Culture Magazine

There Was a Comic in England, a Comic in India and a Comedy Critic in Kenya…

By Thejohnfleming @thejohnfleming

I guess other people’s half-glimpsed lives always seem more interesting than your own but, if you actually lived their lives, you would only be aware of the hole in your left sock, occasional toothache and a tendency to go to the toilet in the middle of the night if you’ve drunk too much tea before going to bed.

Ah…

Just me, then.

Yesterday, I blogged about chatting to comedian Bob Slayer after a This Is Your Laugh comedy gig in London and his plans to tour Europe with a Swedish rock group. This morning, he told me what had happened to him after the gig:

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Bob Slayer shortly before being kicked in the face

Bob Slayer just before he was kicked

I got kicked in the face by a girl from Slovenia… OK, I did ask her to do it but that doesn’t make it hurt any less…

I was walking home after This Is Your Laugh and I saw two young ladies drinking a box of wine on a bench in Mile End Park. Attracted by the wine, I decided to go over and say hello. They both told me to “Fuck off, weirdo!” Which I suppose is fair enough. A lone man approaching two young ladies in the park after midnight can be a little intimidating.

I was going to just walk on but decided that an alternative way to put their minds at rest might be to acknowledge the situation and at the same time show them that I was friendly.

So I asked them: “Do you want to kick me in the face?”

One of them simply increased her volume of “Fuck off, weirdo!”

But the other showed some interest.

“Can I really?” she asked, as she bounced up and down like a Ninja.

“Um… OK then…” I replied.

She leapt in the air like Chun-Li, spinning around as she did so, then landed her foot directly on my nose in what I believe was a perfectly executed ‘roundhouse kick’.

I didn’t have time to be impressed as I was instantly falling backwards and downwards like a sack of spuds. She didn’t need to tell me that she was a kickboxer but she kindly did anyway.

I was also very impressed with her after-care service.

She apologised a lot, then took out some wet wipes to clean up the blood and we drank her wine together for the next hour before I finally tootled off home…

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That story, if you know Bob Slayer, might not seem to be particularly exceptional.

But this morning, I also got an e-mail from amiable and – I suspect he would not want to be called this, but he is – sophisticated comedian Matt Roper. (He performs as ‘Wilfredo’.) He is taking a break abroad:

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Matt Roper with a hair of the dog

Matt Roper with a hair of the Indian dog

There are sights in India a man should never have to see.

At the top of this list is the sight of yours truly, waking up fully-clothed on a bed in a ramshackle beach hut with my top lip stuck to my gum and wearing just one bright pink sandal.

There is an alcoholic drink made in Goa called Fenny, made from the juice of cashew apples then suitably distilled. One glass with a mixer can make you feel slightly merry. Two can get you utterly smashed. Unfortunately, as I found out far too late, it is also used medicinally as a strong laxative.

I thought I knew India – and my own body – very well. But I have been far too cocky. Stomach cramps. The shits. Five long days spent switching between staring at a rattling ceiling fan and looking at the back of the toilet door. Squatting for five days straight can send a man mad. You can’t go anywhere. You daren’t move.

Many words can be used to describe India but boring could never be one of them. It awakens your senses.

The other day I witnessed a lifeguard on a jet ski almost accidentally killing a swimmer and I have spent an afternoon paragliding with a lesbian from Kazakhstan. I have been called ‘a shit’ by a girl from Eastbourne, which is quite wrong. A bit of a cunt I might be. But not a shit. They are two entirely different things.

A friend from England is here somewhere, following Amma on tour. Amma – a guru from Kerala known as ‘the hugging mama’ – is giving satsang today. My friend, it seems, has become a devotee. I just had a text from her telling me that she is (my friend, not the guru) ‘on the stage’ at 5pm. What she is actually doing on the stage is a mystery which will soon be revealed. It staggers my mind. But, with a bit of luck, I might get a hug from the infamous Amma. I just hope she doesn’t call me a shit.

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Meanwhile, doyenne of British comedy critics Kate Copstick continues her work in Kenya, where her Mama Biashara charity helps poor people (mostly women) set up their own small businesses by giving them small start-up grants. She sent me these extracts from her diary:

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Kate Copstick in Kenya last week

Kate Copstick working in Kenya despite men

Doris is waiting with some groups of Zimbabwean women (the ones who are having to do casual labouring to eke a living) who want a grant, so we head back to Corner to meet Doris and the Zimbabweans.

The women are very sussed. These are terrific women – smart, strong and sooooooo long-suffering you would not believe it.

Husbands divide into three categories:

1) dead

2) ”anaenda anakuja” (he comes and goes)

3) useless/drunkard.

The average number of children is around six.

The women are anything from first to third generation Zimbabwean refugee. Their community is VERY male dominated (albeit the men are useless or drunk) and their religion forbids the use of medicines. If someone gets sick, they pray.

Frankly, I am beginning to thing that the Amoxill/Piriton/Ibuprofen brigade are quite smart after all.

The first group we meet are planning to sell fresh ginger. They know the market, they know their suppliers and they are going (at my insistence) to do half wholesale and half retail to maximise profit. There are nine women in the group, with forty children between them and their total grant is just under £300.

It is around £30 each. And I think this business will fly.

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As I said at the start, I guess other people’s half-glimpsed lives always seem slightly more interesting than your own but, if you actually lived their lives, you would only be aware of the minutiae. Even Kate Copstick’s minutiae, though, are more interesting than the hole in my left sock. She adds:

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My cats are fattening up on UHT milk and tinned sardines. And so are their fleas (I suspect) on ME. Anything that is not a scab is a lump, anything not a lump a bruise. I am considering suing the manufacturers of Doom, the spray with which the air in my lair is heavy and which promises death to anything that crawls or flies.

I am off to scratch.


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