That could have been me up there...

But Tony Schumacher accepts his on-off comedy career

‘You mate is on the telly.’ Said Terry as he walked towards me carrying my sixth lager of an impressively early night.

‘Who?’ I craned my neck to look up and around the pillar which I was leaning against for moral support.

I expected to see an episode of Crimewatch, but it wasn’t, it was John Bishop on a chat show, looking all toothy and trendy as he made people laugh with his constant looks of amazement and despair.

I sighed and took my pint from Terry and turned away from the TV.

‘He’s not my mate.’

‘You said he was!’

‘I didn’t. I said I’d gigged with him once, years ago, and that he was an alright bloke.’

‘You were in that shite film with him!’

‘I was in a film he was in... we never appeared together, unless you count the bit where they had sandbags in the coffin he was supposed to be in. They didn’t use the stuff when we were together... because it was shite.’

‘You said he was your mate.’

‘I didn’t.’ I said to my pint.

‘Just think... that could be you,’ Terry said to me.

He gazed up at the screen behind me and supped his drink before nodding his head for me to take a look. I sighed, looked, sighed again, and looked away.

Bishop was chatting with some gorgeous Hollywood starlet and making her chuckle with his Scouse charm while I was talking to a moron in a pub.

‘I was as good as him.’ I mumbled to my pint as I put it to my lips, unfortunately Terry, and not my pint, answered.

‘Of course you were.’

‘I was!’ With conviction. ‘On my day.’ I added, with slightly less conviction.

‘Are you telling me you were as funny as John Bishop when you did comedy?’

‘Well... well I had moments...” Even less conviction this time.

‘Are you telling me you were as funny as John Bishop when you did comedy?’ he asked again, this time with a look that said ‘bollocks’ without actually saying it.

‘Erm... well maybe not as consistently funny but...’

‘So why isn’t that you up there then?’

I looked up at the screen then back at my Friday night pint,

‘I don’t know, maybe he wanted it more?’

Later as I walked home I thought why Bishop was living the dream while I walked home to a dingy house with a dog who would be desperate for a wee (hopefully, or I was scrubbing the carpet again) I wondered why he was on the telly, and I was struggling to pay the telly licence.

Is it just talent? Is it hard work plus talent? Is it luck? I can remember some comics who could reduce a room to tears with tales of their life, I’d seen them do it once or twice then never seen them again. I’d ask promoters what had happened to them and they would shrug and say things like, ‘Dunno, think they packed in’ or ‘they got a bird/bloke.’ Just before saying ‘We did agree fifteen quid and you are on second after that student who has brought all his mates.’

Maybe it’s drive, the ability to just keep going when your fuel light blinks on, to keep pushing when others give up.

Which is why me and comedy broke up and I swore never to see her again, I left her to carry on seeing John Bishop and Alan Carr behind my back while I pretended we’d never gone out in the first place. But the problem with comedy is that she is a cruel mistress, because after you’ve gone out together for a while, made love a few times and then broke up, she keeps sending you texts asking if you’d like another try?

And like all losers in love and life, I said, ‘Yes.’

That’s why I found myself waiting to go on at a gig run in a pub last week, for the first time in 18 months.

Did they laugh? Yes.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.

Am I the new John Bishop?

If I put my mind to it... well... truth be told, probably not.

But it’s more fun doing a gig than watching him do one, if only for me and not my audience.

  • Tony Schumaker is auhtor of Rear View Mirror, available as an eBook from Amazon here

    Published: 30 Jul 2012

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