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 wander around for a bit until I come across a man doing the most amazing balancing stuff. Seriously, he’s balancing on a pole by one strand of his hair. I instinctively look for the strings that must be attached to him, but that’s stupid because they’d have to be attached to the sky. I think he’s just really clever.

For the first time this week, I clap because he’s good, instead of because Joanne is elbowing me and ordering me to clap. My clapping is a bit too enthusiastic, because I end up slapping the hand of the guy next to me. I shuffle away a bit. Shit, he must have thought I was trying to get his attention, because he turns to me.

‘This guy’s amazing isn’t he?’

‘Oh, erm, yeah. Sorry didn’t mean to hit you with my hand.’

‘That’s OK. Oh my god look at him now!’ He points and I look back at the balancing man, who I swear is now balancing on one finger. How he doesn’t work for MI5 or whoever magic people work for is beyond me. I’m definitely going to stick a fiver in his bucket.

When he’s finished (and fuck knows how he still has a penis after that finale) I hunt around in my purse for a fiver.

‘That’s by far the best thing I’ve seen all week.’

Oh, it’s the guy again. I look at him to reply, and am struck by how much he looks like a pound shop version of Andrew Lincoln, if that makes sense. Like, if Andrew Lincoln had less of a chin, and less hair. Just, if Andrew Lincoln had less of a head, full stop.

He holds out his hand. ‘I’m Lee.’

‘Oh.’ I shake his hand. ‘Hello.’

It doesn’t occur to me to tell him my name. Don’t forget, I am slow, and I’ve just had a very traumatic experience with a queue.

He stares at me until I realise I’m supposed to tell him my name. ‘I’m Melissa.’

He takes 20 quid out of his wallet. Oh God, is he going to offer to buy my services for the night?

Just as I’m getting offended by this imaginary implication that I’m only worth 20 quid, he pipes up. ‘How about I put in for both of us?’

‘Oh, OK that would be lovely.’ I don’t argue, because I’ve just remembered the 80 quid and the fact that Andi Peters is going to break my legs over a cruise. Not sure why pound shop Andrew Lincoln is trying to impress me by owning 20 quid, but I go with it.

‘So, do you have any plans now?’

I have a think. Do I have any plans? I could tell him about the queue that I need to get away from before they come after me. Or I could tell him how I’m looking for people to murder.

‘Not really.’

Where’s this going? If this fucker offers me ‘free five-star comedy’ I swear I am going to go to the nearest department store, buy a large roasting dish, the come back and twat him over the head with it.

‘Can I buy you a drink, Melissa?’

Oh. Oh right. This is unexpected. I peer at him.

‘You’re not going to try to do free five-star comedy at me are you?’

He laughs. I was being serious. Given this, I don’t know whether to laugh along or glare at him until he stops.

He wipes his eyes. ‘Jesus, every man and his dog has a five-star comedy act round here.’

There’s a slight Welsh accent. That probably means he’s not a comedian. I don’t know what I’m basing this on, apart from that one week in Anglesey when I was little. I got told off by the farmer who owned the caravan site for ‘being noisy’. Haven’t been to Wales since, except to go to that Godawful ‘Smouldering Woman’ festival, and since that might as well have been on Mars, it doesn’t count.

‘So you’re not a comedian?’

‘No, I’m a plasterer.’

Oh. That’s fair enough then. He might be able to tell me all about Brian Clough and Steve Bruce. Plasterers like football.

I agree to go for a drink with him, and he suggests a bar ‘just round the corner’. I don’t like it when people say something’s ‘just round the corner’. It means it’s five miles away. This is proven to be true when I’m still slogging after him 15 minutes later. I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it to know about Steve Bruce.

‘Here we are, what can I get you?’

I look up. We’re at an Irish bar. I have no clue what it’s called, because the sign above the door just says ‘Irish Bar’. We could be in Stoke for the amount we’ve walked. My phone buzzes in my bag. I ignore it.

‘Double gin?’

‘Coming right up!’ He runs to the bar and indicates to me that I’m supposed to find a table. Good fucking luck with that. I scan the bar for a free table, but every space is taken up with people.

My phone goes off again. Jesus Christ Joanne, just leave me alone for one bastard evening.

We can’t find a table, so we perch at the bar. If I squint hard enough, he really does look like Andrew Lincoln, if I can ignore his balding head.

At least he’s not arguing over buying me a drink, on account of how I ‘should be watching my weight’. I shudder when I think of my last date. It’s really noisy in here, but it sounds like normal noise – people talking and drinking, rather than people screeching poetry and free five-star comedying at me. I drink my gin and look at pound shop Andrew Lincoln. Maybe I should call him Andrew Grimsby? Andrew Boston? Andrew Scunthorpe. That’s the one. He’s Andrew Scunthorpe. I’ll try to get really hammered again so he looks properly like Andrew Lincoln.

Just when I’m starting to tip over from ‘reasonably sober again’ into ‘reasonably pissed again’ (I can tell when this happens because I always start thinking about how on earth do they get the insides into chocolates), there’s a commotion from the other end of the room. Someone starts tapping a microphone and then blowing into it.

‘Ladies and gents, the O’Shaughnessy’s karaoke will be starting up shortly, so get your requests in!’

Oh God not karaoke, I couldn’t stand the shame- oh wait, Fax isn’t here to do his weird and shit Robert Palmer covers. I relax again.

We have a bit of a chat about bits and pieces. We don’t talk about our jobs, I mean, there’s not much for to discuss when one of us is a plasterer and one’s a Co-op overlord. I tell him a bit about Joanne and Fax, and the wedding we ‘politely interrupted’ on the way here. He laughs until he has to wipe his eyes again. ‘I like the sound of your friend.’

I’m just starting to tell him about the bald girl in Oink, when the karaoke DJ calls for someone called ‘Jim’. We look round to see a 100 year old man wearing a blazer and Adidas tracksuit bottoms. He’s one of those whiskery, toothless-but-grinning old men you see on Guinness adverts.

‘Paddy McGintey’s Goat’ starts up. I know this because it’s one of my mum’s favourites. When she wasn’t fucking about with Daniel O’Donnell albums, she was fucking about with Foster and Allen albums.

Jim knows the tune, but I’m not sure he knows the words, unless the words are ‘Urrrrr goat goat HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH goat fuckin’ hell, goat goat HAHAHAHAH’, while trying not to fall off the stage. Everyone gives him a cheer when he finishes.

20 minutes later, we’re just debating what kind of shots to try next, when the DJ calls Jim up again. We look at each other. Surely it’s a different Jim? Nope, same one, and this time he’s going to have a crack at ‘Danny Boy’. This time, the words are:

‘Oh Danny boy, oh Danny Danny boy (burp),
You’re your you’re son, and up the Danny boy,
Oh Danny HAHAHAHAHAHAHA etc’

That’s it. Whatever last remaining thread of sanity this week was holding onto has snapped. When he finally manages to speak without laughing, Lee orders tequila slammers.

Well?

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