A dogged half century.

This day in 1970 was when my Mum brought life to me
On this day last year, I went home to celebrate
Once dinner plates had left the table, only then did I feel able
To say “Mum, Dad I have sad news to relate”

“I really don’t know where to start, I say this with a heavy heart
My limp has worsened, and the right shoulder – no improvement
I think right now it’s only logical, to suspect something neurological
Is what’s behind this stiffening of movement”

My Dad sad “Look you are my son, and it’s a brave thing that you’ve done..
But let’s not pretend this is where you’re encyclopaedic.
Trust a doctor who is older, the constant pain in your right shoulder
Is a problem that is clearly orthopaedic”

But his attempt to bring relief, lacked his usual self belief
Was clear to see his heart was now disintegrating.
He knew full well what he had seen, a son who’s lacking dopamine
And soon we got the news I’d been anticipating.

It’s been the strangest of my years, juggling illness and careers
But it hasn’t been my instinct to start moping
It is both the fit and sickly, who hide the fact they’re paddling quickly
Mutual support is how we find a way of coping.

When I think of how I feel, it’s a slightly strange reveal
That a year on, the fight has barely just begun
If I’m being quite pragmatic, one day my movements will be static
Till that occurs there’s no excuse to not have fun.

It’s fifty years since I was born, and one thing I share with Shane Warne
Is that a century will prove sadly out of reach
I’ve friends and family on Zoom, and Oliver to ease the gloom.
Embrace life. Now I have nothing more to preach.

Ok. This was my Greatest Day.

Catastrophise. That was the word my agent used once to describe my newfound tendency to overreact. Since June I have catastrophised. Anything minor going wrong I lose it.

There are many aspects to Parkinson’s and a lot of them are non  motor. Mood swings, low motivation, tiredness, constipation. If a car was booked to pick me up at 1800, I was always the guy who was ready at 1745. Now I am the guy who staggers out of the door at 1807. But the catstrophising is the worst.

So how the hell am I going to cope with the biggest day of my life?

We’d worked all year on this day, and the service was meant to be the easy bit. Registry office, 38 guests, traditional script. When I saw the guests turn up, I did that hing I do so frequently. I broke down in tears. Joyful, my bloody mates have turned up on time, tears.

The only unconventional bit were the readings. I’m not a religious person, and I’m pretty ignorant of poetry. So reading number one was the lyrics to Love Comes Quickly, by the Pet Shop Boys, jokily and skilfully delivered by one of my best men.

The other reading was originally meant to be equally jokey. As I read the lyrics more carefully, I realised to my surprise that they uncomfortably described the reality of juggling a serious disease and love.

every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you’re never coming ’round
every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears
every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by
every now and then I get a little bit terrified
And then I see the look in your eyes

every now and then I know you’ll never be the boy
You always wanted to be but every now and then I know you’ll always be the only boy
Who wanted me the way that I am

every now and then I get a little bit reckless
And I dream of something wild
every now and then I get a little bit helpless
And I’m lying like a child in your arms
every now and then I get a little bit angryAnd I know I’ve got to get out and cry
every now and then I get a little bit terrified
But then I see the look in your eyes

every now and then I fall apart
every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We’ll be holding on forever
And we’ll only be making it right
‘Cause we’ll never be wrong
Together we can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark
We’re livin’ in a powder keg and givin’ off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight

Anyway, the wedding was great. But the challenge was far from over. An hour after leaving the registry office, I was performing a self-written song-and-dance number to seventy-five lunch guests, delivering rhyming profiles of each guest. Olly and I had slaved over it. Halfway through the song, I was thinking, “I am having the f**king time of my life“. My clan were meeting his clan, and everything was wonderful in the world. Other creative gambles throughout the lunch all paid off, and yet still I couldn’t relax.

And the reason I couldn’t relax was: at six o’clock, three-hundred friends from every walk of life I’ve ever had were about to turn up to the pub, for the “disco” — which, in reality, was a six-and-a-half-hour multimedia audiovisual extravaganza, that was due to start at six-thirty.

