New Statesman 2009
15 January 2009I had a call over Christmas from David Cohen, a journalist for the London Evening Standard. "Hi, do you remember me? I reviewed your Edinburgh Festival show a couple of years ago." My first thought was, "Is this the idiot who gave me a shit review?"
He said, "I was wondering, do you perform at people's houses? How much do you charge? It's my birthday on Saturday and I want to organise a surprise. Could you come round and do 30 minutes' stand-up comedy to 20 Jewish people in my living room? And can you do it for less money?" A bartering match ensued, until we came to a very cheap agreement. "This is the most Jewish thing I've ever done," he screamed.
On Saturday night I arrived at his house, where David introduced me by doing ten minutes of my material. I thought: "I hope he doesn't expect a refund for that - I've got only 20 minutes left."
Jews inviting Muslims to entertain them. How the tables have turned. And it really was a Jewish affair, lots of laughter, with a lovely buffet at which his wife and I bonded over the best kosher hot dogs in Crouch End.
Much more fun than the Essex pub where I had to perform later, which looked like a prison canteen. I hate New Year's Eve. It's full of drunk people getting more drunk, promising not to get drunk from tomorrow, then throwing up outside Dixons, fighting in Burger King, and getting on the wrong bus for fun. If I wanted to see fights like that, I'd wait for the sales in Primark.
This Essex pub was quaint. I walked in and there were about 60 people, not looking particularly happy, like someone in the community had died and they'd met up at the local pub for the post-funeral drink. A buffet had been laid out on the snooker table: sausage rolls, crisps, cheese on sticks. Most of it had not been touched. People were queuing up beside the table to have their photograph taken with the buffet. It was like a commercial for Asda.
There was a dartboard on the wall, next to which there was a notice that said: "To obtain darts a £5 deposit is required which will be returned when darts are handed back to staff - not at staff."
Eighties records were playing. There was tinsel lining the maroon walls, and a reddish-brown carpet which, if someone had been sick on it, no one would have noticed.
To create a bit of atmosphere, there were two flashing lights. The DJ was a fatherly figure wearing khaki trousers and an M&S rugby shirt. He had an alarm clock sitting on top of his cassette deck and set at midnight, presumably to let him know to get out of there.
Halfway through my set, a muscleman approached me onstage and shouted in my face: "F**k off." I only said I'd seen his shirt in Matalan.
I got escorted to my car and was paid in the car park. It was like Crimewatch.
I wanted to get out of there so fast, I actually drove the wrong way up a one-way street and round a mini-roundabout. If the police had stopped me, I'd have said I was doing it in self-defence.
To end a strange night, while driving up the motorway, I received a text message from these girls called Pam and Poppy. It read, "We're models trying to get hold of Russell Brand. Please tell him to get in touch." I thought it was a joke. A couple of minutes later, they called.
"We want to get hold of Russell Brand and Jason Donovan. We were wondering if you could tell them we called. We've met Jason Donovan a few times and would like to hang out with him."
I want to hang out with George Clooney, but I don't ring up Michael Douglas in the hope that he might know him and ask him to drop me a line.
I'm thinking of giving Poppy and Pam my dad's number. That'll teach them a lesson. Then I'll start a pimping agency. This time next year I'll be a billionaire.