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.


“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.


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.

Possible Worlds

According to scientists
And philosophers and that
We’re talking Brian Cox and stuff
There might be other possible worlds

So like, if something’s possible
Then there’s a world where it’s happening

Do you get me?

So there’s a world where England won last year’s world cup
And where Trump isn’t president
And where Brexit isn’t happening
And where Brexit is happening but it’s ACTUALLY happening
Not this weird limbo we’re in

There’s even a world where Trump and Brexit aren’t overused crutches in comedy
But, unfortunately, it’s not this one

Basically, anything you could think of
Is happening in one of these worlds

So that means
As well as this world
Where I love you so much
Where you’re my everything
Where you’re all I think about
Day and night
And afternoon
And evening
And what else…
Mid-afternoon, I guess?
I’m not sure how these parts of the day overlap
Let’s just say 24/7 to make sure I’ve got all bases covered
Where your touch is all I long for
And your smell
And your lips
Vaginal and mouth ones
And where my life seems meaningless without you
But you insist on keeping it meaningless
Because you don’t feel the same way

There’s another world
One where you DO love me
Where I’m YOUR everything
Where you think about ME 24/7
Where you want me in your heart
NEED me in your heart, even
Need me in your ass
Okay ignore that last line
But there’s a world
Where you’re proper into me
And couldn’t bear to live without me

And in that world
I’ll tell you to go fuck yourself

James Corden

Beautiful people, tiring of all the attention they receive for their appearance and wishing instead to be valued for the person they are inside, want to be seen as intelligent.

Intelligent people, sick of their self-esteem resting on whether they can win arguments or have the most interesting take on the latest political scandal, want an easier and more direct route to approval, they want to be beautiful.

Serious people, seeing the way others can relax and joke around, want to be funny.

Funny people, typecast as the clown in their group of friends and not being able to voice their actual opinions on things, want to be serious.

The Old, confronted with their mortality and worries about a life mis-lived, wish to be young again.

The Young, consumed with anxiety about their future and drifting from one zero-hourscontract to the next, never knowing whether things will ever work out, wish to be old.

The helper wants to be helped. They want to let down their guard and cry and be hugged and experience what it’s like to be vulnerable, to not have to be the strong one.

The helped want to stop being so dependent. They want to learn to be self-sufficient, and if possible, they want to one day have the fortitude and wisdom to support others.

The poet, gifted with the ability to see beauty in the ordinary, scorns themselves for being a mere observer of everyday life and wishes to be a part of it instead – a labourer instead of an artist, someone who actually does things rather than writes about them.

The labourer, the doer, would do anything to escape their drudgery: the life of a poet seems like a life of luxury to them.

Now admittedly, these are mostly false dichotomies. A lot of these qualities can be possessed together, and maybe finding the right balance is the key to some sort of happiness, whatever that means.

But what if you have none of these qualities? A nothing person with nothing going for you. Not beautiful, not intelligent, not serious, not funny, not old, not young, not helped by anyone and your presence certainly not helping anyone else, not poetic and not doing anything of any practical worth whatsoever.

James Corden wants all of these things. But having chased approval his whole life, he also now wants none of them. He doesn’t want to be a target anymore, and thinks we all need more compassion. He yearns for a society that drops these labels, that views people as people rather than a collection of adjectives. He wants us to think through the consequences of these descriptions, the way we judge people too harshly for the things they lack and even praise them too much for the things they’ve got, which can be just as dangerous. He wants us to accept everyone we meet, despite their flaws and their mistakes and their hacky talk show monologues. He wants us to understand that each and everyone one of us is complicated, and that no one in this world really has the right to look down on anyone else. He wants to live in a world that’s more humane.

James Corden wants change.

And I want it too. 

A “For Now” Relationship

Man, I could use a relationship right now.

Nothing too serious, just something for now. A “for now” relationship.

