Last month I experienced an odd series of events surrounding the comedian and actor Jason Manford.
I’d finally got an acting part on TV! I was playing a deputy headmaster in a short film for Halloween starring Ross Noble (it will be available on Sky on Demand from Friday). Had I not been a comedian, I would probably have been a teacher, as that’s what everyone in my family does, so it was unsettling to live out this alternate reality. The character had a moustache. I looked stupid. Thank God I didn’t go down that path.
Jason’s production company was making the film and he had just left the set minutes before I arrived. It seemed a shame.
But no matter, I’d almost certainly see him two days later as we were both on the bill at a charity gig to raise money for the brilliant Bristol Slapstick Festival. There are perhaps more deserving charitable causes, but I’d been keen to do it as I’d heard all the acts would get a free T-shirt. And there’s a saying in showbiz, “Richard Herring will work for biscuits or clothes.”
I was first on, but Jason was closing the second half and didn’t arrive til later. Once I’d got my T-shirt I was keen to get home, so we missed each other again.
The next morning Jason tweeted, "Have managed to avoid Richard Herring by about an hour twice in one week! Maybe he's avoiding me…..”
Later that day my wife and I managed to score some last minute tickets to a show. I didn’t have time to change into anything posh, so just stayed in the FREE Slapstick Festival T shirt (if you discount the petrol and time if took to get to Bristol) that I had excitingly put on that morning. Because I am a winner.
As I arrived at the theatre, someone called out my name. I thought it was probably another fan bothering me on my night off, wanting an autograph. That also happened in 2004 and it literally wasted 90 seconds of my life. But it’s one of the things we celebs have to deal with so I turned around with a forced smile on my face.
Standing in front of me was Jason Manford. I had missed him on Monday and Wednesday, but tonight, we had turned up at the same theatre at the same time, by total happenstance. What were the chances? Given his earlier tweet it seemed especially spooky. If he was stalking me he’d done an amazing job. I hadn’t even known I’d be here one hour before. Maybe I was stalking him…
His partner laughed and pointed out that we were both wearing Slapstick Festival T-shirts. We both done the exact same thing. Woken up, been filled with glee about our new free T-shirt and then put it straight on because we thought we were winners.
Being forced to confront someone else who’d acted in the same pathetic and jubilant manner just proved we were losers.
It’s embarrassing enough when you turn up somewhere and a person is wearing the same thing as you, but this took it to another level.
You could not have constructed a more deflating takedown of the comedian’s life. We took a photo of ourselves for posterity and then, to spare each other further humiliation we went our separate ways.
How strange life can be. We miss each other completely at the times it seems certain we would meet and then fate brings us together to make us look like a pair of dangling, freeloading plums.