With my wife having the next day off work, Zhing just popping along for the ride, Matt also performing at the Bush while having a dodgy car and Rob Kemp’s gig being cancelled it made for a very, very full Suzuki Alto flying down the Birmingham New Road on the way to Le Bush. Zhing, Matt and Rob con-stantly moaned about the lack of room in the back but wifey and I were fine, and she occasionally plays with my penis so is easily the most important person in the car.
We arrived at a time that I thought was early, to find an already packed Bush and just as you thought no more people could fit in another act or 7 turned up. I think 13 acts ended up on the bill and produced a classic night at The Bush.
A contingency from London came up and as is usual for The Bush when a car full appears, they put on a great show. Special mention has to go to Lenny Sherman who tore the place a new one.
So this all seems like a lovely night with nothing really to report, other than to say my stuff worked really well and even though I ended up surrounded by distractions the set still flowed, I felt comfortable up there and people kept laughing.
Come on…you know me by now. There has to be more to it than that, and there was.
On the bill was Scott Ambrose. Now I maintain that Scott is one of the gutsiest comedians on the Open 10 circuit. He’ll split a room, he’ll terrify audience members and he’ll be accused of not being funny. But when he speaks, he really does speak from the heart. Sometimes he’ll find an audience, or a section of the audience, that go with him - that tends to be other comedians - but it’s not rare to see Scott shouting at an audience comprised of people open mouthed wondering where the jokes are. I don’t know if Scott needs to alter his material or find a new audience, but I maintain that one day something will happen and it’ll all fall into place for him. Then everyone will be saying, “Yeah, I liked him all along.”
I’d recorded an episode of Scott’s podcast “Therapy Without a Couch” and before, during and after that recording our discussions centred around comedy. It became obvious that we love similar comedians. It also turned out that we had mutual opinions around a certain type of humour.
Now it’s possible the next bit could be read incorrectly. So let’s draw some lines in the sand. I am NOT saying that comedians should be censored, I am NOT saying that a certain type of comedy has more “worth” than another type of comedy and I’m certainly not saying that comedians should stop doing certain types of material. This is purely about knowing my own voice and what I want to do on stage. And the one thing Scott and I do on stage is point fingers at things we notice, that we have a strong opinion about.
The issue here focuses around rape jokes. Independently Scott and I had thought about rape jokes where the target of the joke is the rape victim. This felt odd to us. Surely a rape victim has been through enough without becoming the target of a joke?
We chatted about a lot of other things as well, but this question of who we poke fun at with our jokes was constantly there. Is the victim of our joke a deserving victim? As a consequence we both went away and without the other knowing wrote some rape joke material which explored the things we were thinking about. The upshot being that we both messaged each other like excited puppy dogs who had discovered the joys of licking our own bollocks to say, “I’ve written some material. What do you think?”
It was obvious that while we had arrived at the destination via the same road we’d decided to visit different parts of town. Scott’s was in the more aggressive part of town, which was a road filled with dodgy pubs, misspelt graffiti, back alleys hosting Fight Clubs and rabid dogs biting the ankles of drug addled prostitutes, whereas mine was in the library. Albeit that part of the library populated by drunks discussing when would be the best time to visit the Fight Clubs and drawing spunking cocks into books in the reference section. It felt like only one of us needed to do our material and Scott simply said, “Yours is better. Do yours.”
So there I was, in the Bush with what felt like 10 minutes of newish material which included a “rape joke” a la Dave Pitt. Act after act went on and there were a couple of rape jokes were the rape victim was the butt of the joke. Scott and I glanced at each other and had a little smile. Then a particular joke came up. It was clumsy, very much targeted at the rape victim and more than a little cruel. Worst of all, it wasn’t that funny. I bit the inside of my lip and did think, “I wonder what this act will make of my rape joke?” Then I looked at Scott. His shoulders were raised and his head was straining at his neck. I knew what this meant and sure enough a while later when Scott was about to be called to the stage he looked at me.
“Sorry mate, I have to do this.”
What followed was a tour de force. I won’t even describe his routine as it wouldn’t do it justice. As usual it split the room, but it took the idea of rape jokes poking fun at victims, and it tied it to a tree before throwing a missile at it. By the end he was half naked, probably bleeding, the microphone wasn’t working and the crowd were exhausted. I loved it.
I get why some people don’t like Scott’s act. I get why he scares people. Really, I get it. But please, open your mind. Consider what he’s doing. Consider what he’s saying.
He’s gutsy, he’s honest and most importantly he’s funny. He’s just not like anything else on the circuit.
I’m glad I didn’t have to follow him.
Eventually it was my turn to take the stage. It was late, there was a lot of tiredness and drunkenness in the room but up I popped. I too launched into an “attack dog” set but not as aggressive as Scott did. There was still shouting and calling the audience a “bed of cunts”. There were also a lot of interruptions and distractions. A few months ago this would have completely phased me and I’d have hated it. On this night though, I relished it. It was hard work and I ended up on stage for 20 minutes doing material that I’m sure doesn’t fill 10. There was the “battle of the Dave’s” between one Mr Dave "Wolfie" Francis and one Mr Pitt (all good natured and I think Dave won). There were power cuts when I mentioned “Crad-ley Heath” - on purpose I must add. It was pure Bush Madness and I loved every second of it. I got off stage to a lot of applause and I got some lovely comments at the end. This attack dog persona really seems to be hitting home so I’ll pursue it more.
Gig #75… it feels like it should be a milestone and in a way it was.