On the run from Andi Peters following a misunderstanding about cruises, Melissa begrudgingly agrees to follow her friend Joanne (and Joanne’s 17th century throwback ‘life partner’ Fax) to the Edinburgh Fringe. While leafleting for Fax’s dreadful stand up show about faith healing and vegans, Melissa endures the highs and lows of pretentious student plays, ‘street typing’, and the knowledge that her shop has been left in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand tills…
Crap Comedy is the follow up to the 2018 novel Crap Holiday. Read it here.
23. Polish Sausage
The front door is up a dozen steps because of course it fucking is. I can hear my vodka bottle clinking every time I drag my suitcase up one.
Joanne unlocks the door and we’re hit by the smell of… cooking? There’s no one here to be cooking anything. It must be coming from one of the other flats. Nope, the smell’s definitely getting stronger as I head towards the kitchen. Have we got burglars? Admittedly, I wouldn’t really care if we had; it’s not my stuff they’re stealing. Plus, burglars wouldn’t cook something that smells so nice. Or anything at all.
I push open the kitchen door, and my scream brings Joanne and Fax running. There is a naked man in our kitchen, hovering over a pan. He looks at me as if to say ‘what the hell’s your problem?’, then he shrugs and turns back to his pan.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ asks Joanne. I point to the buttocks in the kitchen.
‘That’s Stefan. I think he’s Polish,’ she says, like I’m expected to just know this.
‘Why didn’t you tell me there’d be someone else here!’
She shrugs. ‘You never asked.’
‘I never asked if there would be a naked man in our flat who you think is Polish. I fucking wonder why.’
I shut the door on our new flatmate and herd Joanne and Fax into the living room. Then I flop down onto the settee. It would have been the floor, but I got lucky.
They start looking round the room, Joanne sniffing the chairs and Fax jiggling the wire connecting the TV to the wall. Unsurprisingly, the TV goes off. Now I’ll never get to watch Loose Women, should I ever get brain damage and want to watch Loose Women.
‘Who is that man? Is he Polish or what?’
Joanne whirls round. ‘God, what are you, a racist?’
‘I just want to know how to say “put your cock away” in his language.’
‘You don’t have to stare at it or anything!’
‘No, I suppose I can go round with my bastard eyes shut.’ Part of me wonders if following ‘Stefan’ round while staring firmly at his knob would be the best way of getting him to put some pants on.
Joanne hurls herself onto the settee next to me. ‘Anyway it’s not like it matters, we’re only using this place to sleep.’
I’m not. I’m using it to hide from Andi Peters and his goons. And at least Andi Peters and his goons wouldn’t show up naked. Hopefully.
Christ, I can’t even go make a coffee, because that Polish man will poke me in the eye with his willy.
My suitcase is still in the hall. I heave my carcass off the settee.
‘Can I go put my stuff in my bedroom? Tell me I have a bedroom. Tell me I’m not sharing with a lesbian trapeze act.’
Joanne rolls her eyes. ‘God, just take any bedroom!’
‘Except I can’t fucking do that can I, because now any of the rooms might contain a wanking European!’
Fax, in a move unprecedented for him, takes charge of the situation.
‘I’ll find M’Lady’s Handmaiden a room.’ I suspect he just wants to get rid of me for a bit.
I follow him to the hallway, where he picks up my suitcase and carries it to a random door. Those sausages of Stefan’s do smell amazing.
‘I don’t know why you’re so bothered about a so-called room,’ screeches Joanne. ‘We’ll be out having fun anyway!’
I suspect that’s a fib.
‘Don’t forget we’re seeing my friend Willow’s show later! Her poetry will inspire you!’
Inspire me to what? Kill myself? We better be having dinner before she drags me off to see one of her fetid friends shouting vowels at a room. I need a nap.
24. Brian Clough
I nearly crack my head open on a beam within three seconds of entering this bar. It’s a repurposed coal hole. We’re then treated to a hundred stairs meant for Barbie feet.
‘What’s this place called again?’
‘The Dictator’s Dick.’
‘The what? Are you sure?’
‘Yes, god! It’s ironic! Don’t be such a prude!’
The inside of the pub is painted black. I can’t see my own tits. As my eyes adjust, I notice pictures of various dictators/supervillains adorning the walls. Hitler jostles for position with Bin Laden, who are both staring at Thanos off of Marvel, who I’m not sure is real.
We fumble our way to the bar. The barman is wearing a scrunchie in his hair and a 90’s Man United T shirt. I immediately hate him.
‘Yes, what’s your beverage?’
I swallow the urge to say ‘My piss in a glass, and you fucking drink it you fucking hipster’. Remember, I have been dragged here against my will without having any dinner, and I am very fucking hungry and cross.
