Life Is Like A Bus

When I was in Year 8, I went to Paris on a school trip. 

So far, so good.

But wait – there’s more. But also, in many ways, there’s less. Much, much less.

Firstly, let me tell you a bit about my background.

Oh by the way, little tangent, normally when a comedian says “let me tell you about my background,” they follow it up by making a joke about the back wall of the stage. Because that’s literally their background in that moment. Like, background as in the thing behind them rather than background as in their childhood and where they grew up. And when I’m watching a comedian do that bit, I always think, how do they not realise they’re not the only person doing this joke? And if they do realise, why do they keep doing it? Do they not care? What kind of childhood must this person have had for them to end up like this?

It makes me legitimately want to find out about their background. Perhaps that’s the genius of the bit.

Anyway, I want to tell you about my background – it’s the wall of my bedroom hehe. But nah, where I grew up, in a town called Stone, near a “city” called Stoke, we had a middle-school system. There was first school, middle school, then, yep, you guessed, a 3-year training camp where we all had to learn the ancient martial art of Karate, which taught us not only how to defend ourselves, but also what it means to be a man. Not really, I’m being silly again. After middle school was high school, where we learned the ancient art of fingering girls. I never did it in high-school myself, but I heard a lot from people with first-hand experience (so to speak lolololol). According to Jack Bond, it’s like sticking your fingers in a quiche.

In middle school, Year 8 is the top year, so you’re one of the big kids in school. You feel confident. Invincible. At that time, it was entirely possible that I had the biggest dick in the whole school. To say that wasn’t on my mind as I was packing my suitcase to go to Paris would be a lie and possibly libellous to my former self. But I wasn’t just revelling in the possibly majestic relative size of my sexual organ, I was also thinking a lot about a certain 4-letter word. Not dick, but love.

Paris is the city of love. At the time, I was in love with what can only be described as a girl called Becky. She had brown hair and a ponytail and the kind of smile that makes a boy in Year 8 go crazy. We were in Maths together, and instead of doing my sums like a good little beaten down and uncreative product of the British education system, I spent most of the time trying to figure out how to get me plus her to equal boyfriend and girlfriend. I know I was only 12, but I was ready to settle down and build a life with this girl, or at the very least a treehouse.

I was always too frightened to ask Becky out at school. I tried on numerous occasions but unfortunately that number was 0. That joke doesn’t really work, because numerous just means many rather than a certain number, but the point is I was too in love this brown-haired bombshell to be working on my vocab. Anyway, every time I got close to her and went to say, “hey will you go out with me?” I panicked and farted and had to immediately evacuate the situation before the fart particles got a chance to reach her lovely nose.

As soon as we were in Paris, the city of love, and away from Stone, the town of slowly waiting for death to end the monotony of existence, I was sure things would change. I was gonna go for it with Becky. We could drink wine and eat snails under the Eiffel tower and I could have my first ever kiss. Why not ask her out in Paris? Fuck it, Year 8 was coming to an end and maybe this could kickstart a summer of love, we could arrive at high school as a power couple, fingering different parts of each other’s bodies in between studying for our GCSE’s.

Little did I know, I was about to be brought right back down to Earth, my least favourite planet to be brought back down to.

To save money and to increase everyone’s sense of unhappiness, the school decided we would go to Paris by coach rather than by plane. We had to go to Dover, then get a ferry to Calais, then go to Paris. 

The journey was gonna take 14 hours in total, and to pass the time, we were playing this game where we’d all talk about what we were gonna be like when we were older. Thinking about it, it was more of a conversation than a game. Well, I’ve said game now. I’m gonna stick with game. The whole back half of the bus were playing this “game”. Meanwhile, the front half of the bus seemed to be having this conversation about what they spied with their little eyes. At one point in the game, someone said, “Imagine if Eric grew up to be really fit” and then they laughed and then everyone else laughed and it proper made me feel sad. See I didn’t know that I WASN’T fit. No idea, whatsoever. I don’t think I thought I was fit. I just didn’t think either way. It didn’t occur to me. But this was like everyone knew I was a munter and they were howling at the absurdity of it ever being any different. Devastating.

I tried to ignore it. See if I could just put it to the back of my mind, maybe join in with the front half of the bus’s conversation. But the only thing I spied with my little eye began with B. And that was “Becky Also Laughing At The Idea Of Me Being Attractive”. Also, brownie. I had had a brownie in my lunch. Thanks for packing that, mum. It helped reduce the humiliation for a few seconds, before I looked back at Becky and realised I was a loser and a grade-A DORK to her.

You may not be surprised to hear that I didn’t ask her out when we got to Paris. I just ate my crepes and saw the shitty Mona Lisa and went back home. That’s how I remember it. There must’ve been other things we did in the 5-day trip but it was honestly just one long sad crepe to me. When I got back to school, I made a conscious effort to just focus on myself and my studies, and never even think about asking a girl out again.

How did that work out for me?

Fast forward 10 years from the cruel coach comment, and I’m 23, one of the most respected new comedians in the whole of the South Birmingham comedy scene, and I have degree in Mathematics from Warwick University. Not bad, eh? Life worked out for little for little ugly Eric Rushton, didn’t it? Well, unfortunately, I’m also crippled by a couple of obscure conditions known amongst psychologists as “anxiety” and “depression”. Friends who actually exist will often say to me, “Eric, you’re easily one of the top 7 comedians aged between 20-25 in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham, how is it that you’re still so down on yourself?”

Sometimes the answer to that question is as puzzling to me as the answer to the question, “How can Primark sell clothes that are so fashionable yet so damn cheap?” It all comes down to ruined childhoods. For some kids, it’s working 14 hours a day in a sweatshop; for others, it’s hearing a mildly unkind comment on a trip to Paris. I’m not gonna say which one’s worse, but let’s just say those sweatshop kids didn’t have to stop at a services that had promised a Burger King only to get there and be told it was “undergoing maintenance”. Fucking bullshit.

It turns out that the trip to Paris stayed with me. I’m not saying I think about it that much, but I think it was the point where I started telling myself a story about who I was. Not a well-written, funny story like this one I’m writing, but a mean story, a story that says I’m not good enough.

I was on the number 50 bus into town other day, and something happened that made me think about all this stuff again. According to folklore, the number 50 bus in Birmingham is one of the most frequent bus routes in Europe. If you miss one bus, another one will come along in the next 3-5 minutes and save your sorry ass from standing in the cold (or the hot, or the pleasant breeze, or whatever weather type). You’d think because there’s so many buses that each individual bus wouldn’t be so busy, but you’d better not vocalise that thought because you’d embarrass yourself. At peak times, you’re packed like bloody sardines on them buses. Hey I sometimes imagine sardines all squashed together in one of their tins and they’re like, “Jesus, this is like being on the number 50 bus in Birmingham.” Then I have to put the sardines back in the cupboard — I can’t bring myself to eat animals that possess such wit.

Normally when I’m on the bus I just listen to Spotify Premium on my brand-new iPhone XR handset (one of the most powerful mobile devices around, with a slick new design and colour options to match your taste, all for just £45 a month when you select Vodafone’s RED entertainment plan and add a loyalty discount, for more information head to Vodafone.co.uk/Red or pop into your nearest Vodafone store and ask to speak to one of their friendly advisors). The phone has the longest battery life on an iPhone ever – while still being incredibly compact and light – but I’d somehow managed to let it die. This meant I had to take in my surroundings and be more present with my thoughts. My thoughts are not something anyone wants to be present with. They’re like the guest at the house party that you try to avoid because you know they’re gonna be super intense and ask you about how your job’s going and your 5-year-plan and what’s next for Eric Rushton and what changes you need to make and whether the chilli sensations in the cupboard are up for grabs or are they food for the family home that we shouldn’t touch. I’m thinking about a very specific party I had once.

As for the surroundings, the bus was packed with people and it was fuckinggggg hot mate. Proper heatwave whether. It was so hot that even thinking about it just made me type the wrong spelling of weather. The bus smelled of sweat and the situation reeked of something that could be narratively interesting. Next to me was a woman. She was youngish and one of those that start speaking to you. Well not you, I mean me. She spoke to me is what I’m saying.

“Boiling, init?” She said.

“Yeah, well hot,” I said.

The conversation ended there, which was a relief for me. The only thing I hate as much as speaking to strangers is speaking to people I know. But after a few minutes, she piped up again:

“Sorry, this is a bit strange, but can I ask you where you’re from?”

“Oh, I live in Kings Heath at the moment.”

“No, I mean, where are you ‘from’ from?”

I absolutely lost it at this point. Who was this lady with her questions?

“Hey, I have every right to be in this country so I don’t see what that has to do with anything?” I yelled.

She laughed.

“Did you go to Christ Church Middle School?” She asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Is this Eric?”

“Yeah.”

She then did this face where it was like she was gesturing to her own face with her face. It was weird. But she wanted me to look at her face, I figured. Then after any words failed to come out of my mouth, she discharged some from hers.

“Oh my God! It’s Becky. We used to sit together in Maths, remember?”

“Oh, shit.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Oh, shit” probably wasn’t great but I figured it was better than silence. 

“What are you up to these days?”

“Just getting the bus into town.”

She laughed again.

“No, I mean what are you ‘up to’ up to?”

“Well,” I said, “I do a lot of stand-up comedy these days. I just got back from the Edinburgh Fringe.”

She seemed impressed with this. We got chatting some more about what she’s doing now (something boring that involves computers) and then we reminisced about year 8 maths.

“I always thought you were funny, you know,” she said. “You used to make me laugh loads.”

