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.

Joanne and Fax are prancing along next to me looking smug; Joanne is clutching a fistful of fivers. In what could only be a miracle caused by Fax holding his stupid obsidian, they’ve made a slight profit on today’s show. This is because everyone had a good time watching that naked man dancing on that roof, and they decided it would be rude not to thank Fax for this. Not that I can blame them, it’s the most fun I’ve had since I got here.

‘I told you Fax would be a success!’ crows Joanne. I don’t say anything, who am I to piss on their bonfire?

We’re wandering along up some street, with no real plan for the evening. Joanne and Fax are in a good mood because a naked guy inexplicably got them some money, I’m in a good mood because I had Quality Street for lunch and the sugar hasn’t worn off yet, and to top it all of it’s not raining. The world is our deep-fried oyster.

The area’s relatively quiet, but we still manage to be accosted by a billion people offering us ‘free five-star comedy’. I see the bald climate change Yul Brinner girl approaching; she doesn’t recognise me, but I recognise her.

‘DO NOT EVEN FUCKING THINK ABOUT IT.’

Then she does recognise me, and slopes off.

Joanne looks round after her. ‘What’s the matter? Do you not like that show?’

‘No, I’ve seen it. It’s about weather.’

Luckily Joanne doesn’t give a shit about anything I do, so she lets it go. We see a couple of posters as we walk along:

  • The People’s Bus: free and open discussion about all things political, with tea and cake. All welcome! (No Tories)
  • ‘TransTastic!: come meet our hosts, and leave with the knowledge that anyone can be transgender if they try hard enough
  • SCOTLAND, I AM IN YOU: a zany look at…

Hang the fuck on. That last one. It’s that fucking poster again with that man, and he’s even more annoying since this one hasn’t had anyone think to write ‘twat’ on his head yet. Well I’ll soon fix that. I must have a biro in my bag…

‘Hey you can’t do that, it’s private property!’ screeches Joanne. So much for ‘we must overthrow the capitalist tyranny at Moto services’.

‘I fucking can and I will,’ I reply. ‘This man is my enemy.’

My bastard pen doesn’t work. Oh wait of course it doesn’t, it’s that shit free one that came with the puzzle book. I throw the pen at his face, and resolve to come back later.

We find a normal looking pub with some people milling around outside. ‘I don’t suppose you two just fancy, you know, going for a drink and a sit down?’

Joanne rolls her eyes. ‘God Melissa, people don’t do that here!’

I think the people standing outside that pub with pints, having a nice chat, might disagree. ‘Look, my feet are starting to hurt, just for half an hour…’

‘No, there isn’t even a poetry slam here!’

I bite my tongue, because they are coming to see Nonsense! with me tomorrow, and if I get too arsey with them they might not.

‘I’ll do you a deal Jo, if I come to something stupid and crap with you, will you find me a pen so I can go back and write on that guy’s head?’

She thinks about it for a second.

‘And no trying to fob me off by getting Fax to give me a quill, again.’

‘Fine, deal.’

We carry on walking. ‘What have you got against that guy on the poster anyway?’

‘He’s annoying. And he’s in me. Or I’m in him. I’m not sure.’

‘What?’

‘Never mind.’

Chapter 42: Nuclear Warheads

We end up going to see ‘TITS!: A riotous, hilarious smashing of the Patriarchy’. This is supposed to be a compromise, but all I get out of it is access to a pen afterwards, if I’m lucky.

The inside of the venue smells like the ‘goddess empowerment’ minibus Joanne made us go on last year – lavender and armpits. Because I’d rather die than wade through the BO moshpit that stands between me and booze, I put my foot down and make Joanne and Fax go to the bar. I go and stand next to a poster advertising ‘Adolf pale ale’, and try not to breathe in. In a desperate attempt to disassociate myself from my surroundings, I check my mobile to see if Saif has burned the shop down. Sadly he hasn’t.

I try to look on the bright side. OK brain, let’s go:

…I’ll eventually be dead.

Come on brain, we can do better than that.

…At least it’s comedy, there might be a few knob gags in there or something.

…I get to write ‘I am a twat and a virgin and a twat’ on that guy’s forehead later.

…I’m going to watch Nonsense! live tomorrow.

Nice work brain. I’m not even being sarcastic. We make a good team sometimes.

Joanne has bought me vodka, which cheers me up even more. She’s got a pint of Stella again, which really isn’t like her.

‘Yeah, I’m getting a taste for it.’ Fair enough. Fax has something with an umbrella in it.

We make our way to the back room for the show, and I’m pleasantly surprised. Instead of strip lights and six chairs, it’s a proper miniature theatre. Joanne and Fax want to sit at the front, because apparently Fax saw a review of this in his stupid Broadway Baby thing, and – you’ll never guess what – it got five stars.

‘It’s supposed to be terribly confrontational,’ he says, trying to manoeuvre his moustache round the umbrella. It doesn’t occur to him to take the umbrella out.

‘I thought it was a comedy?’

‘It is, but it’s a political comedy.’

‘Ssssh, I think it’s starting.’ Joanne nips me, which is uncalled for because I was being quiet.

‘Ow! Fax! Control your woman!’

Fax’s monologue about ‘M’Lady being a free spirit and a wood nymph’ is thankfully cut short by the lights going off and the music starting.

‘Reach for the stars…’

Oh I love this song! Is it Steps or S Club 7?

‘Climb every mountain high and…’

Someone’s banging a drum in the wings, and it’s putting me off the song. I wish they’d fucking stop, it’s not even in time. Also, I realise I’m the only one singing along.