That’s when I started to catastrophise.

For the longest hour-and-a-quarter of my life, everything went wrong. No aspect of the technical demands that would’ve enabled Olly and I to put the show on ever looked like working. My new husband — the “technical guy” — never once showed any sign that he knew our plans were falling apart. Three-hundred people arrived, most unable to get a drink owing to overcrowding, with me being overwhelmed by well-wishers asking Olly’s whereabouts, and me being unable to utter the truthful answer, “I have no idea — I just know he’s to trying to save this evening“. Soon, the start-time was a thing of fantasy, well-meaning friends were laughing at my increasing agitation, and even-better-meaning friends were doing their darndest to solve our technical issues.

In my head, I was juggling two thoughts: “We worked so hard for this. Please don’t fuck up the entire day by losing your temper“. As seven o’clock passed, the reality set in that perhaps we should get on with a lesser version of our intended entertainment. I am about to have an absolute breakdown, when a friend takes me outside the pub, and says, “This is your wedding. Things go wrong. When I got married, you wouldn’t believe how many things went wrong. This is your day. These are your people. Now, go out there and enjoy yourself“. At this point, I saw my husband. I said, “Is there any chance these visuals are going to work?“. He replied, “I’ve grown weary of the fight“.

And I looked in his eyes, and I pondered the sheer effort that both of us had put in. And I thought to myself,

I am going to get absolutely shit-faced“.

Instead of destroying the greatest day of my life, I then went on to have the greatest day of my life, as friends and family thoroughly enjoyed drinking, dancing, and ignoring the canapés (on which I had spent thousands). The realisation that, in the overall scheme of things, the failure to provide a visual accompaniment to the playlist was about the hundred-and-seventeenth most important priority for me. Suddenly, I was able to forget my troubles, and effortlessly glide through the company of three-hundred beloved guests.

The entertainment ended with me and Olly, stood on chairs, destroying Carter USM’s excellent cover of The Impossible Dream. Best of all, when I woke up the next morning, I realised:

I hadn’t thought about my Parkinson’s once.

All I thought was how lucky I was to have lived a life where my friends and family are amazing.

On to married life.

Wedding

My Greatest Day

  1. Which Victorian artist, who signed his early works JAG, was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and created works including “Dulce Domum” and “On Hampstead Hill?”

2. “It’s name beginning with the letter “p”, in which river, according to legend, did King Midas wash himself in order to remove the curse of everything he touched turning to gold?”

 

3. The Oscar winning 2018 documentary Free Solo is about which mountaineer?

 

4. “The musical instrument the Ondes Martenot was used by which French classical composer in works including his “Turangalila Symphony” and his opera “St Francis of Assisi” 

5. “Which English actor is the partner of Taylor Swift?”

6. “Which German-born US anthropologist, whose works include “The Mind of Primitive Man” (1911), created the four-field subdivision of anthropology?”

7. “Which Welshman was winner of the World’s Strongest Man title in 1993?”

 

All quizzers have good days and bad days. Last November at the European Quizzing Championships, I was lying in 12th place with two rounds to go and then mentally disintegrated under pressure finishing about 40th.

June’s World Quizzing Championships represented a far worse day, missing the event completely to spend time in an MRI scanning machine, undergoing investigations for suspected Parkinson’s.

And so my primary ambition at yesterday’s British Quiz Championships was to enjoy myself. As one can imagine, there has been a lot of evaluating priorities in the last few months, and the concept that keeps emerging is that I should spend my life enjoying the things that I enjoy. And I really, really enjoy having questions fired at me.

Last Sunday, I quizzed for eleven straight hours at a Quiz League of London social.

On Tuesday I had two hours of old Final Chase questions fired at me at speed. Turns out that if you only answer “NASA” you have a decent chance of winning.

On Friday the fiance and I spent all day in a hotel room writing, filing and asking questions. Then we went to a fabulous dinner party with other quizzers, where repeatedly, I drunkenly said “Don’t forget Taylor Swift’s boyfriend is called Joe Allwyn”

There is an interesting debate to be had about whether serious quizzers should turn up to serious quizzes with a hangover. With my diagnosis, it is no longer a debate. Enjoy what you enjoy.

