Friday, 9 January 2015

I Meet A Comedian In The Street

I Meet Stephen Merchant In The Street

It would have been 2006, I think.  A Friday or Saturday night.
I'd just played at The Enterprise next to Chalk Farm tube station in Camden, and was walking down Camden High Street with a few friends.
Walking swiftly the other way was a very tall man and a woman.  I recognised the man immediately, and called over (not obnoxiously loud, but loud enough for him to hear):
"Alright maaaaate?"
Without a moment's hesitation, and perhaps recognising an accent much like his own, he bounded over and offered his hand, which I shook,  Then we had a conversation that went like this:
Me:  (Gesturing behind him) You alright, you been, uuuuuh...?
Steve:  (Gesturing behind himself)  Yeah, I been over at uuuuhh...
Me:  Oh ah.  Up at uuuu.....?
Steve:  (Gesturing behind himself)  Yeah, that's right, up at uuuuh....
(Gesturing at my guitar) You been, uuuuuhh...?
Me:  (Gesturing behind myself) Yeah, I was uuuuuuhh.....
Steve:   Oh yeah, up at uhhhh....
Me:  Yeah, we were over by, uuuuuuhh....
Steve:  (Pointing up the road behind me)  Oh, down byyy, uuuuh....
Me:  Yeah, just up, uuuuhh…
Steve:  (Nodding toward the far end of the road) Good, alright then.  Well, I'd better, uuuuhh…..
Me:  (Nodding toward the station) Alright then, we're just uuuuuuuuh….
Steve:  (Offering his hand and pointing up the road) Cool – well, I've got to, uuuuuuhh....
Me:  (Shaking his hand) Yeah, cheers mate, see you, uuuuhh, (pointing down the road) we're uuuuh...
Steve:  (Over his shoulder) Cheers!
Me:  (Over my shoulder) Cheers mate.

As Merchant carried on down the street, my friend Paul said "Who was that?" and someone else asked if he was a friend from Bristol.
"He's Stephen Merchant, he co-wrote The Office, and Extras...with Ricky Gervais.  He co-starred in Extras as you not recognise him?"
Paul shook his head.
"I thought he was an old school mate of yours or something…he is from Bristol, isn’t he?"  someone said.
"What, so he's famous, is he?  Ooh, look at Blizz, he knows famous people..." said my mate Mike (see last week's blog).
"Well, obviously I don't know him, we were just having a laugh."
Mike then spent the next half an hour loudly ripping into me for recognising and talking to a famous person in the street, making it abundantly clear (to everyone, particuarly me) that this was a comically naive and touristy thing to do in London, especially in Camden – and, most pathetically of all – with a TV celebrity.  And he did it in a way that was comical (to no one, particularly not me).

That story about Stephen Merchant is true.  But it doesn't tell us very much about Stephen Merchant, or comedians, or fame.

I Meet Stewart Lee In The Street

For reasons too convoluted to bore you with, the night after seeing Stewart Lee’s show “Much A-Stew About Nothing” at Leicester Square Theatre, I bumped into Lee passing through Leicester Square as he prepared for that night’s performance.
The show was a warm-up/tester for his third series of Comedy Vehicle, which aired early last year.  (And it was good. Very good.)
I’d enjoyed the show the night before as well, but when I saw him I made an earnest attempt to be funny – always a risk with a famous person, but with a renowned stand-up?  Downright foolish.
Anyway, I sidled up and said: “Hello, I’m the one and only CLB, don’t make me Stewart Lee, you wouldn’t like me when I’m Stewart Lee..”
Then we had a conversation that went like this:

Clayton Lawrence Blizzard The First:  Greetings, Mr Stewart Lee.
Mister Stewart Lee:  Hello.
CLB1:  Enjoyed the show last night.
MSL:  Thanks. 
CLB1:  That greeting was a reference to a Stewart Lee stand-up routine, wasn’t it?
MSL:  Yeah, I got that.
CLB1:  It’s a terrible name though, Much A-Stew About Nothing, isn’t it?  If I didn’t know your work, it would have put me right off.  I mean, it seems out of character for you to use such a tortured pun…
MSL:  Right….
CLB1:  I suppose that’s the joke, though, isn’t it?
MSL: Well…
CLB1:  Because, if someone else did it, someone younger, less knowingly clever, like one of the Russell comedians, you’d just look at that poster and think they were shit.
MSL:  (laughing) I don’t know that I would…
CLB1:  Or I'd assume it was a straight attempt, not even ironic, and think the person who thought of it was a bit simple.
MSL:  Umm.  I don't know if-
CLB1:  I’m thinking of doing some stand-up, and if this conversation continues, I think I can probably spin ten minutes-worth out of it, what d’you think?
MSL:  I wouldn’t start with it. 
CLB1:  Yeah, you’re probably right.  I might just do some jokes about minorities or something instead…
MSL:  (Looking at me carefully) I’d be very careful about that.
CLB1:  Well, yeah, you would, but I’m not you, am I...I've got to make a name for myself, and I haven;t got twenty years, or any patience, to do it.
MSL:  Right.  Well, I’d be better be off.  Bye.
CLB1:  Cheers, Stew  – can I call you Stew?
MSL:  (Over his shoulder) I'd rather you didn't.
CLB1:  See you, Stew.

And Lee hurried off to do his show and I got on a tube and felt sorry for myself.

Now, that story about Stewart Lee isn't true.  But what it tells us about Stewart Lee is true.
I wonder if it will end up in one of his routines.

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