a bargain by one get one free!
Respect to the Services what can I say?
A beacon of hope on the motorway
Just take the slip road and you’ll see
Another world of possibility
I’m laying this down, listen to my flow
Respect to Roadchef and M&S moto
Grab a Ginsters from the fridge
Want a Starbucks? It’s over the bridge
I don’t do junk food, it ain’t my thing
I avoid McDonald’s and Burger King
I would rather pay through the nose
For a pasta salad from Waitrose
I’m a road comic it’s a way of life
I spend more time at Costa than with my wife
I’m the comedy courier, you know me
Listen to my rhymes it’s all in the delivery
I hate the truckstop
It’s dark and scary
Full of big men who are weird and hairy
But they sleep in the cabs
They don’t bother me,
With their flasks of coffee and pornography
The services are always there
You can even chill in the massage chair
But don’t get too comfy because they’ll only allow us
A quick pit stop, maximum stay two hours
Open late at night and when the day is dawning
But who plays a fruit machine at two in the morning?
For most of us the visit is brief
You’ve been holding it in for miles, what a relief!
I’ve had a poo in Knutsford,
A wee in Trowell,
At Watford I nicked a paper Towel
So big up the services,
It’s plain to see,
I love you man,
You’re always there for me.
The things in life that baffle, perplex and annoy
The Soda Stream
Category - Product
The Soda Stream has always been a product that has left me baffled, I am still surprised that anyone would have wanted to make their own fizzy pop. Maybe those marketing executives at Soda Stream failed to notice the world wide dominance of brands like Coca Cola and Sprite:
"You can buy a can of this for less than 50p John and it takes fantastic"
"You say that mate, but I reckon Alan in his Kitchen in Peterborough can do much better"
When I was growing up in the early 80's the Soda Stream was massive. I remember my best mate having one, we used to just sit in his kitchen and look at it. It was true that fizzy drinks were relatively more expensive back then and supermarkets didn't knock out their own brand muck so the Soda Stream seemed like a good alternative. Sitting their on the kitchen worktop, it did look like it was from the future. The whole idea was that you take water from the tap, put it into a Soda Stream bottle, pop it into the machine, which contained a gas canister and then push down the button to carbonate the water and "get busy with the fizzy" you could then add flavourings and voila! home made pop!
This was fine in theory, however in practice it was very different. My mate would always offer me one of his "concoctions" made via a Soda Stream. They were usually flat, lukewarm and tasted like Calpol. It was too much like hard work, its like offering someone a glass of milk and bringing in a cow on a rope, "fancy a glass of wine?" "get yer shoes and socks of then I've got some grapes upstairs in the bath"
Amazingly the Soda Stream is still in production, focussing on healthier drinks and sparking waters, there have been protests and boycotts of the product over the years. It was controversially headquarted in Mishor in the west bank of Israel, so not only is it a pointless product, its a barrier to peace.