Tales from an from old school comic

It’s been a while since I last attempted to write a blog, but I’m going to give it another go and I will try to blog at least once every couple of weeks. The problem I have had with trying to blog and make it interesting is that I am usually positive and I don’t really want to post negative views on here. I will rant every now and then if I have a travel story that needs to be aired but I certainly will not be posting any negative comments about or involving companies that I work for, I’m not stupid!! Any way, all my clients are wonderful and so are their ships and I am happy to work for them all.

Also, due to a stage school education where I spent most of my time dreaming of being a comic you will notice that my grammar and spelling is not that great.This was my fault and not the wonderful Barbara Speake stage school’s fault as I was the one who didn’t pay attention in class. In fact I passed for grammar and if I had paid attention I would have got lots of Levels and A levels and probably would have ended up with a job I didn’t love!! I apologise for this in advance and hope it wont spoil your reading.

As most of you know if you have been directed here from my social media status updates, I am a British comedian, I have been in show business for over forty years having started out as a child actor at the age of thirteen. I often say on my status up dates that ‘I love my job’. I genuinely do and this seems to rub up some fellow ‘turns’ the wrong way. One comic who I respect and still consider a friend actually went off on one on his Facebook page saying that any comic who has to say he loves his job is dead behind the eyes. He also went on to say that he hopes he never has to do cruise ships, I totally get where he is coming from. Some comics and other entertainers really do think it’s a bit of a come down. For me, I really enjoy performing on the ships, what’s not to love about performing in theatres that are as good as any of the top west end theatres and playing to packed houses most of the time. I also really enjoy the challenge of changing my act to appeal to international audiences. Anyone who tells you as they often do that American audiences just don’t get British comedians have not got a clue what they are talking about. If a British comedian does his homework and covers subjects that American audiences are familiar with he will enjoy playing to them as much as a British audience if not better. The problem some times being is that American audiences are so enthusiastic and will stand up for the almost any show. If an entertainer does a run of American ships then suddenly plays to a British audience they take it personally that the audience will not give them a standing ovation and they complain that they are tough when in fact the audience have loved the show. I personally enjoy doing a run of British ships performing two different forty five minute shows then going to an American ship where we are usually just asked to do one show. The American show seems so easy after having worked so hard to the Brits.

A British guest on QE2 having seen me the night before perform to an audience consisting mainly of New Yorkers who loved the show once asked me “those Americans….all that clapping and cheering and laughing….does it put you off?” That says it all.

Some times when I am on a British ship and there are a lot of guests from north of the Watford Gap, I have to work harder at winning them over than I do to Americans. I’ve had northerners tell me that they didn’t come to my show as it was billed as ‘Laughs From London’. In the old days I faced this a lot, for many years I would play the northern clubs and got paid off a handful of times. If I am honest, the first time I got paid off I was so relieved as I had been told by other ‘soft southern comics’ that playing the clubs up north was a nightmare and they would tell me stories about when they got paid off and I used to wonder if it would ever happen to me. I once worked a week in Scotland for an agent called Adam Buggy (Central Scotland Artists?) I stayed in a hotel in Airdrie where it was mostly just entertainers. I shared a room with a great singer called Peter Saint. One morning the owner came in to the room and said “Peter, did you want waking up at half past eight or nine oclock.” Peter whispered “half past eight, what time is it?” The owner said “Ten o’clock, your late.”
Back to my original point, I was doing that run of gigs for Adam Buggy and one night I was booked in Kirkcaldy, to say I struggled would be an understatement. I felt as welcome as Donald Trump on a chat show hosted by Megan Kelly from Fox News. In those days if you were a comic and you were struggling the other comics would tell you to always do you time. If they try to dock your money or pay you off you would stand more chance of getting your money if you did your time. I did my 45 minutes just being stared at, when I walked off to the sound of my own foot steps I was told to go in to the office to sort out my money. When I walked in, there was the committee and they told me that they were paying me off and that I would only get half my fee. I was so pissed off but I didn’t want to show it. I reacted by saying “You know what, my family have got money and I am only doing this to see what the inside of a club like yours looks like. Forget paying me and put my money in to your benefit fund .” Well, they were amazed, the entertainment secretary then went in to his pocket and counted out my full fee and gave it to me insisting their money was as good as any other clubs money and they didn’t need me to boost the benefit fund. As the son of a milkman and a carpet lady from a normal working class family this made me laugh big time that I had managed to fib my way in to getting paid my full fee. However, when I got back to the digs I was told that the agent had called and that I was to pack my bags and go home via his office where I would pick up what was owed to me for two other gigs, I was being paid off. The agent who paid me off called Frankie told me to think abut giving up the business as he’d never heard so many bad reports about one comic. A few years ago I was on an American ship and having a great time, who should I bump in to but Frankie who still felt I was in his opinion a crap comic. Some things never change, we laughed about it and by the end of the cruise I managed to change his mind. Thank God he wasn’t the cruise director or I would have been off at Vigo our first port of call.

This year is going to be my busiest year ever, I have over 43 cruise contracts booked in and I know that in these hard times for entertainers and comics in the UK I am one of the lucky ones. To be honest, the reason I am doing so many is that not only do I want to keep my family living comfortably I have really changed my ambitions. No longer am I chasing spots on TV shows and I really don’t want to be a TV warm up comic like I was a few years ago. I really enjoyed my time doing that job and I worked on some great shows but it came to a point where I stopped enjoying it. When you end up warming up an audience of students and asking them to clap a meal…thats when you realise you are no longer the comic you set out to be. On the cruises, the night I am on I am the comic and the reason the audience have come in to the theatre and it’s a much bigger boost to the ego than handing over the rains to a comic half your age who you secretly despise. I will never say never and I am sure I will step in every now and then to do a warm up for shows where they might want an older comic over 30 but its certainly not in my four year plan. (More of that in a future blog) By the way, there are some superb warm up comics out there now and they do a wonderful job making a great living ,my good friends Andy Collins and Ian Royce spring to mind immediately.