She wouldn’t have to be perfect, or necessarily even my type, but it would tide me over for a bit. I’m not talking a total mismatch – just someone who I get on with, with vaguely similar interests, who has female genitalia. The basic package — like a Sky subscription without the movies and sports channels. It’ll basically be Freeview, but with Sky One so I can watch The Simpsons and Ross Kemp On Gangs.

Because there are loads of good things about being in a relationship, aren’t there? There’s companionship and kissing and sleeping together. And I don’t mean sleeping together as in sex; I just mean having someone to lie next to in bed, someone to spoon, someone to calm you down when you’ve just woken up screaming from your recurring nightmare where you’re at Greggs and the person serving you asks you if you’re eating-in or taking-away and you accidentally say eating-in but you really mean taking-away and you’ve just been charged extra for VAT for eating-in and you’re proper panicking and OMG it’s too scary to even write about. “It’s okay, babe,” they’ll say, “you’re awake now; they can’t get you.” And then when you’ve calmed down a bit you can start some good, old-fashioned FUCKING. 

Hehe, I did mean sex all along.

The main problem, though, is finding someone to be in a relationship with. This might just be me – it’s also definitely you as well you little doofus – but I expect a lot from another person. At first, it’s fine. Any interest from absolutely anyone is met with so much glee that on the first date I break into an acapella version of Don’t Stop Believing with a bunch of my high-school friends who are inexplicably on the date too. I’m so happy that I’m being dated that I don’t even care how dated my references are. But then something happens. Probably like three or four dates in. I start to not care as much for this small-town girl and her lonely world and her weird habit of taking midnight trains with no specific destination. 

I get scared. I start thinking about the future. I worry about her imperfections, because if things go well, there’s potentially 50 years I’ve gotta spend with this person. What if that mole starts to annoy me? Or the way she talks? Or her laugh? And going back to the first thing – what kind of person has a pet mole anyway? Why did she bring it on the date? I don’t wanna make a mountain of this mole thing but it’s creeping me out. I’ll be watching the windmill going round (mini golf, classic third date) and internally be falling to pieces. And I tell you what, my putting suffers from all the agitation – I’ll be starting to hit below-par just as I realise that’s what she is.

Not good.

And it’s not just her imperfections, it’s mine as well. Will she be able to put up with me long-term? It seems cool to her right now – but what about my stand up? Will she stand by me during the ups and downs, through thick and thin? If we have kids, is she gonna be okay with me being away most nights, working out material for my genre-redefining multimillion-pound Netflix specials instead of being at home changing nappies? Or how is she gonna feel when I’m middle-aged and my popularity dwindles? When a new wave of comedians come along and I’m getting criticized for not developing my voice to appeal to a modern audience? And what about the resurgence? When after a ten-year hiatus I come back in my 60s with a new special that’s such a poignant examination of the human condition that it’s almost like I was waiting for my twilight years to finally release my true voice onto the world; approaching topics with the kind of soft, empathetic perspective that only age can bring, uniting new and old fans of mine alike, turning me into a national treasure? And then finally, what about the allegations that will bring me into public disrepute for good, destroying my career once and for all?

It’s gonna be too much of a roller-coaster for her.

The reason I get worked up about all this stuff is because I’m thinking about forever, rather than just for now. This mole-girl is probably fine. But all these expectations have been heaped onto a potential relationship like the way VAT is heaped onto the price of a sit-in Greggs meal. It’s not fair.

What if we both went into it just thinking about for now? Like explicitly, I mean – both actively being aware that we’re waiting for something better to come along. It would really take the pressure off. With that philosophy, you could just have fun.

You wouldn’t worry about their annoying habits, because it’s just for now. You wouldn’t mind that your career ambitions might come between you, because right now it’s fine. You wouldn’t care if their parents were proper mental and hated you. Better partners with better parents will come along in the future.

You wouldn’t feel trapped by the relationship, because you’re not. It’s not the person you’re spending the rest of your life with, it’s just the person you’re spending now with.

