Do You Know The Way To Felixstowe?

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s triumphant speech at the Glastonbury Music Festival, which I was a mere 200 miles away from, I couldn’t wait to see how the conservative Daily Mail would report it. Yep, they didn’t let me down, reporting accusations (probably from their own staff) that it was another case of BBC Leftist bias, plus hypocrisy on behalf of the largely Labour-supporting audience who could afford the £238 minimum price per ticket, while the people they want to reach are the less fortunate. Corbyn has surged in popularity starting with his Labour party manifesto, then with his compassionate responses to the various crises that have troubled the UK in the last month.  The Mail decided not only to downplay his support base, but to report how PM Theresa May appeared at the more “important” events celebrating Armed Forces Week. Except she didn’t show up at the military celebra”Tory”event I was performing at, though she certainly would have been more welcome there than Corbyn.

How did the leftie me get coerced into performing at the anti-Glastonbury, playing ahead of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Madness tribute bands? I was scared shitless when the bookers, who had never seen my act, told me of the nature of the gig. To cap it off, amidst all the flag-waving and pomposity, it was a Family Show, which meant no profanity and nothing particularly dark or edgy, and I’d have to do 45 fucking minutes! This gig was booked shortly before Christmas last year, and what they were agreeing to pay me was nearly double what I used to make when I’d do comedy venues at the Leeds, Reading, and Guildford festivals every year from 2001-2007 (much higher pressure gigs where I saw some of the best die on their asses). Over the ensuing months, I occasionally would ask the bookers if they were absolutely sure I was The One, strategically never mentioning to them that this would be my first comedy gig in nearly FOUR MONTHS. It wasn’t until after I performed on Saturday that I found out they discovered me online, after Googling “musical UK-based stand-up acts,” then when my website came up, they viewed some video and Bob was my uncle, as they’d say here.

This gig was in the seaside town of Felixstowe, Suffolk, about 60 miles east of my North London home. I had been here once before, in 2001 when I was working a weekend in Ipswich, about 20 miles inland, and at that point had never seen any British coast. I only spent a couple hours there, and thought it quaint, but like many beach towns I would see over the years here, no place I could imagine living. Fast forward 16 years, and this time I’d be spending the night in a funky hotel only a few hundred yards from where I’d be performing. I brought my girlfriend along to offer not only moral support, but a shoulder to cry on should the gig go as tits-up as I was fearing.

While the town didn’t impress me much, most of the residents we met and/or talked to were totally in love with the place. Didn’t matter that the beaches were rocky, the water looked dirty, the waves and undertow looked menacing, and the weather ranged from frigid to nearly bearable, they were almost as proud of the town they lived in as they were their country. And with the weekend being in tribute to the men and women of the armed services, the draft-dodging former hippie, big-city boy and lifelong left-winger me felt as out of place as I would have at a Trump rally.  Nice people, every single one we talked to, and probably all of them voted for Brexit.

It got around towards 6:30, only a half-hour away from my trial, and for some reason, I felt a little surge of confidence. Not sure why, maybe because the sun had come out and the wind had died down. Or maybe it was because the tech crew agreed to move the people-barriers up a bit so that interaction with the crowd of maybe 100 would be more possible. Whatever it was, I remained undeterred when the first couple gags got merely a nod of recognition. My girlfriend was at the ready to help escort me from the premises if need be.

It didn’t need be. Something happened after the third quickie bit, my boy band medley where I choose real songs by different boy bands that are the same tempo and same key, string them together, then comment at the end how each one has “their own individual style.”  What was that? Applause?? They were getting me, they were deciding I was worth paying attention to, even though I’m a Foreigner, and probably had no business being at this gig. As more of them began paying attention, my worry about no interaction was totally gone. There were in fact some great requests, all of which I was able to do something with. The numbers in the crowd grew too, but that may have just been Chilli Pepper fans jockeying for position. Best of all, my new running gag of spacing different Trump song parodies throughout the set worked really well, as even these likely Thatcher fans knew where to draw the line. I made it to my 45-minute finish line without breaking much of a sweat and without saying fuck or shit. First thing the booker said to me when I got backstage: “That was fuckin’ great!”

So my ego was stroked, and my girlfriend and I savoured the rest of the evening, having some of the best seafood ever, drinking until bedtime, while watching people outdrink us to the max, which some probably do every night. The hotel we were staying at was, to be nice, a shithole, and we were woken up by seagulls at about 4 AM, staying awake for the next couple hours. Their breakfast was cheap (not included with the room cost), but that’s about all you could say about it. We left for London earlier than we planned, which was underscored by our final dialogue with some other hotel guests.

That last conversation was at the breakfast table sitting next to these two clearly related women, could’ve been sisters, cousins, maybe even mother/daughter, we really couldn’t figure. They were bitching about the same things we did regarding the hotel, but also said they’ve come to these festivities the past five years from their little village about 15 miles inland. They recognised me from the show the previous night, said they enjoyed it, and another sigh of relief . Later, after we had checked out and were in the lobby waiting for our cab, we ran into them again. One of them made a point of telling us, since they were disappointed with their night’s stay, they had found out the owner of the place was a Mr. Sing. The way she said it, it was like she was expecting us to agree that it’s another case of immigrants coming over here and making our lives miserable. Let’s see how they feel when they realise Brexit won’t solve that problem.

Meanwhile, I’m on a comedy high, and can’t wait for my next stand-up gig July 15th, in London, thank god!



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