“It’s cos I fancied you,” I said, and then immediately after wondered why. I anticipated excruciating silence or worse, laughter. 

But she smiled instead. “Really?” 

“Sorry… bit weird, to tell you that init?” 

“It’s okay.” She paused, then said, “How come you never said anything?” 

“I dunno… didn’t want to make you feel weird, I guess.”

“I wouldn’t have minded,” she said. “It’s not like I got loads of attention back then. God, remember that Paris trip when everyone was so desperate to get off with each other on the coaches?”

“Err… Yeah, vaguely,” I said, looking at my feet.

“Feels good not to be thirteen anymore.”

“Yeah, yeah it does…” 

“Anyway, my stop’s coming up,” she said. “It’s been so good to see you. Do you want my number, maybe we could catch up properly sometime?” 

She gave me her number and got off, leaving me to return to my thoughts for the rest of the journey. Except now the thoughts seemed a bit more bearable and joined by all these questions like ‘was I actually fit?’, ‘have I always been fit?’ and ‘I’m actually fit as fuck, aren’t I?’. I’m not saying the answer was a unanimous yes, but it wasn’t a certain no anymore. Like maybe the story I’d told myself for the past ten years could have simply been a wrong one. 

And then it was time to get off the bus, which was probably now as metaphorical as it was physical. I got off, headed inside, and sat down.

“Hiya, how’s it going?” My counsellor said, collecting me from the waiting area.

I smiled a big cheeky grin.

“Oh boy, have I got a story to tell you mate.”

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

It’s All In My Head

I’ve been thinking about thoughts.

I’ve had them for ages, thoughts. Ever since I can remember, and remembering is a type of thought too. I think.

What am I thinking right now? I’m thinking: if I can sit and write for an hour, then I won’t feel like a failure afterwards. My self-worth is tied to how productive and disciplined I am, especially in terms of being creative. If I don’t work hard enough I get sad. Then when I’m sad, it makes it harder to be motivated to work. But then sometimes I’ll write stuff about being sad and then I feel productive. It’s quite difficult to work out whether it’s a vicious or virtuous cycle. I think it might be some sort of figure of eight shape.

I’m also slightly hungry. In my head excuses are emerging for not staying at my computer to write. Excuses like, “You’re not in a creative flow right now, you shouldn’t force it”, “You’ve done enough good things today – remember Yoga” and “I really fancy the woman from the Yoga videos.”

It’s hard to clear these distractions from my head, because then I just think harder about the thing I’m distracted by. It’s like when someone says, “don’t think about an elephant,” then ALL I can think about is how much of a prick that person is.

It’s mad – where do all these thoughts come from? They just pop up out of nowhere into your head. You don’t ask for them – they’re like Lewis Capaldi adverts, always in the background, always lurking somewhere, then suddenly taking up all your attention. Chemical reactions happen in your brain and the end result could be that you think you’re a loser, or you think you’re great, or you think about Adriene from Yoga with Adriene and wonder what she’s like in her spare time. What does she get up to? Has she ever dated a fan? I know I’m a bit young for her but maybe she’s flexible when it comes to age as well.

How come I can feel and think these things in the first place? The thinking about thinking was stressing me out, so I started reading about it instead. I typed the word consciousness into Google. Now if you don’t know precisely what that word means, then let me explain: Google is what’s known as a “search engine” and it helps you find what you’re looking for on the internet. 

Hehe.

Nah, I’m just kidding. The best definition of consciousness I found was this: something is conscious, if there’s something “that it’s like to be that thing”. So, I’m conscious because there’s something that it’s like to be me i.e. pretty fucking great because I’m a legend with many skills. Nah, I get awful sad and lonesome sometimes. But basically, things that think and feel are conscious. So, I’m conscious; you’re conscious; but a chair isn’t conscious. It’s just a stupid chair and you can sit on it or even spit on it and it won’t care because it doesn’t feel anything. It’s just a dumb chair with no talent or worth.

No one really knows what causes consciousness. Scientists and philosophers have been trying to figure it out for ages, but they’re not sure. The main problem they’ve had historically is that when you think about it for too long you get confused and give up and start looking at Facebook instead, or you open an incognito tab and look at something even worse. Descartes was onto something when he said, “I think, therefore I am,” but he never really built on that because it was all kicking off on Twitter at the time.

It’s weird how no one knows why we have thoughts, yet they’re the cause of so much stress. I have loads of bad thoughts all the time, and so do you probably. I sometimes have a really negative view of myself. That’s a concept that creeps me out – self-consciousness. We’re able to think about ourselves. I can deal with having opinions about other people, even bad ones, who cares, you don’t have to tell them – but having constant bad thoughts about yourself is annoying.

I worry about what I look like a lot. Which is quite shallow, but then society is shallow, isn’t it? We care too much about physical attractiveness. But then why is that bad? Wouldn’t a society that was equally shallow in the reverse way be just as bad. Like imagine if the first thing you saw about someone was how good their personality is. Then would people be like, “Oh she’s a terrible person, but don’t be so superficial. If you actually got to know her, she’s got a cracking pair of breasts.” 

But the thing is, you can never be certain what someone thinks of you – and realising that is scary and makes me feel quite lonely. Maybe that’s why we try so hard to find out; maybe that’s why I’m writing this, so when I share it on social media I can get some sort of gauge of what people think of me by how many likes it gets. Validation is like a little sneak peek into someone’s thoughts.

When I try to imagine how other people think, I just place my own consciousness into their bodies. I do it with people I’m attracted to a lot. Sometimes I think I even get close to empathising with them. I’ll be stood in their bodies, in front of the mirror – not naked, nothing weird – and I’ll just be staring at their reflection, realising the burden of being idealised by people when all they can see is every little imperfection. But then I realise my thoughts about how they think are probably more about me than them. Then after that I do picture them getting their baps out to be fair. I’m bloody rotten, me.

But then so would you be if you were me. Because you’d have all my thoughts. That’s why we probably shouldn’t feel so morally superior to people who do terrible things – we don’t have their bad thoughts, and if we did, we’d probably do the same. It’s easy for me to say I wouldn’t be a murderer because I don’t have to live with those impulses to bludgeon someone to death with a blunt object made largely out of Star Wars figurines, the very same figurines that you were teased at school for collecting, and as your childhood bully begs to be spared you scream at him “These figurines aren’t so gay now are they, Ben?!”

I have no idea what thinking about that all the time would be like.

The loneliness of being trapped with our own thoughts is probably life’s biggest challenge. It’s one we’ve all got to deal with, and it’s especially difficult when those thoughts are a constant stream of negativity directed at yourself. Even if those thoughts don’t represent wider-reality, it is the reality that you have to live with.

But then sometimes people do find a way of breaking through that boundary that separates your minds. Halfway through writing this, my housemate Joe came into my room. He works at Iceland and he just got back. At first, I was worried he was gonna put that whole figure of eight pattern in motion again.

“Joe, can you go away for a second, I’m tryna do something.”

“Yeah, sure,” he said. “I just came into give you this.”

He handed me an Easter Egg, but not just any Easter Egg – a Mars Easter Egg. For some context, Joe knows that Mars is my third favourite type of chocolate. I was buzzing. I could’ve kissed him. It was a proper full-sized one as well, with two big Mars bars in there as well as the egg.

It made all the anxious self-consciousness totally evaporate. It made me realise that although we can’t be in someone else’s head or thoughts, we can hold them in our own, and sometimes show that to them, and that even that alone can make them change the way they think about themselves. 

And that if someone could do it for me so easily, then maybe I could do it for someone too. Maybe Joe, maybe Adriene from Yoga with Adriene, maybe even you.  

Just a thought.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

Outside-Inside

Do you know the song “Lay Me Bare” by Stormzy?

There’s a bit in it where he goes:

I get low sometimes
So low sometimes
Airplane mode on my phone sometimes
Sitting in my house with tears on my face
Can't answer the door to my bro sometimes

I’ve listened to that song about fifty times in the last two days. Everything’s felt bare heavy. Unless you’ve been self-isolating under a rock for the last month, you’ll be aware that we’re all stuck inside due to the break out of the so-called Coronavirus. (Side note: my new thing is calling it the “so-called Coronavirus” like when people used to call ISIS the “so-called Islamic State” to delegitimise it.) 

I’ve not been a fan of this so-called Covid-19 and I think this staying inside malarkey has been bad for my so-called mental health.

I wanna do so much and use all this newfound time productively – write jokes, make videos, take an online university course. I wanna improve myself, so when the world returns to normal I’m ready to tear shit up. I’ll be able to go to that first post-Corona public gathering and announce to everyone that I now have extensive knowledge of business management and macroeconomics.

“I’m also now fluent in Python and Javascript and can proudly describe myself as an intermediate knitter – come at me motherfuckers.”

And then everyone will come at me with their programme bugs and a big ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles and I’ll be a hero.

But it’s not worked out. The only thing I can seem to knit together are past mistakes with anxieties about the future, woven nice and tightly around the present moment so as to make it unbearable. 

Bit emo, but you get me. 

And unlike Stormzy, I can’t manage to switch my phone to Airplaine mode. I’ve been refreshing Facebook so much in the last couple of days that I’ve started re-seeing posts about Bowie dying. Even Instagram, which I don’t use that much, has told me to get a life:

I think it’s my use on social media that’s made me feel like I need to use this time to improve myself, because other people are doing that. Everyone’s started a new fitness regime or is learning a new skill. And people keep citing examples in history where people have used hardship to come back stronger. Someone on my Facebook was going on about Nelson Mandela the other day and how he used his time in prison to write a book. It made me feel terrible. Now if at the end of this I don’t become the first black president of South Africa I’m gonna feel like an absolute failure.

