Sixty Five.

The Gig: Edinburgh @ The Cricketers’, The Cricketers’ Arms, Keighley
The Date: July 8th 2010
The Line Up: Myself MCing for Justin Moorhouse in “The Boiled Egg On The Beach” and Jason Cook in “The End: Part I”

On Wednesday night I was MCing for a group of comics on the verge of taking their first shows to the Edinburgh festival. Twenty four hours later and I was due to perform the same job for two acts finding themselves arguably at the other end of the Edinburgh festival scale. Rather than being relatively green acts looking to refine their talents these were two headliners at the top of their games. Two comics with a collective list of accolades that included a multitude of awards, high profile engagements and TV credits. Between them you could pretty much tick off almost everything you’d find on an aspiring comedian’s to-do list in the industry. Both were guaranteed to do a roaring trade at the festival while those around were struggling to catch the public’s interest. The shows were almost guaranteed to be brilliant and I couldn’t wait to see the faithful at The Cricketers’ Arms welcome them with open arms.

I couldn’t wait but it looked like I might have to. I’d set off with Laura at a civilised hour giving myself plenty of time to get to Keighley, welcome Justin and Jason and make sure the audience were once again briefed with what to expect from an Edinburgh preview night. I’d be lying if I wasn’t also rather selfishly pleased with the prospect of showing off how lovely the gig was to someone else. Yep, I confess, I was gushing about Comedy @ The Cricketers’ as we turned onto the M60 heading clockwise. I regaled my companion with tales of the numerous hilarious moments that had taken place as the traffice slowed to a crawl. I was explaining why the line ups in store for the rest of the year were so exciting as the traffic stopped completely.

Oh dear. This does not look good.

Ever the professional I suspected I should warn Jason & Justin to make sure they didn’t both drive straight into the same mess. It then became apparent that one of them really should have rung and warned me as they’d both been more than aware of the M60’s attempt to impersonate the M25 and taken shrewd alternative routes. Justin also suggested that this wouldn’t have happened if I’d listened to his radio show. Apparently there had been a leaper whose overwhelming urge to shuffle off this mortal coil had only been matched by his overwhelming desire to do so with as high a profile as possible. I was, I confess, struck by some very uncharitable thoughts. “Heating a bath full of water? 68p. Pop-up toaster? £5. Congestion free traffic around Manchester? Priceless.” Yes, I’m fairly convinced I’m a decent person with humanitarian urges but make me slightly late for a gig and the value I place on a man’s life is going to plummet.

Fortunately we were close to the M61 turn off. I headed up the A666 (Yes… Don’t read too much into it. It’s just a number. They kept building A roads, they were bound to get there eventually.) and drove through Bolton with a view to getting onto the M66 after the blockage. Having driven to Keighley a fair few times I was confident enough to leave the satnav locked in the boot. As it turns out, between myself, Laura and the map on my Google phone I managed to find my way to the M65, an entirely different motorway that thankfully still pointed in the right direction. Trusting a route to my sense of direction is a bit like trusting your leg to a terrier with a semi. Fortunately, on this night, the scenic route was still the right one. I’d aimed to be at The Cricketers’ at 7:30pm. We eventually rolled up at a quarter to nine. I’d rung ahead and suggested that, should I be running late, that Justin just go on and start at 8:30. The crowd of regulars that cheered my arrival outside suggested that they’d waited instead. I was genuinely touched at first.

Then I realised there was a subtext. Video footage of myself MCing the comedy at the Beatherder festival the previous Saturday. Yes, one of the regulars had cunningly whipped his phone out while I busted a groove semi-naked and now had immortalised my pasty, flabby flesh in MPEG format. Bear in mind that there was now a TV screen set up in readiness at The Cricketers’ and it became apparent that I was about to become the next viral video star. All of a sudden I was in danger of becoming the uncool cousin of the star wars kid. I watched as the phone was plugged into a laptop and various conspiratorial looks were shot in my direction. The legend of my Beatherder antics had spread and everyone knew was was going to follow. Fortunately, on this night at least, the clock was my friend and so was Microsoft Windows. “I’m a PC and I’m not going to allow the conversion of this video file to be remotely straightforward.” Tough luck guys, next time maybe…

I stepped up to MC the opening of the show as quickly and efficiently as I could. That said I did have something to address. I spoke of the rumours concerning my antics at Beatherder and mentioned that there might be video footage that could well be considered embarrassing. I paused, took a deep breath and told all and sundry that if I wasn’t remotely humilated by doing what I did stone-cold sober then there wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d give two tosses about seeing it back on video. Keighley, I said, do your fucking worst. They got me. They cheered. I love that gig.

