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.

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
Sorry
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.

That’s

Why.

My.

Paragraphs.

Are.

Getting.

Shorter.

Lol.

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?”

BOOM. 

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.

“Erm…”

“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