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.
I’m fucking starving when Joanne and Fax finally emerge from the Hitler’s Fanny or whatever it’s called.
Joanne immediately starts. ‘Do you know how emba-’
‘DINNER. NOW.’ I reply.
‘And,’ I continue, as we make our way to the Royal Mile, ‘that was shit poetry. It didn’t even rhyme and it was mostly just her feeling her tits and yelling about knobs.’
‘Oh my god you’re such a philistine!’
‘I’m hungry is what I am. And pissed off. You promised we’d go for dinner first!’
‘Well we got held up! We had to align with Mars for the upcoming equinox!’
‘And you just had to do that at lunchtime, because of course you fucking did!’
And now it’s raining. Great. I’m standing in Scotland yelling at Joanne, in the rain. I can think of better holidays.
Fax steps in. ‘Shall I treat M’Ladies to dinner?’
‘Yes please,’ I say, before Joanne can stop me.
‘Fine,’ huffs Joanne. ‘Where shall we go?’
‘I don’t care as long as they sell food.’
We pass a load of amazing looking cafes as we walk along. Joanne rejects them all because ‘they sell haggis, and do you know what haggis is Melissa?’
‘Yes, it’s lovely.’
‘It’s patriarchal and oppressive is what it is!’
Says the woman who’s favourite thing from McDonald’s is chicken nuggets.
‘Jo, you do realise we’re in Scotland? And in Scotland they serve haggis with everything, even in Scottish Starbucks, probably.’
After a few more minutes’ bickering (and apparently offending the goddess ‘Diana of the Hunt’), Joanne stops outside a beige looking place at the top of the Royal Mile. Well, I say ‘stops’; what I mean is she tries to stop, but is swept along by three million tourists.
‘This! This is the place!’
Tea shop. Brilliant. Let me guess, their tea has been hand grown by orphaned lesbians. It does smell amazing though, so I follow her inside.
‘Hello hello, would you and your partners like to find a space?’
The waiter is wearing a dress which I’m almost certain is from Primark. It doesn’t really go with his beard. We make our way to a badly stained table. Old copies of the Beano are squashed together in a greasy perspex shelf next to us.
Just when I’m getting excited at the prospect of a Beano, another thought occurs. This place does not smell amazing. That smell came from somewhere else, and vanished as soon as we came in here.
The waiter lights an incense stick. ‘We like our guests to feel relaxed and at one.’
Joanne and Fax simper their thanks.
‘Hang on a minute, I need to nip outside and check something,’ I say.
When I’m back on the street I have a sniff. Oh god, there it is again, it’s… oh my god, this what seeing a mirage in the desert must be like. Over the road, there’s a hog roast place called ‘Oink’. There’s a whole pig in the window. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I dodge cars in my hurry to cross the road. I can’t help but press myself against the window of Oink. I scan the menu. ‘Super Oink – pulled pork, stuffing, BBQ sauce, haggis, in a brioche bun’.
Jesus. Fucking. Christ. If it was legal to marry cafés I’d marry this place and have sex with it.
Joanne is yelling at me from across the street.
‘Are you coming or what? They’ve got something you’re gonna love!’
I doubt it. But in the interest of fairness (and the fact that Joanne has the keys to the flat), I decide to go back and see what Primark waiter has for me.
I sit down reluctantly. Before Joanne can shove a menu in my face, the waiter’s back.
‘And what can I get you for a beverage today?’
Joanne and Fax order lychee juice.
‘Can I just have a cup of tea?’
Primark waiter looks momentarily horrified, then recovers his composure and smarm. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t do “British” tea.’ He says it like I’d just ordered a veal milkshake.
‘What tea do you have?’ I demand.
‘We do serve Malaysian bubble tea, shall I bring you a glass of that?’
‘What’s in it? Is it like normal tea?’
‘It’s Taiwanese black tea with boba.’
‘Boba! Tapioca pearls! It’s flavoured with cardamom and mung bean paste!’
Right that’s it. I heave out of my seat. ‘No thank you. I’m going over the road to Oink. Phone me when you’re done eating lesbian couscous or whatever.’
It’s like the heavens are smiling on me, because there’s no queue in Oink. Fuck knows why.