Maybe that better person isn’t available right now – it doesn’t mean you should go without. Like, imagine you’re at a restaurant – say, Greggs, for example – and you really fancy a steak bake. By some incredibly cruel twist of fate, they’re all out. Does that mean you should starve? No. Get a chicken bake. Get a cheese bake. Compromise. Choosing a relationship should be like choosing a baked good – look on the shelf for what’s left and stick it in your gob. It might not be hot, and it could well be disgusting on the inside, but trust me it will get the job done.

It’s more than just a romantic relationship I want that suits me right now. I want my relationship with everything to be like that. My relationship with my work, with my comedy, with my goals. Even my relationship with myself. Instead of worrying about the person I was or the person I’m going to be, I’ll be just locked into the moment. I want to be in harmony with how I feel right now, all my commitments constantly up for re-negotiation, all easily let go of when something better comes along.

I’m not gonna go mad with this for now thing. I realise that you have to plan for the future a bit, but it just seems silly to be lost in that way, letting go of every moment. Planning too much seems especially stupid when you think about how you can’t know the person you’ll be anyway. I’m 23 now. Imagine what a shit-show it would be if my 13-year-old self was making all my decisions. I’d be spending 8 hours a day watching porn. That’s 2 more hours I’d have to find every day. In the same way, I shouldn’t be in charge of my 33-year-old self. I don’t know what that guy wants. I just know about now.

If you’re not someone who has your future figured out, you’re seen as being irresponsible. Everyone tells you you need a 5-year plan and a good pension and a deposit for house and all that shit. So everyone’s working towards something, living in a world that’s not here yet.

I don’t think it’s irresponsible to sack that off and live in the present. I think it’s a sign of someone who’s really got life by the balls, someone who knows there’s nothing more important than now

Right now, I’m just enjoying typing this thing up. I’m at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, it’s Bank Holiday Weekend and it’s sunny as fuck. There’s loads of grass in front of me and I’m sat at a table outside the café where a few other people sit outside writing as well. It feels cool. There’s a girl on another table across from me. She’s well pretty and after every paragraph I finish I keep taking a cheeky glance at her. I can’t resist.









She looks dead nice. Pretty face and round glasses that look really cool on her. She’s also working on her laptop. She has a word document open. I can’t see what she’s writing, but I wonder if she has a blog too. Maybe she’s writing about love and life as well. Maybe this was meant to be.

I think when I’m finished I’m gonna ask her out. I’m just gonna walk over there, say, “hey, I’m Eric,” and play it from there.

Why not? Sounds mental, and my heart is beating faster just thinking about it, but I just feel like I should. Something in the now is calling out to me. And who knows, if it goes well, we could go out. And have more nows with each other. And all the nows might add up to a lifetime. We might realise we’re right for each other. Our for-nows turning into for-evers; marriage and love and good old-fashioned FUCKING and everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s all there for the taking, all in my future with this girl and her round-glasses. It will be bliss, for the most part. Maybe a few arguments over money and chores and who’s looking after the kids, but I guess that’s to be expected. That and the aging of our bodies. And maybe at one point she’ll start focusing more on her work and I’ll wonder about other women. I suppose our fights will then get more and more personal, using our intimacy against each other, and it’ll begin to affect little Ross and Gregg, but we’ll wind up trying to keep it together for them, slowly becoming more bored and resentful, trapped in a kind of marital prison, living the same day over and over and over again, oh God it’s awful, how have I let this happen, she’s gonna ruin me and I’m gonna ruin her and— 

“What are you writing?” I look up, it’s the girl with the round-glasses. 

“Oh, nothing yet,” I say, closing the laptop for now.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x

The Night In Questions

The night in question was the 11thMay 2019. 

I was sat at a pub called The Station in Kings Heath. I drink at The Station alone after all my gigs, just to wind down. You know how it is. A man’s gotta unwind every now and then, otherwise he starts to go crazy. Is unwinding the same as winding down? Probably.

