Comedian and time traveller

Diane Spencer on comedy's antisocial hours

Sitting on the 12.38am train to Surbiton, the horrid man whispered, ‘If I was single, I would kiss you.’ I uttered back, ‘If I was your wife, I’d be severely disappointed.’ Creeps, drunks and the partially mad are simply part and parcel of doing a commute at 11.30pm. I’d just said goodbye at Waterloo to three other comedians who I’d bumped into all doing the Tube shuffle. A drunk woman muttering abuse threw her friend’s McDonald’s meal on the train carriage floor in outrage, then fell asleep tightly clutching her own Big Mac.

Throughout my life, since I was 15, I have had some kind of job. Summer job, bar job, not a holiday has happened without me being employed for 90 per cent of it. The most antisocial hours were the cheese factory, with the shift starting at 5am, ending at 3pm. I wasn’t even aware I was at work till about 10am, which was acceptable considering my job was to Nudge the machine. Adapting to the evening hours has played havoc with my mind.

Now, the approximate time I fall asleep is 2am. I wake up, a healthy eight hours later, at 10am then actually get out of bed at 11am when feeling has come back into my head. A comic told me that he wakes up at 8am every day. Potentially it’s due to the perception that there must be something inherently wrong with a person who gets up at 11am. A time usually associated with lie ins.

Every time I stay at my parents, Dad cuts to the chase by stating ‘lazy cow’ every time I stagger downstairs at 9.30am, then tells me what a teacher can earn in the Greater London area, even if they are teaching drama. Citing examples like Dave Allen helps, as when he was performing in Hong Kong, he used to apparently get up at 4pm, eat a light breakfast, perform, then lunch and on to the night. Having other people constantly tell you, you live a very ‘unusual’ lifestyle is perhaps why so many comedians choose to live with each other.

My flatmate has a normal job and we constantly miss each other, it’s almost like our house has a ‘one in, one out’ policy. Once I walked back to my house, at 2.30am, being stared at by my local fox, to see my next door neighbour fall out of a taxi, clutching a deflated man doll. She had been on her hen night and I had just been to the supermarket. She invited me in, asked what I did for a job to get home so late and, not wanting to reveal my profession to a pissed up chatter, I just mumbled ‘night shift’. This means I’m now the local stripper – obviously it’s a stretch to imagine I’m a nurse.

Night time travelling has never been the safest option. Although some punters can appear threatening in a sexual manner, sometimes I wish I could ask for an escort just to get through a few dimly lit areas, and I know my Mother wishes the same too. My Mother thinks I should walk along the street announcing to anyone in earshot about my fictitious black belt in kickboxing. I’ve developed my own anti-rape walk which is where I walk like I’m carrying carpets and my pelvis is broken. It’s supposed to make me look like I could be a man, but I think it makes me look like I’ve played the cello too long.

Sometimes I feel like a trucker, driving long hours at night, counting fig rolls as fruit, and singing along to the national anthem after the shipping forecast with my head out the sunroof. With public transport comes other people and their potential dangers. I once read an article that said the first thing that puts rapists off is eye contact, and another article that said eye contact is flirtatious. It’s a question of waiting for a night bus, and if I catch someone’s eye, having a ‘touch me and I’ll rip your face off’ kind of veneer that doesn’t spill over into ‘come on then fuckface’ or worse ‘I’m passionately yours’.

Enough talented people get health complications, or worse, die from using too many pills to balance their hours – coming down from a high energy performance means that some people want pills just to sleep. The transition from generally accepted work hours to night-time shift hours is a tricky one. It takes a certain willingness to relax, and willingness to live out of the rhythm of everyone else.

The horrid, creepy man said he was in the army: ‘You know what that means... I kill people for a living.’ Great, a horny deluded murderer. ‘Try dying in front of people for a living,’ I said, ‘It’s much harder.’

Published: 14 Oct 2010

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.