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.

The pub is called the ‘Kilderkin’. I don’t know what that means in German; I hope it doesn’t mean ‘I murdered my family’. As soon as we step inside my headache feels better, thanks to the air conditioning and dark wood panelling everywhere. It smells of chips and hot dogs, and there’s some sort of rock music playing at a discreet volume. I like this place.

The ‘cabaret room’ is separated from the main bar by a curtain. Fax and Joanne disappear behind it excitedly while I go to the bar. I really need to start pacing myself, so I just order a beer. Fax wants a mineral water, and Joanne wants a pint of Stella, which isn’t like her.

My phone vibrates in my bag. Just as I’m wondering what to tell head office if Saif really has managed to burn the Co-op down, I remember Lee said he’d text me. I was hoping he’d have a change of heart. I was hoping he’d remember some urgent mending he had to do, or that he’d suddenly become gay.

‘B THR SOON XX’

The text speak makes me irrationally angry. So angry, in fact, that I find myself ordering a ‘pail of chips’. Lee isn’t getting any of my chips.

Unlike the Brewer’s Fayre, which was a dickhead, I can eat my chips in the ‘cabaret area’. I sit there stuffing chips into my mouth, watching Joanne and Fax fanny about with ‘microphone positioning’ and ‘sound testing’ (that one involves Fax murmuring ‘hello’ into the microphone, an octave higher than usual, while breaking into a cold sweat). I’m starting to relax when I spot Lee’s balding, fraudulent face poking out from the curtain. I don’t smile because I have a mouthful of chips. I’m also mad at him for tricking me into believing he looked a bit like Andrew Lincoln last night, although I’m not sure he did that deliberately.

We do an awkward ‘hello’, and he asks me if I want another drink. Before I can refuse (because let’s face it, that’s only going to lead to bad things happening), Joanne and Fax spot him and drop whatever bullshit they’d been doing.

‘Oh, you must be Lee!’

‘I am, and you must be Joanne, and this must be the man himself who I’ve heard so much about!’

Fax blushes and smiles, but doesn’t start poncing around and doing namastes in his usual way. If I’m honest, Fax is looking a bit peaky.

People are starting to trickle into the room now, so Lee goes off to the bar while I finish my chips, eating them 10 at a time to make extra sure Lee doesn’t get any. Part of me knows I’m being mental but I don’t care. I feel a bit guilty when he gets back and I see he’s bought me a gin and tonic. This isn’t going to help me to undo whatever the hell it was we did last night.

‘So, is this going to be as good as you promised?’ he laughs.

‘See for yourself.’ I hand him one of Fax’s leaflets. To give Lee his credit, he manages to keep a straight face. Let’s see how he gets on when faced with raw Fax.

To my amazement, Fax has managed to at least half-fill the room. I’m not sure what it is these people are expecting. He’s standing at the side of the stage looking pale, and Joanne is stroking his sleeve. I’m tempted to have a bet with Lee over whether Fax will faint on stage.

Fax takes a deep breath and strides on up to the microphone.

‘Namaste!’

I think we’ve started. No one namastes back.

‘What’s everyone! I mean, is anyone!’

A couple of people cough. Even I am willing Fax to get his shit together.

Come on God, don’t make Fax look a dickhead, he does that all by himself without your help.

My prayers are answered, because Fax takes a deep breath and swipes a look at his notes, then launches into the ‘Holland and Barrett running out of lavender’ bit. To no one’s surprise, it goes down about as well as it did at the Brewer’s Fayre. As Fax moves into his ‘quick fire comedy’ section, I bury my head back in my chips and pretend I’m not with him. At least if I don’t listen properly I won’t have to lie and say I thought it wasn’t shit.

‘… and he said “I’m sorry, I thought you said tea tree”!’

‘Why do immortals come in boxes of eight when you only have seven chakras? What does anyone need a spare immortal for?’

‘I wish you could bottle peace. That’s not the joke. Society is the joke.’

‘Everyone claims they know about the crystal dragon, but do they care? NO, OIL COMPANIES!’

I catch Lee looking at me to try and figure out what his reaction to this is supposed to be. The audience is once again talking among themselves. Fax’s next joke, about being oppressed in Asda, is interrupted by a big fat guy yanking the curtain and lurching into the room.

‘Sorry fella, this cannae wait…’

We all look round to see the guy head straight for the disabled loo in the corner. A few seconds later, there’s the sound of seventeen mating water buffalo coming out of there. Fax is horrified. Joanne is horrified. The audience are confused and horrified. I’m pissed and horrified. Lee is, I dunno, a plasterer.

Joanne grabs her skirts and whirls up to the door. She bangs on it furiously.

‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing!’

‘Aye I’ll be out in a minute!’

Another big fat guy appears from behind the curtain. Judging by their expressions, some of the audience think this is part of the show. I don’t think it is. ‘Alan? Alan are you in here pal?’

‘I’m having a shite Frank, leave mine on the bar.’

‘Frank’ shrugs and disappears. ‘Alan’ starts up with the water buffalo noises again.

Joanne bangs on the door again. ‘You fucking come the fuck out of there right fucking now!’

‘Fucking hell lassie I’ll be out in a minute, I just told you!’

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting Joanne to lose her shit over someone trying to lose their shit. She grabs a vacant chair and stats trying to break the toilet door down. This suggests to Alan that maybe he should come out.

‘Fucking hell what’s your problem? I was just using the fucking toilet! What’s the matter with you? Time of the month?’

At this point, Alan has two problems facing him. Firstly, he doesn’t realise that Joanne is capable of killing a man at fifty paces when Fax is upset. Secondly, Alan has a ponytail. The next thing we know, Joanne has grabbed this ponytail and is either trying to drag him out of the room, or trying to pull all the remaining hair out of his head, to punish him for interrupting Fax’s genius. My money’s on both.

‘Ow Jesus Christ Ow! You fucking mental bitch!’

Alan might have put up more of a fight had he been sober, or had he not been in shock at this skinny 5-and-a-half-foot hippy daring to drag him along by his hair. As it is, he allows himself to be led back to the curtain then pushed through it.

Joanne returns to her seat like nothing’s happened. The audience starts cheering her, although a couple of them look like they’re doing it out of fear. She blows a kiss to Fax, who simpers at her then carries on with his ‘oppressed in Asda’ nonsense. A couple of people start to laugh where they think the punchlines might be, and I notice they’re looking nervously at Joanne as they laugh.

Because of this threat to the audience members’ lives and hair, the rest of Fax’s show gives the outward appearance of being a proper comedy show. Anyone in the other room (apart from Alan, obviously) would have thought Fax was hilarious, and not that the audience were scared Joanne would rip their nipples off. To my astonishment, a few people actually put a fiver in the bag Joanne is holding at the door. I notice they don’t hang around.

‘Yay you were amazing!’ screeches Joanne when everyone’s gone.

‘I couldn’t have done it without you’ wibbles Fax. Never has a truer word been spoken. They go off to the bar to celebrate with a pint of what sounds like ‘Pisswazzer’. Me and Lee sit there looking at each other for a minute.

‘Well?’ is all I can think to say to him?

He downs his drink. ‘I can honestly say I’ve never seen a show like it.’

Well?

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