I sit at the bar. The stool I sit on isn’t good for my back, but who the hell needs a back anyway? Mine’s caused me nothing but trouble.  Humans are the saddest creatures on the entire planet, and you know what we all have in common: backs. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Often we attribute all the evil in the world to things we see on the surface, but it’s actually the structures below that are the problem: whether that’s the political system rather than the politicians, the patriarchy rather than sexists, or our spines rather than ourselves. We have to start looking deeper.

The bartender at The Station is a man called Al. 53 years old I’d say he is. Grey hair, a friendly smile and a belly as big as my ego (big baby, BIG). On the night in question, I’d just got back from a gig in Redditch that was what can only be described as a motherfuckin shit gig full of pussy-assed wankers.  I was in a mood. When I walked into The Station, Al fixed me up the usual: Diet Pepsi on the rocks.

“You gonna pay this time, Eric?” Al said.

“You gonna kiss my ass, Al,” I replied, semi-in-jest but also semi-hoping for an actual ass peck. It’s been a while since my bum cheeks have had lips anywhere near them.

I told him to put the Pepsi on my tab. He knew I was good for it; I just needed to get some more gigs in the diary. The paid gigs have been few and far between recently, but that’s just how it is when you’re tryna make it in showbusiness. Even when those gigs do come through, you have to do a lot of things you’re not proud of, stuff that makes you feel dirty. Let me tell you, I’ve been to a lot of towns that no one in their right mind would want to visit. I love showbusiness, but it can be a tricky and demanding mistress at times.

“How’d it go tonight?” Al enquired, placing my Diet Pepsi on the bar.

“It was garbage.”

“Ah, you’ll get ‘em next time, Eric.”

“My ass, I will.”

Al always consoles me. He understands the business, so we connect on that level. Not comedy, but showbusiness. Al used to manage bands back in the 90’s. Oasis, Pulp, Take That – he’s worked with them all. Al also says he came up with the idea of Uber before it was stolen from him. “I would’ve been a billionaire,” he says to me. To be honest, I think Al’s full of baloney. But I don’t mind. I’m perfectly comfortable living in a false reality. He acts like he understands and that’s what matters.

Just as I started to sip on my Diet Pepsi through an environmentally-friendly cardboard straw, a fine-ass looking lady came and sat at the bar. She had blonde hair and legs as long as my ego (long baby, LONG). I nodded at her. No response. I smiled at her. No response. I winked at her. No response – you gotta be kidding me! Maybe you’re thinking I should just leave this lady alone and that I’m being creepy with my facial expressions. But remember what I said earlier – it’s the structures below that are doing this, the patriarchy and my spinal column. I get lonely after my gigs and sometimes pretty girls look like they have the answers to all my problems.

I tried all my facial expressions at once — twitching and gurning and grimacing like there was no tomorrow — and eventually she broke.

“Are you okay?” She said.

“I am now you’re speaking to me,” I said, using my quick wit. In fact, my wit was so quick for her that she didn’t even respond. She just turned away and looked at her phone as she tried to digest what I’d just said.

I piped up again.

“Gee, you fancy a drink? You look thirsty as hell.”

Suddenly a man came out of either nowhere or the front or back entrance or the toilets and came and sat by her. “Sorry I took so long in the toilets,” he said to her, clearing the mystery up. I gathered from the way he put his hand around her waist that he was her boyfriend. That and the fact that he turned to her and said, “Man I really love being your boyfriend.” This guy was so direct. So easy to read, much like this blog.

I was gutted though. He was well hench. He looked like he’s the type of person who’s gone to the gym 3-to-4 times a week for the past 4-to-5 years in the evenings around 6-to-7pm. And he was handsome. His body was as toned and symmetrical as my ego (toned and symmetrical baby, TONED AND SYMMETRICAL). But I bet he hasn’t got my kind of quick wit. It didn’t work out this time for me, but if I keep going, one time there will be a nice, single lady at the bar and my quick wit will astonish them and make them fall in love with me all at once.

