For my US tour I’ve been asked to remove any material relating to the electric chair or Tom Cruise.
I’m still at the Edinburgh Festival. I’ve been here 27 days now. Time flies when you’re being held hostage. Tonight is the last night; I know this because the cafe round the corner from our flat has run out of serviettes, paninis and posters. It’s like the calm after the war.
I shall take home with me some vivid memories of this festival. The one most worthy of reporting happened near the end.
At the back of my show sat a handsome old man aged about 70 – I thought. He wore a dark red cashmere jumper, a printed blue cravat, gold glasses, and occupied a great set of teeth. He dressed so well, he could have easily passed for borderline homosexual.
He laughed a lot until halfway through the show when I noticed he had his eyes closed – he was either sleeping or dead. I figured if he was sleeping, eventually he would wake up, and if he was dead I could arrange for a stretcher after the show.
So I carried on, hoping no one else would notice, until the man started snoring at full volume. At this point most of the audience turned around, the house lights came up and there he was in all his glory – Nicholas Parsons! Without any tact or any intention of being remotely amusing, I shouted: “Oh my God, Nicholas Parsons is asleep!” At which point he woke up with a huge grin on his face. It was obviously a filthy dream he was having.
His wonderful performance didn’t end there. He then came backstage to charmingly tell me: “I really loved your show. I’m so sorry I fell asleep. It’s my day off and I’ve been drinking all day – I think it’s gone to my head. I’m 83 you see.”
“Wow!” I said. “83! That’s amazing! I can still remember Sale of the Century and you’re 83! That’s a lot! ” And for some reason I then developed ageist Tourette’s where I just kept repeating: “You’re 83? You’re 83? 83? 83?” – like Friday night at a bingo hall on the Isle of Wight.
He then invited me on to his chat show, which takes place in sober conditions at 5pm in the afternoon and is consistently packed with loyal Nicholas Parsons fans. I always enjoy being a guest on his show, he’s very entertaining and I now refer to him as Uncle Nicholas. Not because he’s 83, but because he looks after me and supports me very well.
He also buys me Smarties every time I do his show, which is really touching, because the last time someone bought me Smarties was when I cleaned out the lost-property box at junior school when I was ten. So he introduced me on to the show, and it went great – till I fell asleep and started snoring uncontrollably.
I will be preparing this week for a long tour of the US. In the next few weeks, I’m off to San Francisco, Connecticut, New York, LA and maybe Texas. Texas is still under discussion for, as much as I love adventure, I draw the line at performing for the Ku Klux Klan. The Americans have already sent strict instructions to omit certain topics for fear of disturbing sensitivities in that country.
For my show in San Francisco, I received a letter instructing me as follows: “Kindly remove all material directly or vaguely associated with the electric chair, death row, or any other necessary means of punishment.” That’s a shame; some of my best material revolves around this hilarious topic. The letter went on: “Any material regarding Tom Cruise or George W is also to be deleted from performance.” Tom Cruise? I presume this is a joke since I can’t imagine anyone spending time at home writing sublime material on Tom, his teeth, his imaginary wife and Chinese child. All I know is that I have been robbed of a great opportunity to educate and enlighten the people of America on the oddball behaviour of a Hollywood A-lister.
Let’s hope they don’t all fall asleep and start snoring.