‘I’ll have your biggest sandwich.’
‘The mega Oink? That’ll be a fiver please.’
That’s very reasonable. I almost throw the money at her head in my haste to get served. My stomach sounds like Chewbacca.
My sandwich is roughly the size of one house brick. It takes me four seconds to eat it. Even though my stomach will regret it, I immediately order another one.
‘And a cup of tea please.’
The woman behind the counter hands me a scalding polystyrene cup. This is all I wanted, not that weird sounding Chinese jizz tea. I am immediately much calmer.
This is a proper café, with brown plastic chairs and the hiss of the tea machine every few seconds. I settle down at an empty table with my ‘mega oink’ and my tea, and am almost instantly dozing. It’s started drizzling again, which isn’t helping my efforts to stay awake. It’s fine, I’m sure if I fall asleep they’ll prod me awake at closing time. They probably get a lot of festival refugees in here, escaping from vegans.
‘FREE FIVE STAR CLIMATE CHANGE COMEDY!’
I shit myself awake. ‘What? Who?’
There’s a shape in front of me but it takes me a few seconds to focus. I was more asleep than I thought.
‘FREE FIVE STAR CLIMATE CHANGE COMEDY!’
That’s what the shape is shouting. As my eyes regain focus, I can see a bald guy looking at me angrily.
In my still half-asleep state, I try to equate climate change with the performance of The King and I that he’s obviously promoting. I’m not sure what they have to do with each other.
I rub my face to try and bring myself back into this reality, as much as I really don’t want to right now. ‘No thanks,’ I tell him, and shut my eyes again.
He prods me really fucking hard in the arm, which does wake me up, if only so I can kick him in the bollocks. This is when I realise it’s actually a bald girl wearing a very similar dress to that waiter. She’s tapping her foot and sighing at me.
‘FREE CLIMATE CHANGE COMEDY!’
She does look like Yul Brinner though. If Yul Brinner had tattoos on his neck. She shoves a leaflet at my head. The corner catches me in the eyelid.
‘Fucking hell! No, I’m not interested in musicals! Just… leave me alone!’
Yul Brinner lets out a huff. ‘What, are you saying you don’t care about climate change?’
‘Not really no.’
‘WHAT! YOU FUCKING NAZI!’
The woman behind the counter looks at our disagreement and decides this might be a good time to intervene. ‘Steve? Have you got a minute?’
‘Steve’ appears from the back room, all limbs and perm. ‘You alright love?’
She points at Yul Brinner. He understands and comes over to our table. By now I’m trying to shield myself with my handbag while she shouts in my face about carbon.
‘Excuse me love, I think you’re bothering this lady.’
Her attention is diverted from me, thank fuck. ‘Love?’ She rears up. If she had a skirt on it would be whirling. Joanne would be proud.
‘Love?’ she repeats one octave higher. ‘Do you really think that kind of misogynistic slur is acceptable?’
He sighs. He’s seen all these nutters before. ‘You’re bothering this customer. So, if you wouldn’t mind, maybe you should take your leaflets outside.’
‘HOW DARE YOU!’ She’s now foaming at the mouth. ‘It’s bad enough this supposedly progressive country carries on letting you peddle your MURDER, and now you’re oppressing me for trying to spread the word about climate change! Why won’t you people just EDUCATE yourselves? I’ve been…’
‘-That’s nice, love,’ says Steve, escorting her towards the door. Steve is my hero. I’d marry him if he didn’t look like a giant David Essex.
Once she’s outside, it’s like Yul Brinner loses all her powers. She slopes off in the drizzle, covering her scalp with her leaflets.
‘Sorry about that love,’ says Steve.
‘It’s fine, thanks for dealing with her,’ I yawn.
‘Festival time. We get a lot of weirdos in here.’
Oh is there a festival on? I hadn’t fucking noticed. I just nod.
Steve disappears to the back room, where he presumably lives, and the woman gives me an eye rolling smile. I drink my tea, because I’m fucked if I’m going to be able to fall asleep again. In fact, for the rest of the week I plan to sleep with one eye open, in case I get attacked by bald women who smell of salad.