Joanne and Fax order, then look at me.
‘Carling?’ I instantly regret this choice.
Joanne and Fax start laughing. So does the barman. I might kill all three of them.
Clearly the barman decides to ‘put me out of my misery’. ‘Oh you poor darling! You’re such a treasure!’
I feel like asking him who the Man United centre back was in the 1993-1994 season. I would, but I don’t know who it was, so I can’t correct him. I only know it’s a 90’s shirt because it’s the shirt Ryan Giggs had on whenever he was in Just Seventeen.
‘If you want “lager”,’ he says doing air quotes with his fingers, ‘then I can offer you this…’
He pulls out a tiny can with a picture of Hitler on it. I think it’s Hitler; it could be Basil Fawlty, but that wouldn’t really fit in with the theme of the bar.
‘Is that beer?’
‘Yes, it’s “Adolf Pale Ale”!’
I take a breath. ‘Right, let me get this straight. You won’t serve Carling, but you’ll sell Hitler beer?’
He snorts. By this time Joanne and Fax have fucked off and are looking at some poster.
‘One sec, I’ll be right back.’
‘OK,’ he smirks, thinking I’m leaving because I’m intimidated. I am not. I am going to the loo.
While I’m weeing I try to Google “Manchester United centre back 1990s”, but I have no signal, since I’m 500ft below sea level. Right, think. You do remember some footballers from the 90s. More than he does, anyway. Ooh, Peter Beardsley! That’s one I definitely do know! I know him because he once visited my sister’s school. Apparently he asked my mum if she wanted an autograph, but she thought he was a sex pest.
Peter Beardsley. That’ll do. It doesn’t occur to me to mention Ryan Giggs. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me to win this football argument with the barman, that I’ve created in my head. I’m not sure if Peter Beardsley ever played for Man United. Never mind, I’m betting that barman doesn’t know either.
I stomp back upstairs. When I’m finished wheezing, I approach the barman again.
‘Right, so do you not have any proper beer?’
He snorts again. ‘Oh, we don’t do those kind of drinks. I’m sorry, but you might be in the wrong place if you want that kind of “lager”.’
‘No, you’re right,’ I say. Then I stare at his T shirt like I’ve never noticed it before.
‘Oh, you support Man United!’
‘Your shirt! That was a great season. Who’s your favourite centre back?’
He looks down at his shirt like he didn’t ever realise it was a football shirt. ‘Oh, the soccer!’ Yeah, Man U!’
Right. I know nothing about football, but I do know that my dad follows Nottingham Forest, and he’s always going on about Brian Clough, or “Cloughie”. If this doesn’t work, I’ll bring out the Peter Beardsley big guns.
‘What do you make of the Cloughie years?’
‘Cloughie! Brian Clough!’
‘Oh him!’ He starts fiddling with his scrunchie. ‘Oh, he was a brilliant footballer.’
‘Oh, what position did he play for you?’
‘Oh, you know, he was, like, a fly half.’
‘Right. Let me recap. You support Man United because Brian Clough was a great fly half?’
He fiddles with himself again. ‘I have to go check the pumps’ he says, starting to slope off.
‘Hang on, hang, on, you’ haven’t given me my drink yet! And I still don’t know your all opinions on Brian Clough!’
He freezes. Clearly he’s never been challenged like this before. Certainly not by Peter Beardsley or Brian Clough.
‘And what about the centre backs?’
‘Right, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’
I can’t help myself, I burst out laughing in his face.
‘What, because I asked you about Brian Clough?’
He sniffs. ‘No, because you are clearly being disrespectful to the staff.’
I hear an unfamiliar voice over my shoulder.
I look round. ‘Sorry?’
‘Steve Bruce was the Man U centre back in the early 90s. Or one of ‘em anyway.’
I don’t think before I respond. ‘What about Brian Clough?’
He laughs his bald head off.
We both look at the barman. Bald guy speaks before I can think of anything to say. ‘I was on the fruit machine, I heard what you said. You said ‘Brian Clough was a fly half for Man U.’
He collapses laughing then. I make a note to buy this guy a drink, although maybe not a Hitler Pale Ale, because it seems like we’re both going to be barred by this fucking dandelion.
‘Are we barred than lad?’ The bald man can’t stop laughing. I like him.
Scrunchie looks up. ‘Yes! You are both barred! We don’t need your hate in here!’
Well, that might be fine with both of us. I look round, Joanne and Fax have fucked off somewhere.
‘Can I come with you?’ I ask Bald Man.
‘Of course love. I only came in here for a piss really.’