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.
Sadly, my genius plan to ‘go off with the bald guy I just met’ is thwarted by the reappearance of Joanne and Fax.
‘Come on, we’d better get in there, it’s starting in a minute.’
‘“Oh wait, I can’t. I’ve just remembered, I’ve been barred.’
Her skirt starts whirling. How does she do that?
‘How the fuck did you manage to get barred? We were only gone a minute!’
I shrug. ‘Don’t look at me, I was just trying to talk about football with the barman.’
She peers at me. ‘That’s bollocks. You must have done something. You must have been offensive.’
‘Unless talking about Brian Clough is offensive, no I wasn’t.’
‘Who’s Brian Clough? Was he a slave trader or something?’
I look around for my bald friend, but he’s fucked off.
‘No, he’s a footballer. I think.’
She looks sceptical of my claim. ‘Well then, you must have done something, otherwise he wouldn’t have barred you. I know what you’re like.’
‘What am I like?’ I’m getting sick of this. May I remind you that I still haven’t had any fucking dinner, and I haven’t even had any Hitler beer.
‘You know how you get,’ she huffs.
‘No I fucking do not. How do I get?’
‘Like that! That’s how you get!’
‘Look, do you want me to come to your friend’s shit gig or not? Because, to be quite honest, I’ll be perfectly happy to-‘
She’s still scowling. ‘No, I promised her I’d bring a friend. She hasn’t quite sold out.’
Fax taps her on the shoulder. ‘M’Lady, we’d better hence.’
‘Yeah, you heard him, let’s hence or whatever.’
We all slope off towards the back room. As I’m passing the barman, he spots me.
‘Hey, you’re barred for hate speech!’
‘Yeah, that’s fine love.’ And we carry on to the back room, which contains a couple of dozen chairs and fluorescent strip lights are dangling about a foot above our heads.
I can see why Joanne offered to ‘bring a friend’. When she said ‘hasn’t quite sold out yet’, what she means was ‘there are five people in the audience, and three of them are us’. The other two are a couple who look like they’ve come in here by mistake, and are too polite to leave.
Oh Christ, this is my worst nightmare. Actually my worst nightmare was that time I dreamed Alan Sugar was trying to behead me. But you get my point. Ever since I heard about this stupid trip, I’ve been dreading being in this sort of audience for a comedian. Because they have no choice, they’ll look me straight in the eye and be like ‘So where are you from love?’ And I’ll try my best to disappear up my own arse.
I wonder who’s going to be more uncomfortable, us or her. I mean, clearly the answer is ‘me, by a fucking mile’, but still.
‘What’s your mate’s act called again?’ I whisper to Joanne. She hands me a leaflet. She’s not properly speaking to me yet.
‘Willow Myst: Potery and Motion – light-hearted examination of social issues, via the medium of freestyle potery’
I nudge Joanne. ‘She’s spelled it wrong.’
I point to the leaflet. ‘Is this meant to say ‘poetry’?’
She looks. ‘Oh my god stop being such a nazi! You could read it couldn’t you?’
‘Well, I did have to ask you, so…’
She tuts, but before she can start lecturing me about how spelling is sexist, half the fluorescent lights go off and a woman appears from behind a curtain. She fiddles about with a CD player then turns to us.
Why do none of them ever fucking say ‘hello’.
‘It’s so wonderful to be able to bring you what I hope will be a thought-provoking performance that pushes boundaries. Also, if you could turn your mobiles off that would be great.’
That reminds me, I must get rid of that comedy swearing ringtone I downloaded. It was funny at the time. Not really appropriate when my phone goes off at work.
She presses play on the CD player, and some bullshit new age music starts wibbling out. Of fucking course it does.
She walks up to the microphone. Why she needs a microphone I don’t know, we’re all sat 3 feet away from her.
Fucking hell. If I’d had a drink I’d have dropped it.
‘VAST AND DARK! DARK! DARK!’
I’ll be honest, my sides aren’t splitting yet.
‘FIRST TO BE OPPRESSED!’
‘FIRST TO SUFFER WHEN WE SEE THE BLEEDING SWALLOW FLYING.’
This is bollocks, it doesn’t even rhyme.
‘OH I’M SORRY!’
She fucking should be.
‘I WILL CONTINUE TO BLEED!’
‘HIROSHIMA! HEROSHIMA! MY ROSHIMA!’
She goes on like this for a couple of minutes, then stops abruptly and stands there with her hands over her eyes.
