Gigging in Loughborough tonight, the town I lived in from 1972 to 1976 and where I in fact was first to believe that the lyrics to Lord of the Dance were “I am the Lord of the Dance Settee”. In fact when I think about it I visualise Emmanuel infants school and being in assembly happily singing about this sofa bouncing mythical figure. Emmanuel school is also, of course, the location where I invented the naughty dog to excuse a shit I was concealing in my (as it turned out much too) tiny shorts. (Darn it, I thought that that would make a great Metro article, but a quick google revealed I’ve already done that one. I only have so many stories).
We arrived in town at lunchtime and it seemed to me that the townsfolk had been so distraught by my leaving in the mid-70s that they had decreed that they would keep everything exactly the same in my honour. Certainly the hotel I was staying in hadn’t had a refit in forty years. I felt very much like Gary Sparrow stepping through a portal in time back four decades. I thought I should probably head to the first pub I saw and try and get off with the barmaid. My wife would never find out. That is the beauty of inter dimensional cheating.
As sales were on the low side (I ended up with well over 100 which I am happy with for a new town on the tour, but it was a 400 seater theatre) I decided to whip up some controversy by tweeting rude things about Loughborough (how by doing a very smelly fart in Costa I had actually made the town smell slightly better, how there was no one under seventy living here, how it was trapped in a time vortex), but I had forgotten to take into account that there was no internet in 1976 so none of the inhabitants will see what I wrote for 40 years. Either that or they all looked at what I said and thought, “Yeah, fair enough”. It didn’t help shift too many more tickets, but it was fun. And as I once lived here it was all right for me to take the piss.
It seemed to be very much a town for the elderly (or maybe those were the only people out in the town centre on a Thursday afternoon), so perhaps I had just missed a Pied Piper style exodus of the children by leaving when I did. Though one of the first things I’d seen when I got here was a heavily pregnant woman smoking in the street (again something I’d not seen since the 70s), so maybe it’s just that all the babies here die. And even the ones that are born to healthy, non-smoking mothers realise they’ve been born in Loughborough and there’s going to be nothing they can do to escape, so they do themselves in.
This was the kind of comedy gold that was failing to create a buzz of disgust that it seems all comedians need now if they’re going to sell tickets. I need to go in harder. I don’t really want to become racist, but I am going to be a dad now and need to provide for my little one, so maybe that’s the only way to do it. It’s more important that my child has shoes than a solid moral compass. Taking the piss out of a fading market town does not stir up Twitter mobs.
Weirdly enough I felt very at home here. The town centre didn’t seem familiar, but it must have been subliminally. I wondered what my life would have been like if my family had stayed here. I think I was lucky to do most of my growing up in Cheddar where things were not as tough and innocence could be preserved (for a bit too long if I am honest). I wondered about my best friend Satish Patel and the other kids from Mrs Markelee’s class at Cobden school, whose names I no longer remember. I suspect someone has done a TV show where schoolmates are reunited, but it would be kind of interesting to find out the different paths of the kids in my 1976 class photo, especially given that I never saw them again after that year.
Last time I had been here the older sister of my first girlfriend (who lived next door to me) had come to the show, this time her parents were there as well and said hello afterwards. I recognised them too, though I am not sure I would have done if they hadn’t introduced themselves. Much has changed since 1976. They said they would have told my mum if I had said anything inappropriate on stage.
But the Loughborough folk were more than happy to have the piss taken out of them. I had mocked the fact that a local newspaper reviewer might be in, saying the Loughborough Advertiser (or whatever it was called) could make or break my career and that the reviewer should think about his life, critiquing a failed comedian in a pointless newspaper. But the Loughborough Echo journalists laughed with me about this afterwards and wanted a photo taken. Maybe to accompany my evisceration. What? You mean I might never play Loughborough again? Oh no!
Actually I would be upset about that. I really enjoyed being in the town today and the gig. And it's too late to create a storm of opprobrium now. The gig has finished. I have no tickets left to sell.
Some audience members told me that Codben is still there (I went to visit it last time I was in town), but Emmanuel has gone. It was knocked down by a naughty dog, apparently.