Yesterday’s British Quiz championships consisted of 240 written questions of varying difficulty all worth 1 point.

I sat down, read the questions and at various points thought…………

  1. “JAG? Does that mean his/her name has the initials AG? I think there is a painter called Atkinson Grimshaw”

2. “In 2009 i recorded hundreds of mythology questions onto a voice recorder, and would play  them back on long car journeys. This was one of them. It definitely begins with “p”, is very obscure. It might just be “pactolus”.

3. “The surname is Wormald”

Half an hour later “Nope that’s the hot dancer who starred in the 2011 Footloose remake. Let’s guess at Hornold”

4. “Let’s try Olivier Messiaen on the grounds that whenever I’ve guessed him before, I’ve been wrong”

5. “As I have been telling other quizzers last night, the answer is Joe Allwyn”

6. “Ugh sociologists. All the academic quizbowl players will know this, whereas I only know three. Durkheim was French. Weber was German. I think the other one I’ve heard of is Franz Boas”

7. Get the fuck in. I only learnt this yesterday. Not Geoff Capes. Not Jamie Reeves. Not Eddie Hall. The years aren’t right. It is Gary Taylor.

 

People who ask us to compare Chasers to Eggheads seem unaware that Kevin and Pat, are two of the three greatest quizzers who have ever lived. To beat them in any format, it just absolutely has to be your day. Because realistically I’m still not in their league.

I had such a day yesterday. Not one of the above questions was in anything approaching a quiz comfort zone for me. I nailed all seven. As the quiz progressed, I instinctively knew I was doing really well. At the end of the quiz, the reality that I might be the British champion started to hit me. When I realised that I had won, I did what I had to do.

I retired to another room and wept for two hours.

The weeping. It had nothing to do with Parkinson’s. Although I am realistic enough to know that this was probably my one big shot at a major title.

It had everything to do with the fact that I have worked my bloody arse off for the last ten years, travelling around the country and indeed Europe just trying to compete, enjoy and improve. Despite operating at a high level for a number of years, I still field tweets telling me I’m shit at quizzing on a regular basis, and it is so wearying when any kind of honest response makes me sound like a self aggrandising twat. The Chase is a TV show. It’s not real life. In real life I quiz for self improvement, and the respect of a peer group whom I treasure. It isn’t remotely glamorous. It is gloriously fun.

And you hope, against hope, that just once, the stars will align, and it will be your day. If I had got any of the above seven questions wrong I would not be able to say that………….

For the next 12 months, I’m the f**king British Quiz Champion. Parkinson’s will not be able to take that away from me.

 

 

 

Stokes

Two days after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I sat slumped on my sister’s sofa trying to take in the Champions League final. My team, Liverpool, (yes, I know), had, like their opponents, reached the final thanks to a miraculous semi final victory that, one that had left me an emotional blubbing wreck. Unlike last year, Liverpool were starting the game as favourites. And over the course of a tense 90 minute match I could not summon up any enthusiasm at all.  I was flat, depressed, guilty about spoiling my sister’s big evening, tetchy, and short-tempered. Yep I jumped up when the second goal went in, but the jump never felt spontaneous. When Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy, my main thought was “That’s nice”

A horrible thought crossed my mind. Am I destined to spend the rest of my life never again getting  over emotional about sport? That is my bloody brand ffs.

That’s when a man called Ben Stokes decided to stage a two-pronged recovery plan. Stage 1, his two match winning World Cup final innings were an extraordinary combination of skill and good fortune, that left me breathlessly muttering “I’ve just never seen anything like it” repeatedly, in the company of great friends and a fiance that doesn’t quite get sport, but patiently listens to me wang on about it. Yep, I felt desperately sorry for my New Zealand friends, but I was delighted to be excited again.