I look at Joanne and Fax, but they seem to be enjoying… whatever this is.
After five minutes I can’t take it any more.
‘…You alright love?’
Joanne elbows me in the tits. I look over at the other couple; he’s reading a magazine and she’s trying not to laugh. I like them.
Eventually ‘Willow Myst’ starts up again.
‘PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS! PHALLUS!’
I wish she’d do some Pam Ayres.
She doesn’t. She starts humming instead, while feeling her own tits.
‘MY ORBS ARE IMPERVIOUS!’
‘YOU MEN, WITH YOUR PHALLIC PRIDE, YOU SHALL NOT BEST ME!’
She goes quiet again.
Suddenly I feel something vibrate near my leg. I have a split second to think ‘oh fuck no’ before it happens:
‘YOUR BLOODY FUCKING PHONE IS RINGING! RING RING! PICK YOUR FUCKING PHONE UP BLOODY HELL!’
Plus, this is being shouted in a comedy Indian accent.
God, if you’re up there, this might be a good time to kill me.
I’ve never moved so fast in my life. I’ll give her credit – Willow Myst is being professional and is pretending she hasn’t noticed.
I lunge out of the room and press ‘accept’ before I look at who’s calling.
‘Alright, it’s me.’
Oh fucking hell.
‘Saif what do you want?’
‘I’ve lost my phone.’
‘What do you mean you’ve lost your phone?’
‘Like, I had it, but now I can’t find it, so I think it’s lost.’
‘But… you’re ringing me. So you can’t have lost the phone.’
‘No no, I’m using the work phone innit? I’ve lost my mobile.’
It’s a few seconds before I can process what’s happening. Remember, I STILL haven’t had any fucking dinner.
‘Saif, why are you ringing me to tell me you’ve lost your phone? What the fuck can I do about it?’
‘Well no, but I was just wondering like do we have a lost property? Because it might be in there.’
I often wonder which planet Saif’s ship came from when it crash landed on Earth. ‘Have you asked Kay?’
‘Well, she’s not really speaking to me. I think she might be having her periods.’
‘Is she there? Can you put her on?’
‘No she’s gone out. I think she’s gone out to do something to do with her periods, like I said.’
Oh god, Saif is alone in the shop.
‘Did she say how long she was going to be?’
‘What? No, but listen right, I’ve lost my phone. Do you know where it might be?’
Right, Mel, think. If you let Saif run the Co-op along, are any of the following likely to happen?
A) He burns the shop down
B) He tries to talk to all the customers about Forex
C) He refuses to sell tinned potatoes because ‘they don’t exist’.
Sadly, I think all of the above are likely.
‘Saif listen. I think you’re going to have to close up for half an hour, or at least until Kay gets back. It’s…’ I try to think of a reason that isn’t ‘because you’re a bellend and you can’t be trusted’. ‘It’s an insurance thing. There has to be a manager on site whenever the shop’s open.’
‘Oh right, so I just, like, lock the door? Shall I turn the lights off?’
‘No don’t do that, because then you won’t be able to see. Don’t lock the door either, because Kay needs to be able to get back in. Just flip the ‘closed’ sign.’
‘Oh right got it. And if anyone comes in, I’ll just tell them we’re closed for the insurance?’
‘What? No, I… yeah, yeah do that. I guess you can use the time to find your phone.’
‘That’s a wicked idea! Well, have a nice holiday! Bye!’
He hangs up before I can reply. Fine, I didn’t fucking want to talk to him anyway. I frantically dial Kay’s number.
‘Where are you? Saif just rang me!’
‘Oh god I’m really sorry, but it was this or actually murder him.’
‘Yeah but he’s on his own in the shop, and he’s just phoned me to ask if I know where his mobile is.’
She starts laughing then. ‘Oh god I’m sorry Mel. Look, I’m only next door, I’ll go back in a minute. I just needed a break from his fucking stupid questions and his ‘forex’, whatever the hell that is.’
I start laughing too. ‘Look, if it makes you feel any better, you have my permission to lock him in the loo if he gets too annoying.’
‘I might hold you to that.’
‘I might hold myself to it when I get back.’
‘Anyway look, I’m sorry you had to be bothered with this. I’ll go back in a sec, don’t worry. You have a lovely week won’t you?’
‘I will.’ (I won’t.)
As I’m putting my phone away, that barman clocks me.
‘Barred! I told you, you’re barred! Hate speech!’
‘What? Yes yes I’ll get to that.’
I decide to wait outside for my two best friends in the world.