Just as we get to the middle bit, and I’m singing along about reaching my goal, three women thud onto the stage, with a combined weight of 4,000 stone. I stop singing, because they are naked. Well, I think they’re naked, I can’t really tell with bits hanging over other bits. But they’re all in danger of knocking themselves out with their own tits.

How many fucking naked people do I have to see this week? Is this some episode of Beadle’s About, where they just make me look at naked people all week? And then at the end I win a fucking Beadle’s About signed whoopee cushion or something? That would be a really shit episode of Beadle’s About. Especially since it isn’t even on any more.

I tear my eyes away from the krakens, and glace around. Joanne and Fax are grinning and clapping, as are all the sweaty women in the audience.

The three of them are doing ballet dancing to S Club 7. I’m genuinely worried for the stage. And the building, if I’m honest. I make a mental note of where the nearest fire exit is, then get back to the perplexing business of whatever the fuck it is that’s happening.

S Club 7 finishes, and the women stop to take a bow. One of them is clutching her chest as she bows. This is terrifying. No one in the audience seems to share my concerns, because they’re standing and cheering. One woman is wiping away tears. By sheer reflex action I stand up with them, albeit slightly confused. They’re naked and not all that with it, shouldn’t the police be here with a megaphone and a blanket? I feel like I’ve been shot into some parallel universe where these women are the equivalent of Ken Dodd.

The next song starts up before our heroines have got their breath back. Luckily it’s a bit slower. One of the women has the energy to grab the microphone, at least.

‘War! Huh, yeah, what is it good for!…’

‘Killing all the men!’

She raises the equivalent mass of six arms, and the crowd goes mad. I wonder if she knows you can get bic razors for cheap in the supermarket.

‘Oooh war! Is an enemy to all womankind!’

At this point I think she’s forgotten how the song goes. This carries on for a bit, while I sit and try to figure out if someone’s spiked my drink.

Joanne elbows me. ‘Isn’t this brilliant!’ I think she’s actually laughing and not just off her tits, so I move my mouth into something approaching a smile, and nod. Then I make absolutely sure that fire exit is still there.

The next song is All The Single Ladies by Beyonce. Fitting, as they have the same combined bodyweight as all the single women in the world put together. At least I know this one, they played it at that pub I went to with the women from Slimming World once. I tried to do the kind of arm waving dancing you see in magazines to it, but I got tired after a minute. Given this, I have to take my hat off to the krakens for not getting tired, but I wish they’d stop dancing and do some comedy.

‘If you like it then you should have put a ring on it…’

At this bit, one of the women attempts to put a hula hoop over one of the others, but it won’t go past her tits. I get the feeling it was supposed to go and they were supposed to move onto something else, because I distinctly see the hoop’s recipient mouth ‘It’s fucking shrunk!’

The first woman gives up and they move onto ‘twerking’. I know it’s called that because I’ve seen it on adverts. I’m not sure twerking is supposed to give the general atmosphere of a rectal exam though. I stare down at my legs. Must do something about that barbecue sauce stain. Although, for the first time in my adult life, my legs do seem thin, by comparison.

Suddenly Joanne shoots out of her seat. She yells something in Fax’s ear, and drags him out of the theatre by his sleeve. It takes me a minute to understand that I’m supposed to follow them, and that I’m free from the inevitable ‘theatre collapse tragedy, 70 killed’ that will appear in tomorrow’s local papers.

As I make my way through the now empty bar, I’m too busy being relieved at still being alive to notice Joanne and Fax arguing in the corner.

‘Am I not enough for you?’

‘What?’

‘Is she more of a woman than I am? I thought I was a wood nymph!’

She can’t possibly mean the nuclear deterrents on stage.

As riveting as their argument is, I head over to get another drink before intervening.

‘Double vodka please, no ice. Oh, and an umbrella.’

The barmaid looks at me but she doesn’t say anything. I wander back over to Joanne and Fax. Joanne is crying now. Fax looks upset and puzzled at the same time.

‘Fax, how about you go to the bar for us? I’ll take care of this.’

I usher Joanne outside, by alternately pushing her and nipping her.

‘Joanne, you don’t seriously think Fax is after those women on stage?’

‘But he had an…’

‘What?’

‘You know… an erection.’

She whispers that last part to me, as if Fax or the krakens would hear her. No one hears her except me and a dog doing a piss against a nearby wall. Not sure if the dog wants to smash the patriarchy or not.

I take a gulp of my vodka. ‘Jo, do you remember when Fax had a wank in broad daylight, in a group of men, because he thought it would be impolite not to? Fax cannot be blamed for this.’

She sniffs. ‘Yeah, but those women are so powerful…’

That’s it. ‘No, those women are fucking 600 stone nuclear warheads, and Fax would never dump you for them. Also, I got you this…’

I hand her the umbrella from my drink. Weirdly, this seems to cheer her up more than anything I said. And it seems to calm her down, although that might also be due to getting away from the 300 ton cabaret.

‘So, you don’t think he loves one of them?’

‘Jo, listen to me. There is no chance on the fucking planet, which incidentally those ladies are the size of, for Fax to go off with anyone who isn’t you, never mind those NATO-sanctioned ladies. Men’s bodies are unpredictable, they can’t always control…’

Fax pokes his head round the door, clutching three purple cocktails. ‘M’Lady…’

Joanne lunges at him. I grab the drinks off him just in time. ‘Oh, I’m sorry I doubted you, my prince!’

Fax squeezes her. ‘I would never even gaze upon another lady.’

I take the opportunity to drink bits out of both of their glasses before they notice.

Well?

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