Then there was yesterday. A day’s cricket that managed to make the Greatest World Cup Final Ever seem like an ephemeral irrelevance in comparison. The Ashes were gone, English cricket was done, Stuart Broad defiantly and ridiculously insisted he had hit the ball that had him plumb lbw, Joe Root was pondering his increasingly depressing options. Ben Stokes realised that the only way to win was to repeatedly smash the ball out of the park. And Jack Leach realised that all he had to do was bat better than he had ever done in his career. And they bloody achieved the impossible. Yep they needed bad umpiring, bad captaincy and bad fielding. But they also needed superlative skill, Stokes showing a ferocity and determination that was truly awe-inspiring.

As the miracle was unfolding, I forgot my aches, pains, anxieties, weaknesses and limps and just got lost in my “happy place”. I was unconditionally excited. Ben Stokes was Saving my Summer for a second time.

A lot of people don’t get over emotional. It’s not for me. As I get used to this new life, I treasure the things that remind me that most of the time life is great. Love is a Bourgeois Construct by the Pet Shop Boys; Fleabag’s sister finally doing the right thing;Bacon and egg baguettes; Steve Cram’s commentary on Kelly Holmes’ first Olympic gold;The Chase contestant who gave Bradley a lecture on the lammergeier; Sporting miracles.

With the return of Steve Smith, there is every chance the Aussies will outclass a mostly misfiring England team. For now, I don’t care. Ben Stokes, for what you’ve done to help me on the road to emotional recovery, you’re a hero.

 

Two Months

It’s been eight weeks today since I evolved from Minor Celebrity Who Is Shit at Tasks, to Minor Celebrity with Parkinson’s.

The first thing to say is that going public was a massive weight off my shoulders. No pun intended. Looking back, it is quite clear that in the two weeks between first being diagnosed, and going public I had something of a shut down. Not least during the Champions League Final when Liverpool’s two goals had me struggling to get off the sofa to celebrate.

But things are different now. The overwhelming level of support from friends, strangers, family has been a massive emotional boost. Having a medical background means I have never been short of medic friends to guide me towards the right decisions. I had a mountain of comedy gigs and Chases to get through and it has been fine. And I’m delighted to say that my quiz results have been excellent.

I have also started writing routines about it all. It’s not necessarily easy to listen to, and it can be a bit brutal, but it’s my job as a comedian to be funny and honest, and I’m not about to stop trying now. It’s going very well so far.

As for the media, some outlets have been better than others at giving me some space. All have promised to deal with it with “tact and sensitivity” , yet some of them can’t even deal with my agent with “tact and sensitivity” As yet I have not dipped my toes, because I’ve been busy with work, but rest assured if your newspaper has a track record of demonising immigrants, demonising gay rights, or telling lies about Hillsborough, you’re not likely to get an interview. If your TV show lost its shit over a vegan sausage roll, I’m not convinced you’re ready to discuss a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Though my biggest disappointment was the Daily Star front page lead which used a photo of me from before I lost 2 1/2 stone. Brutal.

Although I reserve my right to be choosy, I’m comfortable for the public to follow my fight. I’d like to be an unofficial mascot for Living Your Life. With two elderly parents, and a severely autistic nephew, I’m only the fourth most unwell member of my immediate family. This helps prevent me descending into self pity, and perhaps more importantly self pity won’t help my health.

Happiness helps my health. And for me that is drinking and dining, the company of friends, family and engaging strangers, and striving to be as good as possible at my two beloved jobs. Comedy and Quizzing. As long as the rest of my life is mostly that, then quite frankly Parkinson’s can go f**k itself.

Live your life.

 

 

Diagnosed.

On the evening of Thursday May 30th, an experienced consultant neurologist calmly informed me that I had Parkinson’s disease. It was a devastating denouement to a medical odyssey that began in September 2017 with a sudden-onset, frozen right shoulder, and took in an unexpected diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle transformation that enabled me to lose two stone, and a shoulder operation in January this year.