For now, though, I was a loser, struggling to make a single, lousy dime in showbusiness, drowning my troubles in Diet Pepsi.

“Is this guy bothering you?” The boyfriend said, looking at ME of all people.

“Oh no, not at all,” she said. “He’s just offered to buy us both drinks.”

“Is that so?” 

She got me good. Real good. I respected her a lot for it. I called Al over.

“Al, fix us up three more Diet Pepsi’s, and make it snappy.”

Three snappily fixed up Diet Pepsi’s made their way onto the bar in front of us. I looked at the couple and saw an opportunity. As you all know, I’m a stand-up comic who loves to do crowdwork, and here was a chance to hone my skills.

“So, where you guys from?” I asked.

“Birmingham,” the girl said.

I looked at her braindead boyfriend.

“Yeah me too,” he said.

“What do you guys do for a living?” I asked.

“Event management,” the girl said.

“P.E. teacher,” the braindead, doofus boyfriend said.

“What are your names?”

“Scarlet,” the girl said.

“Tony,” the braindead, doofus, dumbass, lights-on-but-no-ones-home, poopy-head boyfriend said.

This crowdwork was terrible. If this was a gig I’d be really struggling; I couldn’t think of anything funny to say about anything. But then something happened. The sugar-substitute in my Diet Pepsi started to kick in. I felt buzzed and brave, and I decided to take the questions to the next level.

“Do you love each other?”


Now we’re down to the nitty gritty.

They looked at each other, awkwardly. Her face said, Do you wanna answer this one? His face said, I’m dumb and I like protein.

“Of course we do,” Tony said, using all the power his one brain-cell could muster. 

“He means the world to me,” Scarlet said, beauty and sophistication emanating from her angelic form. “We’ve been together since school – that’s 11 years now. I wouldn’t know what to do without him.”

“Wouldn’t it be worth finding out?” I asked.

Things were heating up. Tony looked angry and stupid. Scarlet looked uncomfortable and beautiful. I could see that Al was starting to pay attention from the bar.

“Who the hell are you anyway!?” Tony said, half getting up from his stool.

“I’m the schmuck buying your drinks,” I responded. “Now let the lady answer, or are you afraid of what she might say?”

He sat back down on his stool.

“Yeah I mean, erm.. I guess.. I couldn’t imagine my life without Tony,” she said.

This was starting to get interesting. I gave Al a nod and he fixed up three more Diet Pepsi’s.

“How old were you exactly when you got together?” I asked.

“17,” she said.

“Would you say you’ve changed a lot since then?”

“Yeah, but… What are you saying?”

Tony was looking agitated again. I gave him a look that said, Easy tiger.

“Tony,” I said, switching it back to him. “You ever wondered what it’d be like to be with another girl?”

“Of course not,” he said, after slightly too long a pause. 

“Scarlet?” I said.

“What?” She said.

“Same question for you. Ever thought what it’d be like to see another guy?”

Tony tightened his hold of her waist. When they let me buy them Diet Pepsi’s, they had no idea what they’d let themselves in for. It was like they’d both accidentally agreed to do a Reddit AMA, except instead of the questions coming from trolls, they were coming from Paxman in his prime.


“No, she hasn’t,” Tony said.

“Well…” she said.

I could see her wriggle from his hold a little bit. Btw it’s maybe too late to point this out, but all three of us were on bar stools, so the fact he had his hand around her waist was proper physically awkward anyway.

She went on.

“You can’t help wondering sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy where I am.” 

There was a silence and I decided not to fill it. Sometimes that can be the most effective trick in the comedian’s playbook. It gives time for things in the room to rise to the surface, whether that’s laughter, or in this case, unconscious doubts about the state of a long-term relationship.

“I mean, yeah,” Tony said. “It’s not like I’ve not thought about it. But we’re perfectly happy. More than happy.”

“Sounds convincing,” I said, my quick wit making a return to the proceedings.