People are also comparing it to wartime, although I’m very glad social media wasn’t around back then. Could you imagine some of the greatest horrors that have ever befallen mankind being undercut by Tik Toks of people doing keepy-uppies with bog roll?

It’s a cliché by this point that social media makes us all sad, but in theory this was its big chance to challenge that. With no more cavorting in public spaces allowed (ah man, I miss cavorting), we need something that connects us. 

Social Media could’ve been the villain that turns into the good guy at the vital moment – suddenly gaining a conscience like Scrooge in the film A Muppets Christmas Carol, and giving out turkeys. But it’s the same old shit and I haven’t had one turkey yet, plus Kermit isn’t even allowed to invite me around for dinner anyway because of the lockdown. 

Social media is our link at the moment to the outside-world, so it appeals. But it’s not really the outside world, because everyone’s inside, so it’s like the outside-inside world and instead of getting that connection we crave, we’re just looking at other people’s kitchens and comparing them to our own. It feels like a new competition has started and that competition is called, “Who’s having the best quarantine?” And I tell you what, Tiny Tim over here (me) doesn’t feel like he’s having a good one.

Now that couples are self-isolating together, they’re more annoying than ever: posting shit like “#day4 in quarantine with this one”. I’m not into it. Hopefully they’re driving each other insane and their #day112 post will be about how they looked into their partners eyes and the only thing that stared back at them was the impossibility of true love, while a sense of deep unwavering loneliness pulsated through their body. That’d be good.

Then there’re celebrities. We are all in this together, but staying inside is far less terrible if you have a mansion and a built-in gym and cinema. I live in a house share with 7 other people. It’s not the same. Also, these celebs have big fuck off gardens. Our garden is really overgrown and has junk everywhere so I can’t even go outside. Right now, my housemate’s old broken microwave is getting more vitamin D than I am.

Spending my day staring at the screen makes me feel disconnected, like nothing’s real. I can’t take the news in either. I thought it might just be me, but I’ve spoken to others and they felt a similar sense of loneliness and apathy while trawling through it all. Well I haven’t actually discussed it with anyone, but I’ve visualised myself in conversation with friends talking about it and they all agree, and also – totally umprompted – say that I’m a really handsome guy.

But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ve been feeding the whole thing as well. I’ve posted loads of videos on Facebook since I’ve been stuck inside, and now I’m not sure this obsession to be productive with online content is even conducive to making the best art. Could you imagine if Shakespeare had Instagram stories? I don’t think he’d be putting as much thought into his work. In fact, I don’t think he’d even be on the stories feature; I reckon he’d be getting catfished by a Brazillian model in his DMs. That’s the saddest part about catfishing for me – I always think ‘lads, think of the sonnets you could be writing right now.’

Even when I get a post that gets loads of likes it doesn’t feel that good for long. Because that like doesn’t really tell you much. It’s a nice bit of approval, but that person liking your post doesn’t necessarily have a deep connection with you and care for your well-being; they’re there for the lols, not the lows. 

When I’m all cooped up in my bedroom, listening to Stormzy, I find myself thinking more about the people in my life that I do have that connection with. I realise that there are more than enough of them, but I just haven’t been as grateful as I should for them. I’ve been fantasising about getting a drink with people I care about when all this is over. And they won’t care if I’ve used the time apart to get better at knitting and I won’t care what they’ve done either – we’ll just be buzzing to be in each other’s company.

Maybe if there’s one good thing that comes out of the so-called Coronavirus pandemic, it’s that hopefully certain things will feel more precious to us. This constant deluge from the outside-inside world of quarantine social media will remind us to treasure the real outside world and the people that make our lives worthwhile. Maybe it will turn our values inside-out.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

P.S. If you enjoyed this, please give it a like and a share.

The Obituary Of Eric Rushton

A tireless performer, a tired lover, and a tiresome person to talk to: Eric Rushton died yesterday, aged 54.

Any comedian that dies on stage instantly attains legend-status. Tommy Cooper in 1984, Ian Cognito in 2019 and now Eric Rushton, who, during his show in Milton Keynes, choked on his own hilarious and emotionally powerful words, as well as a Smoky Bacon flavoured crisp that he stole off an audience member in the front row. Instead of panicking and attempting to help, the audience, thinking it was all part of the act, loudly booed and shouted, “Get him off, he’s fucking shit.” It was only when the owner of the crisps went to retrieve them that everyone realised that something much more serious was happening.

By the time the ambulance had arrived, it was too late. The show had resumed, with Eric’s dying body pushed to the back of the stage and the compere now riffing some fairly AI-phobic jokes about self-driving Uber Cars. The paramedics, completely forgetting their duty, were engrossed by the compere’s handiwork and sat down to enjoy the rest of the show. On the one hand, it was an egregious example of medical negligence, on the other hand, a testament to stand-up comedy and the power it has to bring people into the moment.

When we look back over his life, we might rue over just how little we appreciated Eric while he was around. He had some mainstream success: an appearance on the non-celebrity version of The Chase in the 20’s, a Mock The Week appearance in 2034, and most notably, an appearance on the celebrity version of the chase in 2042 – an episode mostly remembered for the hologram of Bradley Walsh laughing uncontrollably after saying the phrase blue waffle. A classic TV moment.

Like someone who’s not successful, Rushton shied away from success, instead preferring to be unsuccessful. He built up a small cult-following through his blogs, his videos, and of course, his stand-up. Complaining about not having a girlfriend when he didn’t have one, and complaining about his girlfriend when he did, Eric’s material was highly unique. Eventually critics agreed and in 2046 he accepted the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for Humour, despite it not having been offered to him. He called it, “The proudest moment of my life.”

Was he happy? Who could really say? He could, and the answer was almost always no. But he never gave up on the belief that his work and art could change all that. “Art is my saviour. It’s potential to heal divisions and provide personal redemption is limitless,” he wrote in his self-published autobiography Eric Rushton: I Love Bad Bitches. 

In that same book, he spoke about another key moment in his life: the death of his father.

Early January in 2020, a fresh decade brought a fresh challenge, and the 23-year-old Rushton was confronted with more emotions than he could deal with. The passing of his Dad suddenly made death real, rather than something that just happened to celebrities like Keith Chegwin.

In some ways, it didn’t have the impact you’d expect. Often we get fed this idea that death puts everything into perspective, bringing what’s important into sharper focus, making our everyday anxieties seem trivial and therefore extinguishing them. But for Eric those everyday anxieties and problems never really went away. He still thought about his hairline and his teeth and his posture and whether or not people knew how bad he was at buttering bread evenly. If the death of relatives actually brought that kind of psychological freedom, then he would’ve let loose with a machete at a family barbecue many years ago. (And then used that very same machete to lumpily spread some lurpak on a burger bap).

What that death did do, however, was make him think about how he’d be remembered. 

The stories shared about his dad, the memories and the nostalgia that they induced, it made him realise that it’s only once someone’s story is over that we can appreciate what it added to our lives.  He wondered what people would write about him when he died, what stories they would tell, whether he could live a life that added value to other people’s lives. 

“I hope that people realise I tried my best and didn’t mean to be such a whiny prick,” he wrote. “I hope I metaphorically touched people.”

If the messages that flooded into his Tik Tok account (an extremely outdated platform) are anything to go by, then he succeeded in that regard.

Eric is survived by his extremely objectively attractive wife Helena, and his son James, who he raised to be a successful Backgammon player.

Eric Roy Rushton, comedian, writer, father, husband and platonic friend, born 10th May 1996; died 19thJanuary 2051.

Eric Rushton: Supply Teacher

“But Sir, you’re a slag.”

“Jamie, what on Earth are you talking about?”

“It’s just, I thought you wanted us to call you a slag?”

Every time he said the word slag, the room erupted again.

“Jamie I don’t know what you’re going on about, but you’re in big trouble.”

“Are you a slag, Sir?”

“NO JAMIE I AM NOT A SLAG!”

***

I was teaching the other day and a kid decided to lock himself in the cupboard for the entire lesson. 

It was a year 10 Maths lesson. A lot of kids find learning Maths boring, which is fair enough; I’m not here to judge, but I am here to violate their privacy by describing their behaviour in a widely read comedy blog. I don’t mean widely read in terms of numbers btw, I just mean I know my mum reads this thing in landscape mode on her iPad.

I should say, in case you’re worried, that events described here have been changed for entertainment purposes, and the characters in this piece should be thought of as fictional; any likenesses to real people are purely coincidental. Extremely coincidental, in fact. Uncanny, really.

Back to this kid who locked himself in the cupboard. To protect his identity, I won’t use his real name. I’ll just call him a little moron without a future. The cupboard thing was a prank. I get pranked a lot in life. So much so that when I ask a girl out and she says yes, I have to look closely again and double-check she’s not one of the lads from Impractical Jokers.

“Would you like to go for a drink sometime?”

“Yeah sure thing, sounds good.”

“Good – now, are you wearing a mic?”

“What?”

The main area of life I get pranked in is the workplace. Workplace pranking is something that we don’t talk about enough in society. I can see why tbf; we’ve got bigger fish to fry at the moment. But as soon as racism and sexual harassment are sorted, I’d like to see more people getting their p45s handed to them for switching the lids on salt & pepper shakers in staff canteens.

I work in schools, and I get pranked by the kids rather than my colleagues. Which is a strange dynamic when you think about it. That’s like working in a shop and getting pranked by the customers – going to start your shift behind the counter, only to find a massive dick drawn on your till, looking up and seeing a shop full of Poundland customers laughing at you.

