Why I hate parties...

Comic Angelo Marcos isn't too good at small talk

'This is Angelo.  He's a comedian.  You know, stand up.  Like  Julian Clary.’

While I'm trying to work out whether or not to be offended, all three of them turn to look at me  -  the lawyer, the accountant and the admin clerk.   None of them told me what they did for a living, but I heard them trade names and occupations a couple of minutes earlier by way of introduction.  The party's host (my soon-to-be-ex friend) decided that since I was standing near them she should probably tell them something about me.  

By 'them' I mean a group of people having a perfectly nice time without me.    And by 'me' I mean a person who didn't want to come to this party, didn't want to have to speak to anyone, and definitely didn't want to have to be funny.

The lawyer speaks first. ‘Oh that's interesting. Go on then.’

Three expectant faces, looking at me.  I'm standing between a pot plant and a locked  window  (I tried it earlier) so running away isn't an option, unless I  barge through  my three new friends , but I'm pretty sure that' d be considered assault, and one of them’s a lawyer so I'm not keen to find out.

‘Um, I don't really... I don't really do jokes... Its’ like, observational things about... stuff.  I do some material about things in the news but not... not jokes"

The group looks at me as if I've just soiled myself.

The admin clerk looks the most unimpressed.  ‘You don't tell jokes?  You can't be very good at stand-up then!’

Laughter all around at my expense: lawyer, admin clerk and accountant.  United in their amusement of me.  I'm pretty sure the pot plant gave a little snigger in my direction too.

‘Sorry, what do you do?  Admin wasn't it?’

She gives me a suspicious look, like maybe I know too much.

‘Yes... ‘

I take out my phone.  ‘Would you be able to sort my text messages into alphabetical order by author please?’

I was wrong before.  Now she's looking at me as if I've soiled myself.

The silence hangs in the air just long enough for me to put my phone away and feel pretty pleased with myself.  Angelo 1, Strangers I've just met and will probably never see again 0.

The accountant tries to change the subject.  ‘I used to do some acting when I was at uni. I love live performance but it can be pretty stressful can't it?  I bet stand-up can get pretty difficult?’

I'm quite taken aback by this.  At last, I can have a real conversation about stand up with someone at a party !   Maybe we can actually talk about the stresses of comedy life, the peaks and  the troughs , the highs and the lo-

‘You wouldn't want me in the audience I can tell you.’

The lawyer 's contribution to the discussion.   Not meaning to be rude, just being, well, a lawyer.

‘Why's that?’, I ask good-naturedly, as though we're all friends here.

‘Well, I can be pretty sharp when I want to be.  I'd beat you if I was heckling from the audience.  You wouldn’t know what hit you.’He takes a sip from his drink as though that's the last word on the subject.  The admin clerk looks really happy.

I try to find a tone to my voice that doesn’t sound aggressive.  I don't think I manage it.

"Well ...  you wouldn't.  Comedians respond to hecklers all the time, if you think about the practice that goes into doing stand up, not to mention the fact that comedians are on stage full of adrenali-  "

‘Wouldn't matter’, shaking his head dismissively, ‘I'd beat you.’

Me, trying not to be aggressive again.  Starting my sentence with one of those half-chuckles that tells everyone I'm taking this really good-naturedly, really, and just happen to be pointing something out that isn't true, and we're still all friends here and I'm a good person .

‘Heh, I think it would matter.  Trust me, its very different in a comedy club.  You might not even really want to shout anything out and draw attention to yourself.  Its quite differen-‘

‘No.  I'd beat you.  I'd definitely win.  I'm a lawyer.’

Another head shake, another sip.   I decide to make fun of him a little bit.  Non-aggression is for Ghandi.

‘Sorry, what’s being a lawyer got to do with it exactly?  You don't heckle judges, do you?  I mean, its not like you stand there making the jury laugh.  You're basically just listing bad things about the other guy, or good things about your own.  It’s not the same is it?!  Unless you do actually just stand there making jokes the whole time, in which case you might have a point  that you'd be good at heckling, but you'd be a crap lawyer .  And you still wouldn't beat me!’

I didn't say ‘you bastard’ at the end of that sentence.  I didn't need to, my tone said it for me.

The silence following my little rant isn't exactly golden.

At this point there's basically one of two ways to go, backtrack and keep some dignity, or keep digging. It takes me exactly a fifth of a millisecond to decide. 

‘And Little Miss Admin over there!  All this crap about me not being a good comedian cos I didn't tell you a joke at a party!  It’s not just about telling jokes is it?! Any moron can recite a joke they've read in a cracker.  It’s about reading the audience, and honing one-liners and telling well-crafted stories!  It’s about getting out there and perfecting your technique!’

A little audience seems to have built up, people are looking over to see what’s going on.

The accountant looks like he's going to say something.  I don't let him.

‘No, accountant!  There’s more to it than that.’ I turn to the lawyer, ‘And all this stuff about beating me with a heckle, are you on crack?  I don't tell you the first time I meet you that I'd be better than you in a courtroom do I?!’

Some of the ‘audience’ have started laughing, I'm getting quite into this.

‘“Ooohh, I'm a lawyer, I charge people a thousand quid a day to go into court dressed like a tranny.”’

More laughter.  Good crowd.

‘Then I try and get the old guy who sits in a big chair to agree with what I'm saying so that I win.  Then I can charge two thousand quid a day to the next loser who's getting divorced.’

Not as much laughter.  But still some.  The accountant opens his mouth to say something again.  No!  This is my audience, get your own.

‘Ooohhh, admin clerk, oooh, I move paper from one file to the other and that means I know about the state of British comedy!’

The accountant wants to say something again.  I pause to let him speak and get ready to be heckled.  Why's he gonna talk anyway, I thought he was on my side? 

‘It’s really going for it!’

Not quite the heckle I was expecting.  Then I realise he's looking behind me.

‘What? What's really…’

That’s when I turn around and look out of the window.  My audience isn't my audience at all.  They're laughing cos two dogs are shagging behind me and they can see them through the glass.

I mumble something about being upstaged by a pair of ‘bloody dogs’ and escape.

I don't go to parties anymore.   Gigs are much less stressful.

Published: 27 May 2010

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