“Listen you litte shit!” He said, to ME of all people. “You’re obviously only getting involved because you fancy her. Back off.”

I laughed. Scarlet looked uncomfortable. Al was still fat and old.

“Maybe you’re right, Tony. Maybe I’m just a sleaze ball. Doesn’t change a damn thing about the truth though.”

I decided to go in for the kill. See, when I’m on the stage and I’m doing crowdwork, I like to get real deep real quick. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable and it’s not at all popular, but when it finally comes into fashion, I’m gonna be famous. My huge ego will finally have an external world it’s happy with.

“I’m just saying, how can you know your love is real if it’s not been tested against anything else? How do you know you’re not just settling? That you’re not lying to yourselves? That there’s not another person or another life out there that would make you happier than you can imagine? Out of all the possibilities offered to you, you’ve chosen to stick to one, ignoring all the problems of it because you want to stay true to the people you were at 17. Why?”

I sensed that if I carried on I was gonna get beaten up, so on that note, I downed the rest of my Diet Pepsi and got ready to get the hell out of there, leaving them to realise the lie their relationship is built on alone. The crowdwork was over.

“Listen, guys,” I said. “No hard feelings. I just think these are questions you should consider.”

I stumbled out the door. The bright lights of Kings Heath highstreet hit me, the illuminations’ main source being the fried chicken shops that give this place so much character, honest people just tryna make an honest buck. Where my next buck was gonna come from I wasn’t sure.

Five minutes later, I was at my house. So much Diet Pepsi was in my system that I collapsed straight onto my bed. The room was spinning. I started thinking about my life: how I always end up in this position after a gig, feeling bitter about the world and totally wasted on Pepsi. It wasn’t going anywhere, it was just the same old cycle. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now and I’m too far in to quit, but man you can’t help wondering sometimes what it’s like to not be in showbusiness, to wake up early and go to a job that helps people, or even do a job down in the Big Smoke and earn millions of bucks, or something in between. I’m not sure.

But the thing is, I love showbusiness. I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

Anyway, I gotta go now. As soon as I finish this blog I’m headed to a gig in Leicester, then back to The Station to sink a few Diet Pepsi’s in front of big Al.

Cya x

Gym’ll Fix It

I’ve started going to the gym. I’m a gym boy now. For those of you who don’t know the latest fitness jargon, gym is short for gymnasium.

I’m not doing it for my physical health; I’m doing it for my mental health. My doctor suggested it. I told him I was struggling and feeling sad and he said exercise was important and I should try joining the gym. He also recommended I go to therapy to work on my abs. He’s not the best doctor in the world. He gets himself mixed up: no amount of talking about my childhood is gonna give me the rock-hard glutes I’m aiming for.

I like talking to people at the gym. I just go up to them and say, “Hi, I’m Eric, I’m working on my depression.” Then I follow it up with, “So, what are youin for?” It’s a little joke. It’s what people say when they meet someone new in prison. I guess I am in a kind of prison. A mental prison where I’m behind big fuck off bars made of depression and anxiety, and sometimes I worry that no defence lawyer in the goddamn country will be able to set me free (I don’t know what that means).

I start conversations at the gym because the cold hard truth about me is that I’m fascinated by other people. Everyone has a story worth telling. My mum always says that about herself. She says, “Eric, they should make a film about my life” and because you’ve always got to back your mum, I nod and agree. I then sit back and mentally cast the film. My mum is very caring so I think she’d be played by someone like the lady who plays Fiz in Coronation Street. I’m very funny and wacky so maybe I’d be played by someone like Danny DeVito. And my dad is quite absent so he’d be played by “the concept of reasoned and civilised political debate on social media.” LOL. 

I told my mate Joe about this and he said it was the worst cast film of all time.

“It makes no sense. Fiz is about 20 years younger than your mum, and Danny DeVito is about 50 years older than you. The joke about your dad barely makes up for it. In fact it makes it worse somehow. Zero stars.”