I get pranked a lot because I’m a supply teacher. Kids already have very little respect for teacher’s in general. Teachers and kids are like two opposing armies, coming in as a supply teacher is like turning up in Syria as a boy scout and going, “Right, listen up, I’m taking charge now.” When I turn up to a lesson the kids literally celebrate because of how much of a piss-take their next hour is gonna be. “Sir, have we got you today?! Yess!!!!”

I’ve had all sorts of pranks. One that’s quite big on the pranking-the-supply-teacher circuit at the moment is The Switching Names Prank. In The Switching Names Pranks, the kids use complex combinatorial and statistical mathematics to switch their names around in a way that maximises hilarity. Then when the teacher calls out names in the register, the wrong kid answers and everyone laughs. Personally, I don’t really get it, but I guess that’s the subjective nature of comedy.

The lesson where the kid locked himself in the cupboard was a quiet one for pranks. There were no crude drawings on my board, nothing placed in my tea, no fake coughing (fake coughing is another common one I don’t get – a kid coughs really loudly and continuously, I tell them off, and then they go “Sir you can’t tell me off for being ill” and people laugh).

I was given a paper register that had the kids pictures next to their faces, so I know The Switching Names Prank wasn’t in operation. The kids seemed fairly sensible.

Sometimes you get lessons like this, and normally I just take the opportunity to relax a bit, maybe covertly write some jokes on my desk at the front. About 40 minutes into the lesson, I remember looking down at my notepad:

What’s the deal with the phrase “The best revenge is living well”? I really think that depends on the severity of what’s been inflicted on you. “You’ve just killed my whole family? You know how I’m gonna get you back? I’m gonna get really comfortable in my own skin. I might even take up Yoga and change my diet. That’ll show you.”

Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all, Rushton. I looked up at the kids all diligently completing their worksheets on quadratic equations and I felt a bit bored. I knew I wasn’t gonna come up with anything better than the revenge joke so I just gazed with a soft focus, trying to meditate like my Headspace app tells me to do. I did the thing where you imagine all your thoughts are cars on the motorway, driving past as you watch from the side – because picturing your depressive thoughts as high-speed metal death-machines makes them less scary for some reason. After that, I focused on my breath, and then the sounds around me.

I heard something at the back. The kids were all super quiet and concentrating on their work, so it wasn’t them. I realised it was coming from the cupboard, someone shuffling around. The cupboard doors flung open and a kid jumped out and shouted “WAYYYYY!”

It got nothing. I mean literally, nothing. The kids looked around, confused. The little moron without a future’s face dropped. After having endured so many pranks, so many humiliating, demeaning pranks, it felt great watching this kid bomb. He obviously thought he was gonna be a legend for doing it. He’d have been sitting in the cupboard, imagining this entire new identity for himself where he would be the coolest kid in school. Now his dreams were shattered. It was amazing. It was honestly one of the top 5 moments in my life and I’ve kissed 6 girls before.

“Go stand outside,” I said.

“But, Sir—“

“NOW!” I shouted.

“What was that?” I asked, as I joined him outside the classroom.

“I… I… I just thought it would be funny.”

“Well, you’ve just earned yourself a detention,” I said, as smug as a bug on a rug having a tug (I dunno). “Have you got anything to say for yourself?”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“No, Sir.”

“Thank you.”

We re-entered the classroom, and Jamie (I’ve gotta give him a name at some point, genuinely not his real name though) sat quietly at his desk, defeated. 

***

I left school that day feeling pretty good about myself, buzzing in fact, but it wasn’t something I expected to stay in my memory for long. Once I got through the door at home I didn’t really think about it. That’s the one benefit of being a supply teacher, when you get home you can switch off. There’s no marking, no deadlines to worry about. The kids’ futures are irrelevant to you. Real teachers have ambitions to shape lives, a supply teacher can rest assured knowing they shaped fuck all.

That’s what normally happens, anyway. But in bed that night, I couldn’t sleep.

I felt restless, itchy; there was this feeling in my stomach. You know like that heavy feeling of dread? Guilt, maybe?

I kept thinking about Jamie. His face when I was telling him off. The way he stuttered when he spoke to me. The resignation in his body-language when he returned to the classroom. All this after him jumping out of a cupboard with a huge grin and shouting WAYYYYY!

All the images kept going round in my head, like a sad Instagram story playing on repeat, but from an account that you can’t mute or unfollow. It’s just there, constantly. I tried to picture his sad face with a silly sombrero hat filter on top, but it didn’t help, if anything it added a racial dynamic to the whole thing that made me feel even worse.

Was I too harsh on him? Should have I just left it? Did he really need a detention on top of the humiliation of the prank bombing?

I kept tossing and turning. He was trying to get a laugh. If anyone knows how much that means to someone, then that’s me. There’s a reason that defeated face was haunting me so much, and that’s because it’s the same face I pull after every bad stand-up gig. It’s the face of someone who’s questioning their worth as a person. My identity is so wrapped up in being funny that when it comes into question it can properly shatter my confidence.

How could I do that to Jamie? What if he goes around thinking he’ll never get a laugh again?

***

The next morning in school, I went straight to Jackie Marshall, the Head of Year 10.

“Jackie, would it be okay for me to take Jamie Beesley out of his detention today?”

“The one you placed him in? Why?”

Jackie doesn’t respect me. I’d only been on supply at that particular school for about a week, but it was enough time for her to come to the conclusion that I didn’t know what I was doing. On my first day, she mistook me for a 6th Former and asked me why I was walking into the staffroom. When you think about it, that situationnshould really be more embarrassing for her, because she’s been totally unprofessional. But I definitely came off worse.

“I’d just like to go over the work he missed, one-on-one. Is that okay?”

“Do what you want, Derek. It’s no odds to me.”

I didn’t bother correcting her. At lunch, I went to the detention room to intercept Jamie before he arrived.

“Jamie, come with me,” I said. “We’re gonna do the detention in my room.”

“Erm… okay, Sir.”

He seemed a bit apprehensive. When we got to my room, he started apologising again.

“Sir, I’m really sorry about yest—“

“Forget it,” I said, interrupting. “We have 40 minutes left of lunch, we’ve got work to do.”

“What do you mean?”

“We need to write.”

“Write?”


I looked at Jamie, and I felt more connected to him than ever. I realised that he even physically resembled what I looked like as a teenager: bad posture, bad spots, bad dandruff. Jamie and I were the same, even if he didn’t realise it.

“Listen, Jamie,” I said. “You may not believe this, but when I’m not working here, I’m actually a stand-up comedian…”

I paused here because I thought he’d be impressed. He didn’t react. I`m slowly learning as I get older that people don’t think stand-up comedy is as cool as I do. I continued:

“So I know what it feels like to not get a laugh when you’re expecting one. I know how it must’ve felt yesterday when you jumped out that cupboard. So we’re gonna write. We’re gonna come up with the prank to end all pranks.”

Jamie’s face was a mixture of excitement and confusion. We got to work. It was like a movie montage, each of us pitching ideas, me writing on the board and furiously rubbing out idea after idea as we discovered their fatal flaws.

12:48. Twelve minutes until next period and we had nothing. Five or six initially promising pranks had been scrapped by this point.

“What now?” Jamie said to me. 

I sat at my desk, not knowing how to reply. I anxiously flicked at a post-it note that had some instructions about the cover work I was to do this afternoon. It was Jamie’s class next, and that’s when I was hoping this redemption-prank would come to fruition. I looked back at the post-it note.

“I’ve got it!” I screamed.

“Sir?”

I began writing on the board. Getting it all down. There’s something magical about when writers block subsides and this state of flow takes over.

I stepped back from the board.

“What do you think?” I said.

“Sir… it’s… it’s brilliant.”

“Okay, you need to memorise it. We’ve got five minutes. I need to rub this off.”

***

Five minutes later I was welcoming year 10 maths into the classroom.

“Okay guys, sit in your normal seats, we don’t need to be talking,” I said, reeling off the standard teacher script.

The lesson started off in much the same fashion as the previous day’s lesson: no pranks, and everybody getting on with their work. I was sat at my desk writing into my notepad.

You know how people have those marriage pacts with their friends? Like “if we don’t find someone by the time we’re 40 we’ll just marry each other”? I do that a lot, but I really reduce the time-limit on it. I say to my female friends “You know, if we don’t find someone in the next 5 minutes shall we just marry each other?” They’re like “Are you asking me out?” I’m like “I see it as more of a pact, but sure.”

Fantastic stuff, Eric, I thought. If you keep this up you’ll be the finest comic of your generation.

But there was another creative project I was beginning to doubt, and that was the prank Jamie and I had come up with. It wasn’t due to kick off until around 45 minutes into the lesson, and that was enough to time to doubt every facet of it. How could I be sure it was gonna work? Comedy is subjective. Sure, I perform at comedy clubs every week, and do it very very well, but I haven’t pranked someone in years. This was a whole different fish kettle. I guess I just had to have faith, and follow the plan.

Abbey Baker put her hand up. “Sir, I need to go to the toilet?”

This was the beginning of Phase 1. It was risky, but the whole plan hinged on Abbey Baker making her usual request to leave the classroom. She always asks to go to the toilet around 15 minutes before the end. Students aren’t normally allowed to leave the classroom during lessons, but Abbey will come up to me and say she’s on her period and that she needs to go urgently, and I can’t really argue with that so I let her go.

“Can you sign my planner, Sir?” Abbey asked. If the teacher decides to let a student go to the toilet, they’re supposed to sign their planner so that the hall monitor knows they’re not loitering. 

“It’s fine, Abbey, just go.”