 Nonetheless my reaction was not one of shock. I spent May this year in New Zealand simultaneously having the comedy month of my life, and worrying about why a right-sided limp was now getting worse. Behind the facade of the cheerful, late night comedy festival drunk was a man deeply scared about facing the truth when back in the UK.
 It has been a really, really tough two weeks. Cancelling my run at the Edinburgh Fringe, missing the World Quizzing Championships to have brain scans, performing club sets whilst emotionally bewildered, and of course working my way through my loved ones, delivering the bad news. With the diagnosis now confirmed, and a treatment plan in place, I now feel far more prepared for the new challenges ahead. I have an amazing family, no strangers to serious medical illness, I’m blessed to have a fiance who is there for me, and I have a multitude of friends and colleagues whom I consider to be exceptional human beings. I don’t consider myself unlucky, and whatever the next stage of my life holds for me, many others have it far worse.
  In the time since my Parkinson’s started I have been ludicrously busy, and fully intend to keep Chasing, keep writing and performing comedy, keep quizzing and keep being hopeless at Tasks. Dancing on Ice is, I suspect, out of the question.
  A lot of people have asked “What can I do to help ?”  The answer is to treat me exactly the same as before.
  Much love, Paul

Nearing the end.

There are three days to go. It has been an unusual month, and having come up with an autobiographical show about the onset of declining health, and middle age, I am feeling middle aged but still bearing up well.

I never wanted to start with a spat, but being misrepresented in the press, due to an arch egotist’s desperation to meet a deadline, needed answering. While much of the industry is too cowered to openly speak out, I have of course had many people voicing their approval in private. Not much use to me, but Copstick’s good natured reviewing this month  has been nice to see. Nonetheless I am far too emotionally fragile for the whole thing not to have dented me. On the plus side, the whole thing gave me a new joke.

I had my bloody wallet stolen earlyish in the Fringe. 200 quid lost, and all my cards, not one of which has yet been replaced by my normally good bank. In addition, a worsening frozen right shoulder hasn’t helped.

I have not seen as many shows as last year, mainly due to an inceasing intolerance of some disgracefully overheated rooms. A lot of very good comedians have been ill served by their venues. I have seen some great shows, my favourite of which was Terry Alderton. Not only is his show inspirationally good, it is living proof that is possible to be hugely experienced and over the age of forty and still be artistically noteworthy. 

It seems an eternity ago that I first bemoaned the NewTownphobia of mainstream comedy journalists, and if anything it has got worse. Despite housing Kitson, Dylan Moran, Mark Watson, Limmy etc, it seems increasingly odds against for venues on the “wong side of town” to be treated with industry courtesy. No worries, I am certainly going nowhere. The Stand venues continue to offer loyal support, ethical finances, and a roster of blazing creativity. Anyone who can’t be arsed to cross that bridge- it is very much your loss.

I will be back in 2019. It gets harder with every passing year, and my list of reviews this year includes some “outliers”.

https://www.comedy.co.uk/fringe/2018/paul_sinha/

But most importantly audiences have been great and I am damned proud of the show. Even if the press largely ignores comedians aged over 40, on at the New Town, and without PR, audiences do not.

I have two shows this Sunday.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/paul-sinha-the-two-ages-of-man

 

 

That first Fringe blog

So it starts tomorrow, preview tickets are a fiver. I am not doing 6th or 7th, I am doing the 13th and an extra show on 26th. All details here.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/paul-sinha-the-two-ages-of-man

So to recommendations.

They’ve put bloody great hours in, over the years and deserve some love.

Andrew O’Neill

Alistair Barrie

Gavin Webster

Jo Caulfield

Markus Birdman

I saw them last year.

Ahir Shah

Matt Ewins

Luke McQueen

Seymour Mace

I missed them last year

Lauren Pattison

Darren Harriott

Rose Matafeo

Leo Kearse

I’ve seen their hours this year

Laura Lexx

Angela Barnes

Jim Tavare

Tom Stade

Larry Dean

Their non Edinburgh stuff is great

Scott Bennett

Bethany Black

Ola the Comedian

Dan Nightingale

Jen Brister

Take a chance

Maisie Adam

Jacob Hawley

 

 

Kate Copstick.

