Even my white friends wouldn’t risk having me perform at their wedding.
I am a voyeur. I spend most of my life on the outside, observing the inside of other people’s lives.
A few months ago, a man named Mr Hitchen called me from Dorset. “I’ve got a wonderful little theatre in the village of Bridport. I was wondering if you’d like to come and play it?”
This man was so well spoken, I couldn’t work out whether he was posh or gay. He described how beautiful Dorset was, and said: “This village needs some comedy – please come.” He sounded so nice, I immediately said yes.
I got on the train to Dorchester and Mr Hitchen arrived in a big black car to collect me. He strode across the car park. White linen shirt undone, long silver necklaces round the neck, antique rings with transparent stones, greyish floppy hair, sandals. He looked very sexy for 60. He smelled of confidence and a Bentley interior. I can’t say I’m familiar with these types of smells but they did intrigue me.
We arrived at his theatre. It was 1950s, I-couldn’t-give-a-toss kind of decor. Hand-made artwork that his friends had painted, an old stage and a one-screen cinema. The village was so small, everyone had been out with each other at some point, or at least attempted to. The audience was great: all 200 of them laughed for two hours, then gave each other lifts home.
I was staying in Mr Hitchen’s 35-bedroomed mansion. Imagine Hogwarts without the speaking portraits. It’s not often that people are direct with strangers, and I quite admired his no-messing-about attitude. He said, “So how long have you been a show-off? You love that microphone, don’t you? And how much were your trousers?” I was becoming worried that this was all a euphemism for something more serious.
He invited me to tour the house; every room had a four-poster bed. By his bed he had books by Nietzsche and sandals by Church’s.
I had been invited to perform at a Muslim wedding the next day. This was a surprise, as even my white friends wouldn’t risk having me perform on their big day. I had been worrying about it for weeks. I didn’t want to ruin someone’s wedding by blurting out inappropriate jokes about anal sex and cisterns. All my material had been approved by the bride and groom and their parents had not told any of the guests that I was performing. I was the surprise jester at the halal ball.
I was hidden in a separate room until all the guests were seated, then led out by two burly Asian men who told me they would be waiting in the wings if anyone decided to issue me a fatwa as a result of my jokes. They pointed out all the emergency exits and a quick route to the car park, and gave me their phone numbers. I’m sure they just wanted to kidnap me for themselves.
The bride and groom were both 22 years old. I didn’t think 22-year-olds got married these days. I thought they were all shoplifting and abusing old women in Asda. By their standards, I should be getting my leg over the funeral pyre.
They had met of their own accord and it was their choice to get married. He was an optician and she was short-sighted, so it was a perfect match.
I thought it was quite forward-thinking to have a comedian at a Muslim wedding. I felt truly optimistic that we are on our way to joining our Jewish friends at the altar of humour.
In a way, there was little difference between the village in Dorset and the Muslim wedding. Both displayed tremendous courage in letting me loose on their small communities. Neither displayed drunk and unruly behaviour, most of the guests wanted a bit of a laugh, and all were desperate for sex. I was the perfect candidate for the job.