Abbey left, and Jamie’s hand shot up. “Sir, can I go to the toilet?” 

“No Jamie, you can wait until the end of the lesson.”

“But Sir, you let Abbey go.”

“Yeah, but that’s different.”

“How’s it different?” Jamie said. “I’m on my period too.”

A small giggle spread around the room. No matter how much progress feminism has made in the last few decades, periods are still funny to schoolchildren.

“You don’t have periods, Jamie. You’re a boy.”

“That’s sexist that is, Sir. That’s transphobic.”

Starting a discussion around gender politics, Phase 2 was in full swing.

“Jamie, you’re being silly now. You can wait until the end of the lesson.”

Jamie stopped answering back. The plan hadn’t finished yet, but the first two phases had achieved their purpose: changing the tone of the lesson. The mood was different now, and this would act as a foundation going forward, kind of like a good defence in a Premier League winning football team. Now it was time for the offensive to commence.

Jamie’s hand went up again. “Sir, can I borrow a pen?”

“Jamie, it’s nearly the end of the lesson, why have you waited this long to ask for a pen?”


“Mine ran out, Sir.”

“Fine, but I’m really not impressed, Jamie.”

Jamie walked over to my desk, collected the pen, patted me on the back and said, “Cheers, Sir.” Phase 3 had begun.

There was ten minutes of the lesson to go. “Okay, guys, I’m gonna go through the answers on the board,” I said, getting up from my desk. When I turned to write on the board, the giggling returned.

I turned to face the students. “Okay, guys, I don’t know what’s going on, but please don’t let yourselves down so close to the end of the lesson.”

I turned to the board again. The giggling resumed.

“Right, everyone,” I said, firmly. “Can someone tell me—“ 

“Sir, you’re a slag!” Jamie called out.

The whole class burst out laughing.

“Jamie! Go stand outside!”

“But Sir, you’re a slag.”

“Jamie, what on Earth are you talking about?”

“It’s just, I thought you wanted us to call you a slag?”

Every time he said the word slag, the room erupted again.

“Jamie I don’t know what you’re going on about, but you’re in big trouble.”

“Are you a slag, Sir?”

“NO JAMIE I AM NOT A SLAG!”

The room went silent. Standing in the doorway was Jackie Marshall, the Head of Year 10, alongside Abbey Baker. Jackie was on Hall Monitoring duties this period and Phase 4 had now begun.

Jackie walked over to me and peeled a post-it note off my back. After looking at me in the eyes with her resting bitch-face, she looked at the post-it note and read it:

“Call me a slag.”

The classroom went mental. Laughter. Applause. The kids spontaneously rose from their seats to give a standing ovation, something unheard of in the classroom prank circuit. I was well and truly humiliated, but this time I was glad to be humiliated. I looked over at Jamie, he had a big grin on his face. Other students were high-fiving him and calling him a legend.

He looked over at me. Our eyes met. His eyes said, “thank you.” Mine said, “No worries.”

You know, it’s kind of true what they say about teaching. You really can make a difference.

Never Kissed At New Year’s

I’ve never kissed anyone at New Year’s. Never. In the whole history of the universe, in all the New Year’s Eves that have happened, I’ve never locked lips with another person at the stroke of midnight. 

I did, it MUST be said, once kiss a girl on Chinese New Year, but at the time neither of us were Chinese, so it was just a coincidence. For us it was just another evening in early February. We’re still both not Chinese, to be clear. Well, actually, I can only really speak for myself – who knows what she’s doing these days or what nationality she’s identifying as? Certainly not old Eric “blocked on every social media platform” Rushton.

Okay, there’s gonna be enough sadness in this blog without me opening up old wounds as well.

Apparently if you don’t kiss someone at the midnight on New Year’s Eve then it guarantees a year of loneliness. I don’t know if it’s true, but my New Year’s failures and 23 years of consecutive loneliness on this Earth aren’t doing a lot to disprove that theory.

Truth be told, I have had a few brief feelings of not being lonely in my 23 years. And I have kissed a few girls, so I probably shouldn’t moan. But moaning is my thing; it’s what I’m good at; it’s what I was gifted at birth. You can’t help what your talent is: Cristiano Ronaldo was given the ability to strike a free-kick into the back of the net from 40-yards out, causing a stadium full of fans to erupt into ecstasy; I was given the ability to awkwardly express my insecurities in a monotonous and often self-indulgent manner, causing a dozen people in the backroom of a small midlands’ pub to politely titter. We’ve both just gotta work with what we’ve got.

My first smooch came at the tender age of 17, and it was so far away from New Year’s Eve that it might as well have been in April, which it was, at a house party. I’d like to say it was romantic as well. I’d like to say it was the happy ending to a drawn out teenage romance, where the conventionally attractive and highly popular girl I was infatuated with looked past my awkwardness and spotty face and decided she was in love with me too. Proper Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus vibes. But the reality was so far away from that fantasy that it might as well have been a dare, which it was. I can’t remember the details exactly, but I just remember it was arranged in some way that me and this girl would kiss and then it happened. Needless to say (but necessary to write), I felt nothing.

My best kiss came when I had a girlfriend. And luckily, the kiss was with her. It was our second date and we’d spent the day getting coffees and walking around Birmingham in heatwave weather. England had been knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia the night before – the worst thing to happen to me since the last time England had been knocked out – but instead of mourning that loss, I was having a great time with this girl, really connecting. At the end of the date I asked her if I could kiss her and she said yes which was well good and then that was that. In the evening, I had a spot at the Glee club, and that went really well too. I remember feeling like a person with a life. A hot piece of ass that kisses girls and kills it in front of hundreds of people.

Between that valley of emptiness and that high-peak of connection, there’s been varying kisses at various contours of this mountain metaphor that I’m beginning to regret constructing. Most have been closer to the bottom though, unfortunately (not my bottom lol). And like I said, none at New Year’s.

But maybe it was about to change? This New Year’s Eve I was invited to my friend’s house party in Birmingham. I was told there would be people with lips there, and that maybe if I played my cards right I could go into the new year at high altitude (the mountain metaphor thing).

The party was due to start at nine. So I wouldn’t come across as a square, I turned up a little late, at three minutes past nine. 

My friend’s girlfriend answered the door and it turned out I was a square because the only people there were her and her housemate. I walked in and apologised for being a nerd. I said, “I’m sorry I’m such a nerd.” They laughed, but probably out of awkwardness rather than appreciation for self-deprecation. I thought about following up my self-deprecation with some sort of pun about how “the early nerd catches the worm” but I couldn’t figure out how to not make it creepy, and also I don’t think they were vibing with me enough comedically for them to give me the benefit of the doubt. You’ve got to read the room.

While I was waiting for everyone else to turn up, I sat down and cracked open one of the Strongbow Darkfruits that I’d brought in ordered to get buzzed. I must’ve been shaking like a nervous little leaf on the way because when I opened the can it fizzed up and went all over the floor. 

“Erm… excuse me,” I said, calling into the kitchen. “I’m gonna need a towel in here.”

The tension was palpable.

Shortly after the Strongbow incident, a big group of the others arrived. It turned out as well as not being fashionably late, I also wasn’t fashionable. Everyone was dressed up. I got a text earlier in the day about the theme, but by then it was too late to do anything about it and for some reason I assumed that people wouldn’t make any effort, forgetting that they weren’t me.

It was pretty bad. I stood out like a sore thumb, or more precisely, like an Adidas jacket in a room full of Peaky Blinders flat caps. To fit in, I decided to bring 1920’s views of race and gender instead, but for some reason that didn’t go down well either. Another classic Rushton comedy faux pas.

I spent the night trying to mingle, like someone who’s single at a party probably should. I had a few good conversations, but mainly boring ones. I spoke with a girl for a while and she was telling me about how she’s into writing poetry. I got excited and told her that I was a writer too. She said, “What do you write?” And I said, “Mainly blogs that jeopardise my real-life interactions by turning them into material, eventually eroding any level of trust another person can place in me.” She said, “Cool.” Shortly afterwards she went to find her boyfriend, who unfortunately existed.

All the while, 2019 was ebbing away and 2020 was getting ever closer. Midnight felt like a black hole that was sucking me in. I wanted someone to grab onto and come with me. Not in a weird way, obviously. I mean emotionally grab onto rather than physically – the much more acceptable form of grabbing. But also there was the midnight kiss thing. I was pretty sure that wasn’t gonna happen. I stopped trying to mingle and sat on the sofa, eating pringles, listening to jingles, realising I had shingles. Nah, just the pringles thing. Rhyming is funny though.

What is it about pushing your lips against someone else’s that means anything anyway? I thought to myself (not yet having developed the ability to think to other people). It doesn’t mean they get you. No one can get you. Not completely. Someone can get bits of you, but never the whole thing. It’s all just bullshit.

“It’s all just bullshit, isn’t it?”

This came from a girl sat next to me on the sofa. Maybe I can think to other people.

“What? New Year’s?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “I hate this period. It’s so forced.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I said.

She smiled. Then her friend came over and started talking to her. She stood up and went into the kitchen. I sat there and thought for a while, tired of socialising. It must’ve been about half eleven at this point.

At least there’s one other person here that thinks it’s bullshit, I thought, to whoever was listening telepathically. I considered trying to talk to the “it’s all just bullshit” girl, but she was dancing now. And anyway, wouldn’t that just be giving into the bullshit even more? The bullshit of the New Year representing something. The bullshit of my happiness being tied to romantic love. The bullshit of thinking that just because someone else has the same bullshit-radar as me then they might be my soulmate.