“Hush, Joe. I’m trying to write a blog about the gym.”

“Fine, carry on.”

When I say “so, what are youin for?” at the gym, no one ever replies. It must mean they’ve done something really bad. If you don’t reply to “so, what are youin for?” in prison it means you’re either a paedophile or were involved in the News of the World phone hacking scandal of the late noughties. I started to feel like I could trust no one at that gym. I thought of all the innocent children that these sick bastards must’ve got their hands on before. The worst part is – you wouldn’t know it to look at them. They’re just normal-looking people, totally unsuspecting, much like Savile and Jackson.

And what about my phone? What if these protein-fuelled perverts were hacking my phone?

I don’t really have voicemails that aren’t from Specsavers but there’s other sensitive data on my phone. I have a lot of screenshots of Facebook conversations with girls I like in there. Not in a creepy way. Sometimes I’ll just be having a good bit of banter with a girl so I’ll take a screenshot and look at it a few weeks later and think to myself, That was a bloody good bit of banter I had with that girl.I like to hold onto precious moments in my life. So what? Sue me — I need to look for a defence lawyer anyway. 

But, if those screenshots get out I’ll be ruined. That’s me finished. I’ll be toast. Butter. Jam. Chocolate spread. Maybe like some hipster homemade marmalade. Stick some bacon on there, let’s go savoury. Man I get hungry when I’m thinking about my demise.

After about a week, someone finally spoke to me. 

“You need to keep your back a bit straighter when you pull back mate.”

I was properly going for it on the rowing machine, all at sea, battling through treacherous waters, and suddenly someone had the gumption to take me out of my rowing machine/actual rowing cross-over fantasy. I was ready to take this bad boy back to the harbour, get off, roam around the small seaside town of Kick This Guy’s Ass and kick this guy’s ass.

“Mind your own business, pervert. I’m gonna kick your ass.”

“Woah, easy sailor, I’m not looking for any trouble. I was just trying to give some advice.”

I looked at the man and he was a meathead. A proper meathead. His head was a leg of lamb and it had mint sauce on it and his ears were made out of roast potatoes. Nah I’m just being silly, but he was very muscley. Not everyone reading this will have seen me in the flesh, but let’s just say nobody who has would use a meat analogy to describe my physique, unless that meat was a particularly brittle slice of spam. Even that is being too generous – I’m more of a thinly sliced, rotting piece of carrot that’s been pissed on (I smell of wee). I decided it was best if I backed down.

“Sorry, I’m just a bit paranoid because a chain of associative creative ideas led to me casting this whole gym as a bunch of perverts who hack phones.”

“No worries, easily done.”

When I calmed down a bit I remembered how much I loved talking to other people.

“I’m Eric, by the way,” I said. “I’m working on my depression.”

The usual deafening silence followed. Well it wasn’t really deafening, that doesn’t make any sense. The silence was actually probably quite good for my ears. I spend so much time listening to loud music on my phone and also loud, raucous laughter at my gigs (when other acts are on lol) that I worry about the long-term implications. It was good to get some peace and quiet for once. But I was worried this geezer was mugging me off like everyone else.

“So what are you in for?”

“Just keeping this up, mate,” he said, pointing towards his own body.

“Nice one.”

“I used to be like you, you know?” He said.

“Huh,” I said. I genuinely didn’t catch what he said. Maybe that silence was worse for my ears than I thought.

“I used to be like you, you know?” He said.

I caught it this time and I panicked.

“What? An emerging comedy star? A unique voice? A lifeboat of originality in a sea of mediocrity that ironically uses quite hackneyed metaphors? What happened, Tony? Why did you give up? Am I wasting my time, Tony? Is fame an illusion? Tell me what you know, Tony!”

“No, I mean I used to be built like you. I used to be skinny. Also my name’s not Tony, it’s Pete.”

“Sorry, Pete. How did you get so big? Was it cognitive behavioural therapy? I hear that’s very good.”

