I’ve been telling myself for the last three years that I’m going to give stand-up comedy a go. As of this morning I haven’t attended a single open mic night with the intention of putting my name down and having a crack at it. I’m fully aware that this morning’s blog post would be infinitely more interesting if this were an experience I had attempted. Particularly because I’m going to spend the next hour speculating what it might be like if I’d actually tried stand-up.
I’ve been thinking about how I’ve actually got some things to talk about now, life experiences to put a humorous spin on. I’m an Englishman living in the US, which in itself is a new adventure every day. New acquaintances often ask me this one question in particular, “Hey Matt! What does England think of America right now?” As though I’m the spokesman for my entire country.
Which I can assure you that I most definitely am.
Now, I can always tell the type of person that I’m talking to from the way they ask the question. If they kind of shrug their shoulders and sheepishly say, “So, hey- Matt is it? Cool, cool. Yeah- so I was wondering- how does America look to the outside world right now?” If they ask the question in this way, then I know that they’re ashamed of the current situation in this country and they’re testing the waters to see if it’s all actually as bad as they think it is.
I tend to offer a measured response of, “It’s not looking good, but if we all pull together and challenge inequality and prejudice locally, then we’ll create a culture of fairness and expunge the rise in greed and hatred that America has seen over the last several years.” Or something like that. Just something off-the-cuff and casual.
Then there’s the other type of person who asks the same question. They tend to look me square in the eye, with a beaming smile across their face. Their red cap obscures what I can only assume to be laughter lines on their forehead. Anyone who is this happy and positive all of the time can only have laughter lines behind that fashionable piece embroidered hat-ware.
Without asking, they put one hand on my shoulder and say “Hey man! How god-fucking-damn-awesome does England think America is right now?”
Suddenly, he – and I haven’t specified the person’s gender until this point, but you were all picturing a man – suddenly he removes his cap to scratch an itch on his balding skull. That’s when I see that he doesn’t have laughter lines behind the cap, but a small tattoo of what appears to be a swastika. What? What is this madness? I trusted this man and now he’s revealed a third eye that’s just staring me down. The inked symbol is glaring at me with nearly a century of racial hatred behind it. I feel like this and I’m a flippin’ whitey! This symbol wasn’t even created to oppress me and here I am wanting to be sick out of my own eyes.
What a palaver.
So this, of course, throws me right off kilter. I was all ready to blurt out something cocky, yet cheekily English, like “The world thinks America is a fucking joke mate!” Before running away as fast as me chimney sweepin’ legs can carry me.
But now I can’t say that, I mean, the man has a swastika on his forehead! If I said anything like that, there’s no telling what he could do. It takes a special combination of hatred and stupidity to get a swastika tattooed on your forehead, and I didn’t fancy being on the receiving end of that nightmarish cocktail of prejudice. No sir.
So I just said something like, “Oh, we don’t actually get much American news in England.” Before I ran away as fast as me chimney sweepin’ legs could carry me.
Then, about twelve hours later in the shower, I thought about my response. We all do it. We all struggle through an entire day of conversations, saying all of the wrong things, but the second that hot water splashes onto our face we all have these rapid epiphanies about what we should or shouldn’t have said. You guys know how deep some showers can get.
Not literally, that’s the other one isn’t it?
Baths. Baths are literally deep and showers are a metaphor. Are you with me?
I think of the perfect response to a conversation from the prior morning, that for whatever reason I wasn’t capable of conjuring in real-time. I’ve started to suspect that it’s the water. I’m thinking of starting to pay college students to follow me around during the day, with a step-ladder and a watering can. Then, at the exact moment I enter into a conversation, they’ll climb the ladder and start slowly pouring water over my head. That way I’ll be able to give my perfect, witty responses in real-time.
It’ll go something like this…
*Mimes water falling from above head and down onto body, lathers self*
“No boss! I’ll serve that customer when my break has finished!”
These are the sorts of things I wish I’d said, but couldn’t until I simulated a live-shower situation.
“Maybe we should all go and see the 2D version! That way, we save money and nobody gets a headache!”
“Your micro-pig is not a dog! Stop trying to get it to play fetch!”
“No, not that restaurant, they never split the bill and they put a twenty-five percent service charge on automatically. I always end up paying on my card and you guys say you’ll pay me back, but you never do. You owe me thirty dollars Claire! You’re looking at me like you’ve forgotten, Claire, but I know you remember. There’s no way that I can still be thinking about the thirty dollars from two September’s ago and you’ve cast the memory away like a jellyfish in the wind. Yes, Claire, I’m aware jellyfish don’t blow easily in the wind, but it’s a metaphor. Yes Claire, just like showers. Yes Claire. No Claire. Yes Claire- Look, Claire, can I have my thirty dollars?
Next week? Okay, that’s fine. No, I know it was me who made a big deal out of it, but this is what you get when you’re talking to a man who has paid a college student to climb a step ladder and pour water over his head. Yes Claire I know the watering can would be empty by now. Well it wouldn’t be if you hadn’t started responding to me. Well Claire if you’re not real then I can imagine the watering can has an infinite flow, can’t I? I know that’s a good response, that’s what this exact situation is about me doing. I should end this bit and get back to the main bit, shouldn’t I? Okay, see you next week Claire, remember the thirty dollars. I’ve got- bills.”
*Looks at audience, dries face. Ends mime*
Thanks college student!
If that’s the only thing I ever pay a college student to do for me, then I’m probably doing okay ethically.
So- where was I- oh yeah! This guy, this guy with the red hat and the swastika who thinks America is so great right now. I thought of the perfect response in the shower. It wasn’t so much of a response to him directly, but more to America as a whole. This was a metaphorically deep shower.
I wish I’d said that, actually, America isn’t all that great at the moment. Sure it looks that way to some people, because of all the branding and the…hats. But when something is great for one group of people, life is downright miserable for everybody else. What we should be striving for is for everything to just be “good”, for everyone.
Great is unattainable without taking food away from hard working families. You can’t spell great without taking two letters away from the word “greed” and then adding two completely different ones.
And I’d also say that the perceived greatness isn’t even real. It’s all just a marketing ploy from 0.1% to get you to obediently vote them into power. I’d say that if we strived for something “good”, or even “average”, then we can actually create a society that the majority of people are happy with.
To answer your question sir, England thinks America is kind of a joke right now, but England also thinks that England is a joke. Actually, come to think of it, the whole goddamn modern world is a joke. Except- nobody’s laughing.
*Mimes turning shower off, climbing out of the shower and wrapping a towel around waist*
Naked. The whole time.
I’ve been Matt and this is what my standup would look like if I tried it.
It’s Thursday May 10th, and I ran ten minutes over the hour mark today, but I won’t tell me if you don’t tell me.