It was about five minutes to midnight. The countdown was looming. People were filtering into the living room. I decided I didn’t want to be a part of it; I didn’t wanna see people snogging and pretending they had connection in their lives.

I walked into the hallway, to be alone. Along the wall, there was a mirror. I looked into it, and as is generally the case with mirrors, I saw my reflection. I looked at myself and realised that there is someone I’m connected with, and that’s me. I don’t need anyone else to get me, because I get myself, and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather see in the new year with.

The countdown began in the other room.

“Ten! Nine! Eight!”

I looked into my own eyes, began to get lost in them…

“Seven! Six! Five!”

…I leant into the glass….

“Four! Three! Two!”

…pushed my head forward and…

“One!”

A hand touched my shoulder. The “it’s all bullshit” girl had joined me in the mirror.

“Happy bullshit New Year,” she said, looking at me in the reflection.

“Oh, hi,” I said, looking over at her non-reflection. “You too.”

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

Everybody’s Changing And I Don’t Feel The Same

It’s Christmas Day. I’m sat at the dinner table, writing. I should probs be doing something festive like playing Guess Who with a relative, but my dream is to be a writer and even Jesus’s birthday won’t stop me working on my craft. Also, Christmas is really boring; I’ve already played Guess Who? today and now there’s not much else to do that doesn’t involve drinking copious amounts of alcohol and getting my mum to update me on the interpersonal relationships of every Coronation Street character so I can follow the story. 

“Mum, look, Ken Barlow’s cheating on Deirdre!” 

“Deirdre died, Eric.”

“Oh, that’s sad. Fair play to Ken for moving on.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Christmas, but I always forget how much it drags. If Christmas Day was a YouTube video, I would’ve tapped my screen about 5 times by now to check how long is left. I’d have maybe even skipped to the end, accidentally ending up in Easter because it popped up as a related video. Man, it would be cool if time travel worked like that.

Although the day has gone slow, in some ways the passage of time has been rapid, like someone skipping through a YouTube video. I went out last night, and I felt it. I felt old. For some context, I’m 23, which in previous centuries was considered old, but luckily for me I live in this century, and I’ll probably live on for thousands of years, perhaps as a fully sentient meme on a future version of Facebook. I know nearly everyone reading this knows who I am and I don’t need to tell you my age, but there’s every chance this blog could become a viral piece, shared far and wide for the way it beautifully articulates the intersecting feelings of loneliness and alienation that are so common for people in their 20’s.

For my millions of new fans that need even more context, I’m from a small town called Stone, in Staffordshire. I live in Birmingham now, but I travelled back to my hometown on Christmas Eve on the train, a mode of transport that was very common in the early 21st Century, before the great global-warming-induced-floods of the 2040’s made the ground uninhabitable and everyone moved to live in giant cities in the sky. (I’ve just realised I need to appeal to the future fans who may have only discovered my work after my consciousness has been downloaded onto a meme, so I’ve had to make some fairly bankable predictions about how the middle of this century will pan out.)

When I first left home to go to uni at 18, returning home for Christmas was a game of emotional self-deception. I’d go out with my friends on Christmas Eve and we’d laugh about how awkward it was seeing all the people we used to go to school with. As we’d walk into town we’d be like, “Ooh I hope I don’t run into such-and-such” and “What if we see so-and-so in Spoons?” (Such-and-such and So-and-so were very popular baby names in the mid-90’s.) Then we’d get into Spoons and it would be hugs galore, our whole school year there, all grown up. Everyone would be dead excited and eager to catch up, people would tell me they’ve seen my stand-up videos on YouTube and that they’ve been reading my blog. They’d tell me how much they’d enjoyed them and I’d pretend to be embarrassed, but really I was loving it. I was loving the whole night – I’d always lace my feelings with irony when talking to others – but the nostalgia and the connection would make me feel giddy.

This year the build-up had felt a bit more muted, much like my new stand-up videos now that I’ve figured out how to add subtitles (there’s some great new content on my FB page, please check it out). Anyway – Christmas just crept up on me and seemingly on everyone else. There were still a group of us going out, just not as many as usual.

At the pub, there were 5 or 6 of us. That’s a small enough number for me to just think back and picture everyone who was there then tell you the actual number, but let’s just keep it vague – what does it really matter if there were 5 or 6? What’s your beef?

(Future fans – beef was a tasty meat whose production was one of the main causes of The Floods. When cool people got into arguments they’d say “What’s your beef?”)

The conversation felt different than previous years. It used to be more focused on the past: we’d reminisce about old teachers and school crushes and the time someone pooed on the floor of the girls’ toilet and we never found out who did it. Wholesome stuff like that. But now, it was much more focused on the present and the future. People were talking about their careers. One person was on the Audi graduate scheme. 45k a year apparently. And a company car. Good stuff. Good for them. 

I bet he’s a Tory now, was my first thought. Well actually, my first thought was probably some sort of image or a collection of concepts that I intuited in a manner that either precedes the formation of language or is entirely separate to it. I don’t really know how thoughts work. But you know what I mean.

Someone else had plans to move to Bristol with their girlfriend. Another was doing a PhD. Everyone’s achievements were making me feel anxious. It felt like I was reading my Facebook newsfeed. They all seemed like real adults doing real things. I’m still spending my days trying to think of funny ways to express how bad my life is, so I can talk about it to strangers in social clubs that have been poorly adapted for stand-up gigs. Maybe I should try to work for Audi and develop a view sympathetic to benefit cuts and the decimation of public services. Maybe I need to grow up. People still asked me about comedy, but instead of asking about it in the enthusiastic way they used to, it was more like, “Are you still doing the comedy then, Eric?”

The supporting cast was different as well. The pub wasn’t filled with our whole school year. Sure, they were dotted about here and there, but the main crowd of people were from a few years below, doing the hugging-thing, the pretending-to-not-enjoy-the-nostalgia-thing. I got the feeling of it having all passed me by, of being stuck between two phases of life. If this was a giant game of Guess Who?, I felt like you could isolate me with one question: Does this person belong anywhere? 

A little bit after midnight, we went to the C&A, Stone’s closest thing to a nightclub (it’s basically another pub, but with a dancefloor). There were strong rumours flying around earlier in the night that it was £10 admission to get in, but then we discovered it was only £5 and so decided to give it a try. I had a vodka and coke and tried my best to get into it, as by this time it was technically Christmas Day and I felt I had a duty not to be a miserable prick. On the dancefloor, a girl from the year below came up to me and said she saw my show in Leicester this year. I said “oh cool” and then she said something else, but I couldn’t hear her so I leaned in and I accidentally head-butted her really hard. It was horrible. Then after that I thought her friend might have liked me because she smiled, so I danced more enthusiastically in her direction and she immediately left the dance floor. Pretty humiliating.

I sent the girl I head-butted a message on Facebook today but she hasn’t replied.

I spent the rest of the night feeling very physically self-conscious on the dancefloor. Whether it was true or not, I looked at everyone else and felt they were more attractive than me. That made me sad. Then I thought about how I’ve never been someone who goes out and gets off with strangers in clubs, and felt sad about that and how that phase of life has probably gone now anyway. I did kiss a girl in a nightclub in Edinburgh this year, which was a win, but then she commented on my receding hairline, so overall it ended up as a draw.

I walked home, pretty drunk at this point, and fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up today and I didn’t feel too sad, just kind of confused and empty. It’s just been alright, I suppose. Nothing special. Like I said the day has gone slowly in a way that is matched by how fast the last few years have flown by. I’ve had time to think about things. A wave of sentimentality surged through me earlier and I sent a nice message to one of my friends in comedy.

His response made me think that maybe he’s not quite in the same emotional-space today.

I think it will all probably be fine. In a few years maybe I’ll have figured it all out a bit more, the ground I’m standing on will feel a bit firmer, the past slipping away won’t bother me as much. I’m not sure what my life will be like. Maybe I’ll have given up on being a famous writer and I’ll be working for Audi too. Who knows? Does it even really matter what I do?

I was watching the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special earlier with my mum. I thought it was great. It’s been 9 years since it’s been on the telly, but the characters felt pretty much the same. The same mannerisms, the same sorts of values, the same drawbacks. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it was comforting. All the characters on that show know who they are and they’re comfortable with each other. I wondered if, with the people in my life, it’s just not been long enough yet for us to stop pretending we’ve changed. In a few years maybe it’ll all go back to normal and it’ll be like it was when I was 18. Probably not though.

At the very end of the special, Nessa tells Smithy that he’s alright how he is. That he doesn’t need to change. She says, “You’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but at the end of the day, when all’s said and done, you’re tidy.”

Maybe I just want someone to say that to me.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

Costa del Sick Day

I get proper sad when it gets cold. I’m not that happy when it’s warm, but when the weather starts to become what’s known in meteorology as “fucking shit and depressing” then I become fucking shit and depressing too. Well, maybe depressed rather than depressing. But to be fair, I’m probably also depressing to be around when I’m like this.

I’ve taken the day off work today. I woke up (which is how I traditionally start the day) and I felt the cold and I was like fuck this; I’m gonna stay in bed and hug my pillow and pretend it’s a lady that I’m in a deep and meaningful relationship with.

I work for an agency and they ring me every morning to see if I’m available for work. I’ve been trying for a long time to get in with a comedy agency. When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, I emailed every big comedy agency to invite them to see me perform. I was hoping if I got some representation, then maybe my career could advance, maybe I’d get to do some tour support work, or at least get a few trial spots with the big comedy clubs. There must’ve been a mix up because the only agency that replied was a company that supplies teaching assistants to schools in Birmingham. They absolutely loved my joke about body dysmorphia though, so fair play to them.