Yeah? Yeah? Bring it!

Swiftly I brought Justin on to preview his show, “The Hard Boiled Egg On The Beach”. You won’t find a safer pair of hands in the industry than Mr Moorhouse. Here’s a man who could have walked onstage with pretty much nothing and still delivered an hour of comedy that would blow the roof of. His show was about his background, his childhood, his life and the journey to where he was now. Some really funny stuff in there, some great stories and some fun interaction playing to his naturally quick wit. There’s a nice story in there about finding peace with himself after all his ups and downs too. The Cricketers’ faithful lapped him up and gave him a great response. Before he headed off, Justin suggested that he’d love to come back the next year. Praise indeed for our little gig.

“These aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for…”

After a short, sharp break Jason Cook stepped up to become only the second comic to have played The Cricketers’ twice. You play here twice son… In all honesty, it’s partially due to Jason that the Edinburgh previews at The Cricks’ came about at all. Last December he’d asked me if I’d thought about running Edinburgh previews there after he’d closed the Christmas special. I’d been musing the idea for a little while but this was the moment that crystallised it for me. As a result I had a word with John, the landlord, and the wheels were set in motion. As such it was a great pleasure to be able to introduce Jason for his preview.

As a random aside Jason and I took our first solo shows to the Edinburgh festival in the same year, 2007. Jason’s debut show,” My Confessions”, was a long-nurtured labour of love that explored some incredubly poignant and personal stories. Playing at The Stand, it drew a slew of five star reviews and become one of the hits of the fringe. My show, “Please Hold, Chris Brooker Knows You Are Waiting” was a semi therapeutic affair about my many years working in call centres. Being incredibly lazy, I hashed it together in the three weeks before I went up and played The Meadow Bar for the Laughing Horse Free Festival. It drew one three star review from The Scotsman which I wanked myself to sleep over for about six months. I went up for a week, a tourist of a comedian, paddling in the shallow end of the Edinburgh Festival rather than suiting up and diving in with the sharks. Jase, in contrast, grabbed an anvil to his chest and threw himself past Ed Harris into The Abyss. Paid off though. Proof that there’s no arguing with the combination of talent and hard work.

As of July 2010 I’d never actually seen any of Jase’s shows. When I was in Edinburgh ComedySportz always seemed to clash with his spot. When he was previewing in Manchester I always seemed to be gigging, busy or shattered. Because of this I was looking forward to checking out the new show. Definately worth catching if you’re up in Edinburgh, there were plenty of laughs along the way as Jase recounted an event from last December that brought him face to face with his own mortality. Part of the show is a list provided by his wife to assist him in becoming both a better man and a better husband. Funny in and of itself, I found myself entertained on a wholly different level as I used to be fairly good friends with the oft mentioned Mrs Cook. More than once I found myself thinking “Yep, that sounds like Clare.” Delving into the idea of leaving a legacy Jason talked about some of the happenings that have taken place during his tours of Australia and New Zealand. I made a mental note to head over as soon as I could… Better start saving. An hour and an encore later and Jason’s work in Keighley was done. Audience happy, comics happy, the 2010 Edinburgh Preview season at The Cricketers’ Arms had been a complete success.

Ever the prima donna, Jase requested a stool on the stage. This would be one of the three instances in the hour when he used it. Lively.

I went on to wrap up the night, thanked everyone for coming and also thanked them for helping to make the two preview nights such a huge success. I reminded them that the good word will spread like wildfire and that 2011 will see demand vastly outstrip supply for the preview slots we’ll offer. I was also extraordinarily proud of the way that The Cricketers’ faithful had demanded an immediate encore of Jason’s pony impression. Doesn’t hurt to have the tail wag the dog from time to time.

Back to one night a month from August. I’ll miss my fortnightly trips to Keighley… Still, if I get to do it all the time then I’d maybe become complacent. I might start to take the place for granted. If I do that, my ego will run out of control. It’ll be almost impossible to keep me grounded.

Well, unless you happen to have footage of me dancing shirtless. Roll on July 29th.

Oh and there was an interesting guest ale on draft…

This Justin…

Gig Score: N/A
Lesson Learnt: M60 anticlockwise rather than clockwise.

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