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.