They rang me today and said they had some work for me. I told them I wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t make any effort to sound ill on the phone, and if they questioned my illness I was ready to go off on one. “Not every illness is physical, you know,” I’d say. “Depression can be invisible to others, but when it hits you, it’s all you can see. It makes everything grey. It makes you push away people that care about you. And you know what? It affects a lot of people, probably most people at some point in their lives. So, if you ever get badly depressed, good luck to you, but don’t expect any sympathy from me. Actually, do expect sympathy from me, no one should have to face it alone, that’s the problem. Wait no, I’ve changed my mind again, don’t talk to me if you get sad. Oh man, I’m all over the place. Please help me. I know our relationship is strictly professional, but would you be up for getting a coffee later? I just need someone to talk to.”

But unfortunately, they didn’t question it.

When I got off the phone, I realised that all I had ahead of me was a blank day to fill, a day of being sad with no distractions, and I thought, why did you tell them you were sick? You fucking idiot.

Lying in bed wasn’t as good as I thought it would be either. I got into an argument with my pillow/girlfriend. I was squeezing her and she felt cold, and I said, “Are you cold?” and she said, “No I’m fine,” but in like a really cutting anyway, and I said, “What’s wrong with you?” but with a bit of anger as well because I feel like she’s been really emotionally distant recently and then she just told me to shut up and stop being paranoid. 

“Maybe we need a break,” I said to her.

“Yeah, maybe we do,” she said. “Now get up and leave me alone you twat.”

“Oh go fuck yourself,” I shouted.

I got up and went downstairs, slamming my bedroom door behind me. I didn’t know what to do. Or how to fix things. This might sound a bit crude, but sometimes I watch porn when things get a bit too much. It’s an escape. I think a lot of men do it. It’s so widespread that I’m surprised doctors don’t just prescribe Brazzers accounts when men come to them with depression. I’ve been trying to not watch any recently, because I don’t think it’s healthy and I’m unsure of how it affects the way I see women. Plus it’s giving me erectile dysfunction I think. All sorts of problems for Old Roy (Old Roy is me, my middle name is Roy). But I was so sad that I don’t think it would’ve worked anyway. I’d probably just want to ask the pornstars how they all are, how they’re coping, whether they feel like failures sometimes too, like they’ve got no one that understands them.

I decided to go to Costa and do some writing. I do this every day before work normally. I get up, get my shoes and coat on, get out the door, and head towards Costa. I then walk back home, open the door, take my shoes and coat off, remember to put the rest of my clothes on before I leave the house again.

LOL!

No amount of sadness will stop Old Roy’s penchant for a pull-back and reveal.

I always order the same thing at Costa: a medium latte with a straw. It’s £2.85. I can’t really afford to be spending money on coffees every day (especially if I’m off work with invisible illnesses), but I tell myself it’s an investment in the future. I’m not gonna be worrying about the price of a coffee when I have books published and my own stand up tour where I play the smaller studio spaces in already quite obscure theatre venues.

I get a straw with it, and I know that’s a bit different, a bit out-there, but I’m worried if I consume the coffee mouth-first like a maniac then all my teeth will fall out. I’ve developed an awful obsession surrounding my teeth. I’m worried I’ve ruined them beyond repair through years of eating and drinking sugary crap, so now I’ll do anything that might reduce that, even if I’m just clutching at straws.

I came in this morning at about 10:00am, which is still breakfast time. Often when the breakfast menu is on, I flirt with the idea of getting the coffee and bacon roll deal, but today the only thing I was flirting with was the idea of leaving and throwing myself in front of the next bus. Also, the croissant looked good.

I know everyone who works in Costa by name. In my head, they’re my friends. There’s a young guy about my age called Sayed, who is extremely attractive and has a hench jawline. There’s Will, who’s in his thirties and is chubbier and more tired-looking than Sayed. There’s Louise, a middle-aged lady that always looks pissed off (probably justifiably so in this cruel cruel world). There’s Emily, who has an Irish accent (probably because she’s Irish) and is dead nice and I fancy her a bit. And there’s Dave, the manager, who has no discernible features (probably because he doesn’t have a face).

Sayed served me. I ordered my usual. One thing that upsets me is that I still have to ask for the straw. I come in every day and they don’t remember. At the very least they could be like “do you want a straw with that?” But no, it’s like I’m a stranger. These are supposed to be my friends, but I’m treated like someone that’s just wondered in.

They can go fuck themselves, I thought. It’s lucky I vibe so much with the interior design of the place and the delicious taste of the coffee and oh who am I kidding I love the staff as well. The feeling doesn’t have to be mutual to make it meaningful. It’s like they say, “You are what you love, not what loves you.” I heard that in a film (non-pornographic).

I sat down with my coffee and opened my laptop. Then I got what’s known in meteorology as “writers block”. The reason I go to Costa every day is because I wanna get really good at writing. In my head, I think that if I carry on writing, then one day I’ll have honed my skills enough to be considered an excellent writer. I’ll hopefully be able to publish books that bring money and validation and confirmation that I’ve not been wasting my time, and then one day I’ll be doing a book signing and a pretty and quirky girl with glasses and an eccentric dress-sense will shyly approach me and she will turn out to be my soulmate. BOOM. Life complete. Nothing to worry about again. Nice one.

Instead of getting closer to my dreams, I feel like with each Medium Latte I finish, I’m further away. Maybe I should stop finishing them, and leave a bit at the bottom to symbolise that there’s hope left. Or maybe I should switch to Cappuccinos to symbolise that Cappuccinos might be a better drink. I don’t know what symbolism is. I didn’t study English beyond GCSE and this is probably part of the problem.

I should probably just pack it in. It’s too much pressure. Sometimes I just want to sink into the bosom of large-breasted woman — not dissimilar to Nigella Lawson, but also not similar enough for it to actually be her in the fantasy – and cry, while she comforts me and says “You don’t have to do this you know? People love you as you are. You matter. You really do matter, Eric.” And as her breasts jangle in front of me, I’ll cry and realise that she’s right. I will stop doing comedy, and I will spend the rest of my life living as an activist and advocate for big, jangly breasts.

But she’s not a real person, and being an advocate for big, jangly breasts isn’t a real job. Maybe today was just a write off when it came to writing. I didn’t wanna go back out in the horrible cold again though, or go home and argue with my pillow/girlfriend again, so I stayed. I closed my laptop and thought about life a bit. Then I listened to the song Barking by Ramz, you know the one that goes:

I might link my ting from Barking

7am in the morning

She’s callin’, I’m yawnin’
She’s jarrin’, no stallin’

(It’s better with the music).

Then I got sad because I wished I had a ting I could link. I ain’t got nobody I can link. Even my best friend Joe wasn’t very sympathetic when I was feeling sad last night.

So I just sat there in Costa for a bit. Then I remembered I had a book in my bag, A Book For Her, by the comedian Bridget Christie. I got it from a charity shop, and I hadn’t started it yet. I haven’t seen her stand up before, but I figured because it was comedy related it might be a good book.

I couldn’t stop reading. Like properly couldn’t stop. I sat there for hours, reading about her life in stand-up and the challenges she’s faced to get where she is. And it was so interesting, and funny, and thought provoking. And real. I think that was the main thing, like a real person was talking to me. Suddenly there was somewhere for my feelings to go if that makes sense? Like there was so much sadness inside of me and I was feeling angry on top of that because it felt so isolating. But someone else was talking about things in the world that are shit and it was cathartic. The shit thing in the world she was mainly focusing on was sexism, which if I’m honest, I know embarrassingly little about. Like I don’t think I properly understand it or give it enough thought. Then I felt guilty reading about all the oppression she was talking about because I probably contribute. Just look back at the casual sexism all over this blog #RereadValue.

Her writing was challenging me to be a better person and also making me laugh at the same time. And she was being vulnerable and honest, she said she spent years failing at stand up and not making any money, which made the pressure I was putting on myself seem a bit silly. I ended up reading about 150 pages in one sitting, just completely absorbed. When I finally put it down, I felt inspired. I opened my laptop and started typing. If she can write a whole book and be funny and interesting, then I can at least do a blog. So here I am now. 

And also, I don’t feel as bad anymore. I’m sure the sadness is still there waiting to take over, but I don’t really mind. That’s a weird thing about depression as well: sometimes a glimmer of hope will appear and it’s enough to pick you up, to at least function for a bit. I feel like I can maybe contribute in some way, by saying I feel shit. Maybe by attempting to write openly it will help someone else, like Bridget Christie’s book helped me. And if the blog’s shit, then you can just read her book instead. So it’s win-win.

I know deep down whenever I get depressed that it won’t last forever, that things will look brighter, that the feelings of everything being against me are probably just lies I’ve told myself and there really are lots of people that care about me.

After I started writing, I got up to get another coffee. 

“Medium latte, please.”

“Yeah mate — straw with that?”

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

A Man And His Dog

You need to be able to perform to anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing to 200 people or just a man and his dog. Because guess what – you don’t know who that man is, and you certainly don’t know who that dog is.

That’s some advice I got once when I was worried about the amount of man and dog gigs I was doing. For confidentiality reasons, I can’t tell you who gave me that advice. It would ruin them. They’re now in the cold-hearted moneymaking business of teaching, and any association with my comedy would get their ass fired from Kings Norton High and they’d no longer be able to teach history there, or indeed carry on as head of year 7, and what on EARTH would happen to their afterschool basketball club?

The point they’re making though, is that you never know when someone important could be watching you perform. So, if you’re a comedian, and you’re playing to a small crowd, maybe someone in that crowd could give you your big break. Maybe they have connections, even if they’re a dog.