Pete then proceeded to tell me how he turned himself from cheese-string into a full roast dinner. Turns out therapy wasn’t involved at all and that it was mainly due to hard work and protein shakes. He then kind of became my mentor. Over the next few weeks he showed me how to use all the machines and how to conduct myself properly in a gymnasium environment. Turns out you’re not supposed to go straight in with, “hi, I’m Eric, I’m working on my depression.” Even if your name is Eric and you are suffering with depression, it’s a bit too much. You need to say things like, “Hey, nice crunches man,” and “Dude, can you just spot me for a second?”

It was great advice, and following it has almost made me a couple of friends. But not proper friends, more just people that I nod and say hello to every time I see them. Not proper mates, like Pete.

Yeah, that’s right, I did start to see Pete as a mate. We even went for a pint, at a pub called The Station in Kings Heath. The pub is right opposite the gym and it’s the perfect place to undo the hard work you’ve just put into exercising. But sometimes you need to reward yourself; even Pete knew that, and he’s a fitness freak. We talked about all sorts of things. It was kind of banter about nothing too serious. I figured Pete wasn’t the type of guy to talk about feelings and stuff because he’s so macho. I think it’s a chemical thing more than anything, all that testosterone blocks the pathways for emotions in your body (I’m not a Biologist but that sounds right). But I was telling him about something – I think it was the film about my Mum – and he got this look on his face like he wanted to say something. Like he’d been sitting on something for a while, but his arse cheeks were getting sore now and he needed to get it out.

“You know I used to be depressed as well,” he said. “That’s why I joined the gym.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “How are you feeling these days?”

“Good, man. Good.”

The huge amount of testosterone in his system prevented any more feelings from coming out, but what he said gave me food for thought. 


We were in the gym the following day, running on neighbouring treadmills. On the treadmill, I follow Pete’s lead; whatever pace he’s got it set to, I have to match. That day he was proper pushing it. We started off jogging, but every 30 seconds or so he’d crank up the pace until about 3 minutes in we were full on sprinting. I could barely breathe, felt like I was gonna go flying off the treadmill. But then I just picked up the pace. I just did it. It’s weird when you’re exercising at a high-intensity, because you feel like you can’t do it, but then you push through some sort of barrier and on the other side you feel like you’re flying; you kind of feel detached from your body, above the pain and the physical exertion. I felt this incredible high. I felt happy as fuck.

And when I was in that state of bliss, I started to digest the thought fodder from the day before. I looked at all the people around me, all the toned beautiful people. And I looked at Pete and thought about how he used to be depressed. And then I looked back at these people and saw them differently. Before, I just viewed them as jocks and meatheads but maybe all these people at the gym are actually working on their minds, whether consciously or not. I felt a bit stupid that I’d never thought about this before. Why would people put so much effort into exercising if it wasn’t to make themselves feel good in one way or another? No other reason makes sense. When you push through that barrier I was talking about earlier, it’s a mental barrier. The exercise makes us feel stronger, not just in our bodies but in our minds. When you proper smash through a work out, at the end of it you feel kind of invincible.

When you think about it, how can you ever really know what’s in the body and what’s in our minds?

Eventually Pete slowed down the pace and we went back to a light jog. I looked at Pete again and honestly I think I realised I was in love with him. I’d figured this deep thing out and it was because of him. I told him as much.

“Pete, I love you, you absolute meathead.”

He nodded, as if to agree. His testosterone blocked him from doing anything more.

But then the strangest thing started happening. I looked around at the people in the gym, and they all started to fade. Seriously, they just faded, until eventually their bodies disappeared.

“Pete, what the fuck is happening?”

He looked at me and smile.

“Eric, my work here is done.”

And then he faded too. Then he disappeared. And it was just me. In the gym by myself. On the treadmill. Happy as fuck.

That doctor was right about going to the gym.

Anyway, that’s about it.

Cya x