I have always been cheerfully aware that overall, I have had the luck of the draw with Edinburgh reviewers. The flipside is being constantly aware that the luck will run out, but I didn’t foresee just how spitefully this would happen.

On July 18th, Kate Copstick the celebrated/loathed, famous/notorious, Grand Dame/Bete Noire of the Scotsman’s comedy reviewing team, contacted my venue, the Stand, asking for a free ticket to review my new show on Wednesday August 1st. The decision was mine. The decision was a polite no thanks. The first show is a “preview” show, before my Fringe begins officially  on Friday. This is my ninth full length show, and I have never had reviewers on the first day. Kate’s response to this was to throw a tantrum, and mutter darkly that I would not be reviewed by the Scotsman this year.

Fine, I thought. If Kate wants to use threats to try and get her way, let her blow steam. I will not back down to a bully, and I will go without a Scotsman review this year. Rather that than reward her inelegant posturing.

I thought nothing more of it until this appeared in yesterday’s Scotsman on Sunday.

“The egos have landed. Friendly advice for those paying to see Them Off The Telly in their first couple of shows. Reg Hunter, Paul Sinha (picture right) and Andrew Maxwell, among others, are likely to be a bit meh, at least according to their managements. Quite unready for any scrutiny till the end of the week. According to management. These are, let’s face it, just highly paid blokes, standing at a microphone, saying stuff. Stuff they have been standing and saying at microphones for months of previews. And at their scheduled technical rehearsal in the venue. So if they are not ready to be reviewed when the first paying bum hits a seat, er, why not? To be fair, Reg offers his insufficiently-wrought-yet show at the EICC for a mere £9, but you’ll only get a quid knocked off the price of an allegedly below-par hour with Paul Sinha and a £4 reduction for Maxwell, which might buy you a pint to get you over the disappointment of the apparently not-quite-there-yet show. Someone needs to have a word with their management, boys.”

1. “Them off the telly”  I appear regularly on a quiz show. I have not performed comedy on the telly since 2016. I believe that my ticket sales reflect both of these facts.

2. “Their management” I have an agent. She is also my counsellor, accountant, poster placement advisor. I have no high faluting team, no PR, no massive posters. But whatever, this was my decision. Mine alone.

3. “Months of previews” I did my first preview on June 13th. I have done 16 since. As a result honing the show has been exponential in the last three weeks. Not ideal, but having performed the show to 500 people over the last two previews, I am pretty damned pleased with it.

4. My preview is £5. The price in the Fringe brochure is a mistake.

5. My 17 previews were spread across 16 wildly different locations and audiences. It is an imperfect tutorial in what to expect at Edinburgh and I am entitled to use the one show advertised as a “preview” as entirely that.

6. The “egos have landed”. I’m not the one who believes that they are absolutely entitled to a free ticket to any show on any date they like, and if they don’t get their way they will do their best impression of an ageing Veruca Salt.

I now know that one day after the polite decline, Kate posted this on Facebook.

“What the FUCK is it with comics who have been doing what they do for fucking decades, AND selling out all the big Edinburgh venues AND are heading up in August to a mainly sold out run AND not diverting discernably  from being a man at a microphone saying things at people in seats and not letting anyone in to offer an opinion until days after the start of the Fringe ??????? What part of standing at a microphone saying things you have been fucking saying for months of previews already is it that you particularly need to hone ? Any tech in ANY of your big venues can pretty much handle ‘lights up, mike up, lights down, mike down’ without several days to perfect their slider twitch. I realise it is a long haul climb but your managements need to get the fuck over themselves.
Rant over. And I am well aware this is not everyone. I have a list of names. Seriously – if you are a TV name, career comic who has been doing this for fucking years, why can you not do what the other guys do and hit the fucking ground running ? Other than ego and laziness ? Am currently taking a bag of Scotsman stars, tipping them into a mortar and pestle and grinding them to dust. Sorry. NOW rant over.”