Since I got that advice, I like to imagine that I’ll perform to a dog someday who’ll turn out to be a big comedy agent, known in the game as “The Big Dog”. The name will be ironic because the dog will actually be a very small Chihuahua. It will be a bit of a joke. That’s the thing about the comedy industry, we like our jokes.

People forget that. People think comedy is dying, slowly becoming watered-down spoken word because being funny is too dangerous in a world where health and safety has gone mad. You can’t even question immigration policy these days without someone filling out a risk assessment form and putting red tape around your mouth. But no, trust me, a hell of a lot of people in this business love a good joke, and what’s more, they hate safety. And you can forget about health!

I reckon the time I gig to “The Big Dog” will be in Edinburgh, at The Fringe. That’s where you hear of these things happening. That’s where deals get done and dreams get made. I’ve got an idea for a show called “Convict” where I come on in prison uniform and handcuffs and pretend the whole thing is my parole hearing. It doesn’t sound great, but it might be.

Because of the show’s originality and great comedic content, a little bit of word of mouth will start to generate about it. Midway through my Fringe run, as my show is starting to sell out every day, I’ll get an email from a certain agent:

I’ll be ecstatic and panicked all at once. It will be an opportunity of a lifetime, that I might not get again until next year’s Fringe.

The next day my show will be packed out with a mixture of eager punters who have come from that precious word of mouth, and friends that are there out of obligation. The perfect mixture. It’ll be five minutes until show-time and I’ll look in the crowd and be like: “Where is he? He’s not coming. I knew it.” I’ll fret backstage, grumbling and cursing, and then just as the show is about to start I’ll see a little white Chihuahua come in followed by a big bald meathead in sunglasses and a suit who I guess is his bodyguard. 

Showtime, baby!

I’ll get out there, and at first I’ll be a little nervous. Mumbling words, flubbing lines, it’ll all be going to pot. I’ll look over at Big Dog and he’ll be licking his balls, totally uninterested in anything I’m doing. All that time worrying about not getting a break, worrying that I’m only performing to small crowds, rather than someone who can open or bark down doors for me. I finally get the opportunity I’ve been after, and I balls it up while they balls their mouth up. I’d have worked up the professionalism to give it my all even when it’s just a man and his dog, and now I’ll be messing it up in front of an actual dog!

I’ll remember what my teacher-friend Michael Baines said to me – that thing about giving it my all at every gig. I’ll remember that I’m not just performing for The Big Dog – there’s a crowd full of people that need me to entertain them as well. I’ll focus, but relax at the same time. I’ll put on the show of my life!

At the end, there’ll be rapturous applause, but in the applause there’ll be another sound: the barking of a dog. I’ll look over and there he’ll be, The Big Dog, tongue out, wagging his tail, absolutely loving life, all because my show was so great. It’ll be like how old-school American comedians speak of performing on The Tonight Show. If you look over and Jonny Carson gives you the thumbs up, then you know you’ve done a good job. In the same way, if you look over and The Big Dog is wagging his tail, then your career is about to take off.

I’ll be hovering around in the bar afterwards and he’ll approach me.

“That was great, Eric.”

“Oh, thank you Mr.Dog,” I’ll say.

“Please, just call me Big.”

“Oh sure thing, Big,” I’ll say, a little nervously. “Can I get you a drink? Or a treat?”

“I’ll just have some pork scratchings please,” he’ll say. “But I wanna talk business. You’re still looking for an agent?”

“Yes! Absolutely! Are you interested!?”

There’ll be a pause. I’ll be the one to break the silence.

“I mean, I’ve had interest in me. Obviously. I’m in negotiations with loads of people and domestic animals. But if you wanna talk or whatever… that’s cool.”

“A good act is ten a penny – seventy in dog pennies – so what sets you apart?”

“Well, I’ve got chops, you know?”

“Literal chops?”

“Nah, metaphorical ones.”

His face will drop.

“Listen, kid, I see a lot of potential in you, so I’m gonna take a chance. I want you to sign with me.”

That will be the moment. One of those magical moments you read about in celebrities’ autobiographies where it starts to take off for them. I’ll start picturing my future: bigger gigs, my own tour, Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. It’s all gonna come my way. As a wave of hope and euphoria is surging through me, I’ll start to feel something else, less of an emotion and more of a physical sensation. I’ll look down and… The Big Dog will be humping my leg.

I should’ve known. I’ll feel dirty, used, abused. The whole industry is just a bunch of dogs, looking for the next young comedian they can exploit with their power. My faith in the art form will hit an all-time low. To save some pride, I’ll tell The Big Dog to fuck right off and forget about signing me. I’ll go to the bar to order another pint so I can drown my sorrows, and just as I’m considering giving it all up, quitting comedy and finding a proper career to pursue, I’ll get a tap on the shoulder.

“Eric, that was fantastic.”

I’ll turn around. I’ll be stunned.

“Michael!”

“I go by Mr.Baines these days,” he’ll say, chuckling.

“Son of a bitch, what are you doing here?” I’ll say, hugging him. “How’s teaching? It’s been ages mate.”

“It’s going good, man. I’m up in Edinburgh for a few days. Thought I’d surprise you.”

“Well, consider me surprised.”

“I just wanna say, that was the best I’ve ever seen you. It was so well put together. Almost makes me wish I’d stuck it out instead of quitting. It’s great to see you doing so well.”

“Aw man, I’m buzzing you’re here.”

After that I’ll spend the night catching up with my old friend Michael Baines. I’ll say to him that this has cheered me up so much that I’ll probably write a blog about it. He’ll say “don’t use my name”. I’ll agree.

Amazing stuff.

I guess you should always give it your all, because you never know who’ll be in the audience.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

How My Comedy Career Ends

A short play entitled “How my comedy career ends”

The play starts with our hero, Eric Rushton, ME, killing it. The set is made to look like a comedy club, any comedy club in the country really: rough working mens’ clubs where you need your dick and fanny jokes at hand; alternative rooms where you need to be a bit more intellectual and introspective; or mainstream ones like Glee, the Comedy Store and Hot Water, where the perfect balance is required – Rushton can and will play them all. It’s really not a problem.

*Huge round of applause. Some people – including several fit girls – are still doubling-over with laughter. Rushton has clearly been doing some of his trademark crowdwork*

Eric Rushton: Thanks for that much-warranted applause break. Right who else wants some?

*An audience member sticks their hand up, stretching like a school kid that knows the answer to a question but has forgotten they will be bullied for answering it. In this case, by the teacher*

Audience member: Pick me. Oh, please pick me, Eric. Please, tear me a new arsehole.

(Note to director: No need whatsoever to discriminate when casting this guy. Rushton deals with all hecklers equally — whether it’s a privileged straight white male or a gay amputee riddled with dandruff, they’ll get the same harsh-yet-hilarious treatment. Has to be a guy though)

Eric Rushton: What’s your name, mate?

Audience member: (taking slightly longer to answer this question than they would in a low-pressure environment in everyday life) Paul.

Eric Rushton: (responding quicker than most comics could let alone ordinary people) Took you a while to answer that, didn’t it? Fucking hell mate.

*Audience laughs*

Eric Rushton: (points to the girl next to Paul) Who’s this? Is this your bird, mate?

Audience member: She prefers to be called Beth.

*Audience groans at the performative-wokeness of Paul for his attempt to try and give her an identity separate from his*

Audience member: (face reddening) But yeah, she’s my bird.

Eric Rushton: Fucking hell. You’ve done well there, haven’t you mate? Someone’s punching.

*Eric Rushton mimes punching. The audience bursts into another fit of laughter. A few people here and there applaud but there’s not enough of them to get a proper applause break going*

Eric Rushton: Where you from, Paul?

Audience member: Wolverhampton.

Eric Rushton: Sorry?

Audience member: I said Wolverhampton.

Eric Rushton: No, I heard you… I’m just sorry.

*Instant applause break. Laughter fills the room. The audience begin to have what can only be described as a transcendent experience, the self is shown to be an illusion, there is no “I” any more, only “us”. Regrets, feelings of failure and existential woes that were carried into the room evaporate. Even Paul is laughing.*

Eric Rushton: (quietly) I’m just sorry.

*Laughter dies down*

Eric Rushton: I’m just sorry. Sorry… I’m just sorry.

*Awkward laughter*

Eric Rushton: I’m just so sorry. So, so fucking sorry.

*Silence*

Eric Rushton: I’m sorry… I can’t do this anymore.

*Rushton puts the microphone back into the stand and leaves the stage. There is some polite clapping. A generic club compere walks on.*

Compere: Eric Rushton everyone, I’m sure we’ll see him again… on a Channel 5 documentary about mental people!

*Audience laughs and applauds as the compere does that curly-hair-mime-thing that people do when they’re talking about someone mental*

Compere:(Sees the person sat next to Paul) Fucking hell, Paul, is that your bird? Punchinnnnnng.

*Meanwhile, we’re back stage. This is a film now rather than a play, I guess. Rushton is on his personal mobile telephone.*

Eric Rushton: It’s over, Lucy. No, not me and you. The comedy. The comedy is over, just like you wanted. I can’t do it anymore. You were right – it’s turning me into a monster. But that boy you fell in love with. That sweet, kind, loving boy you fell in love with… he’s still there somewhere. And whatever you do, don’t get back with him. I can change. If the choice is you or the comedy, then I choose you… 100%. Obviously, I choose you.(pause) Oh… I see… and you two are back together for good now? Right okay… bye?… I guess?

*Rushton puts his personal mobile telephone down and the compere enters*

Rushton: Any chance I can go back on?

Compere: Absolutely not.