I was performing at a weekend booking of gigs at Pryzm in Bristol. Think Oceana, or Flares, or whichever other cattle market you get your neon-coloured shots from. Tiger Tiger maybe – a place so predatory they named it twice.
Pryzm is a great venue for clubbing: high ceilings, loud sound systems, bars everywhere. These, however, are not good things for a comedy night, not least because they’re attractive features for stag- and hen-dos. And for some reason a group of sexually frustrated, drunk people still thinks the best way to celebrate a weekend is to fill up on stimulants in the form of cocaine, taurine and Jägermeister, and then attempt to sit down and listen to jokes and some social commentary. It’s like having a rollercoaster in a library.
Tonight: we have a 15-strong stag-do in, all wearing black polos with Tony Montana embroidered on them. So we know their stance regarding drug use, and also comedy: eavesdropping on their conversation, I find out their intention, between lines of Colombia’s finest, to “ruin the comics” that come on stage as they’re “the real funny ones”. (I feel at this point that I should explain that I’m using the toilet; my nerves get to me before shows, and I respect my comedy colleagues enough not to make the green room uninhabitable.)
The night begins. The first act (whose name I shall protect, because it’s not pertinent to this anecdote, and we’ve all been there) opens with a line ridiculing Ukip, to illicit a sense of unity amongst fellow patrons of performing arts in their rejection of Ukip’s racist ideology. He is wrong. The stag party, lead by a particularly loud stag, begins to chant “Ukip! Ukip!” enthusiastically. The first act understandably struggles, and departs for another gig, leaving the compere and me to sort through the rubble.
I begin my set before a crowd that’s being held hostage by this stag party. Heckles such as “Buyakasha” (thanks Sacha Baron Cohen, on behalf of all black men) and “What ghetto you from, bruv?” are directed at me.
I then ask the loudest stag what makes him the ringleader within his group. He replies: “I’m Sperm Donor,” turning round to show the lettering on the back of his shirt. The problem is, he’s spelled it “SPERM DONER” – as in kebab. As in, a kebab covered in man-yonnaise, or gar-dick sauce. I’m saying these puns now because I didn’t get to at the time. Instead, I said: “I hope nobody you love gets sick, or needs your help.”
The audience is now in hysterics, and the gig feels like an actual gig, thanks in part to Sperm Doner and his former English teacher.
Then, the icing on the cake. Nothing pisses off a self-styled alpha male more than a friend saying: “He’s got you there mate.” The Doner’s racial slurs are drowned out by laughter. Security kicks them out to continue their awkward night. And, like that, one of my greatest hecklers commits comedy suicide.
This article appears in the 09 Aug 2017 issue of the New Statesman, France’s new Napoleon