Such dignity from the Scotsman’s’ most senior reviewer of comedy, such dignity. As for the accusation of laziness, I am the one who has been driving around the country for the last seven weeks, adding jokes, morosely dropping jokes, frequently sacrificing comedic dignity to get this show right. All I asked is that for one show, on the first Wednesday,  before many, many comedians have even reached Edinburgh, I get a chance to perform it without distraction. My duty to myself and the audience is far more important than Kate Copstick’s need to meet a deadline. It takes a special kind of sociopathic bully to sabotage a show, not because they know anything about it, but because they are just not used to not getting their way. I am sorry to tell you Kate, that to “hit the fucking ground running” has literally nothing to do whether you have blagged a ticket or not.

 

The Solitary Dissenter

I have loved touring the show “Shout out to my Ex”. For many reasons it is the show that I am proudest of, and thus far, on the whole, the audiences have been a joy. But it is the comedian’s curse to not focus on the overall picture, but to obsessively reflect on the one person who quite clearly was in the wrong show.

I was massively looking forward to last Saturday night’s show at the Leicester Comedy Festival, not least because in 2017 I had done a rather shambolic “work in progress” show there, and this year I wanted to show off the finished product. The afternoon had been spent having a steroid injection for a frozen shoulder which has been troubling me for months. I had every reason to believe the evening would be altogether more pleasurable.

The first five minutes, the “settling in” jokes, always goes well. And it did. With one notable exception. In row 2 were what appeared to be a couple. She seemed to be trying to listen. He was talking in her face. Not loud enough for me to be able to pick up what he was saying. But loud enough that the people around him couldn’t concentrate and nor could I. I had to say something.

“You’ve been talking all through the show, is there any chance you could shut up?”

“No”

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t the answer i was expecting. I have absolutely slaved over this show and it’s a narrative which needs focus and attention from the audience, not heckling or indeed distracting private conversations. It is the first time I have been heckled on tour with anything that wasn’t superficial and lighthearted. What is more, his face was contorted with hate.

“You’re just going to have to leave right now”

At which point, crucially, the audience were entirely on my side. Thanks audience, because I don’t really know what I would have done without you.

The audience started chanting “Out out out”. And he obliged. But first he walked up to the stage and squared up to me face to face.

This was a pleasant medium sized arts centre in Leicester. This wasn’t the Comedy Store, there was no security to provide me with help. Quite a few things were going through my mind. Mostly “I’m about to get punched. Maybe this will help my career, Jim Jeffries style. I can’t punch back. I am a patron of a charity called Stand Against Violence. And what is more, I still have a frozen shoulder, and the steroids have not kicked in. So here goes. I would rather take a punch than show myself up in front of 250 people.”

He didn’t punch me. It was my good fortune that his right hand was occupied with the crucial job of holding his pint. He just scowled and said…

“You’re shit and you dress like a tramp”

This seemed the wrong moment to explain that I was wearing my favourite Ted Baker shirt, and it was bloody expensive. To explain that I was not the combatant in this conversation who looked like a tramp, well that would be punching down. I honestly had no idea what to say. I ended up saying…

“Tramp? It’s not me who is pissed at 9pm.” Pathetic, and I meant no offence to any of the remainder of the audience who might have been drunk.

He walked out. The audience cheered. Curiously, his wife remained. Now I have an added distraction. What on earth is her story? Part of me wanted to find out. Part of me was worried that  I was sitnessing the debris of a horribly abusive relationship. What I had no sense of at all, was how to address the issue. It was taken out of my hands.

The show manager walked in, inadvertently interrupting the show and said to the lady,

“He says you have to drive him home”

And so she got up and left, to understandably bewildered laughter from the audience. I just felt awful. I felt enormous sympathy for her, who had been blameless, enormous frustration that the start of my show had been so blighted, enormous gratitude to the rest of the audience, contempt for the most hateful little shit I have encountered at a gig but most of all I wanted to know……What on earth was he doing at my gig.

The only answer I can think of is that they took a punt, he took one look at me and thought

“Oh Bollocks. It’s that c**t off the Chase.

 

Further dates              https://www.paulsinha.com/comedy/

https://www.relate.org.uk/