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The Hard Sell

I’ve always been a huge fan of stand-up comedy. So when my wife got me, for my last birthday, a ticket to go and do the beginners’ course with the Comedy Trust, I was thrilled, and excited, and only a tiny bit pant-wettingly terrified. As part of my recovery (I’m an alcoholic) it was recommended that I get out and do some things outside my comfort zone, and standing on stage trying to make strangers laugh sounded pretty uncomfortable to me.

As it turned out, I had a fantastic time and the final gig was incredible. The people on my course, both staff and fellow beginners (the competition), were wonderful and very supportive, and the gig went swimmingly for everyone. It was superb.

When my parents came to me a few months ago, casting around for ideas for events their local Rotary Club could put on, we said we could do a comedy night. No problem! We’d do it in aid of MIND and local mental health charities. Loads of comedians love MIND, it would be no problem to get a running order together. And we could ask people from the Comedy Trust’s Feeling Funny course, their own mental health project, to come and perform to give the event a real link in to local mental health charity work. What could go wrong?

Thanks to some bits and pieces we’d done in the past, we were acquainted with a few stand-up comedians. We asked lots of them, and they all said no. So we started asking people we didn’t know. Most of them said no, too. Stewart Lee’s agent said no but we could have a signed DVD for the raffle, which was helpful, and Ed Byrne’s agent sent us tickets to a gig for the same reason, but otherwise there was no joy at all.

Then I heard back from Robin Ince. We knew Robin because I’d met him at the Blue Dot Festival and interviewed him over his book of horror stories. He told me he’d been rearranging his schedule and he would now be able to attend – or, at least, his attendance was “83% possible”. For a few days we held our breath. Then he confirmed, and we were overjoyed – finally we had a name attached! Now things would move.

And they did. Robin got Michael Legge involved, we got a yes from Chris Tavener, and now we were on. We booked a hall, we set a date – it’s this Monday, 16 October 2017, at 7.00pm in Hoylake Social Club. Now we had everything we needed to start publicity.

Until Robin dropped out.

Mr Ince was being dragged away by the need to work on The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox, which is probably his most high-profile show. So we thrashed around and came up with John Robertson. John had changed his tour plans and he could join us.

We’d seen John in Edinburgh this year and he was amazing. His set ended with him inviting people onto the stage to lash him with a whip while he sang My Way. This was the kind of comedy that the Rotary Club desperately needed to be exposed to. So we printed up posters and passed them round town. Sales started coming in and all was well with the world.

Until Michael Legge dropped out.

I sent him a copy of the poster to share on his social media, and he got back to me saying he had been doing it as part of his double-act with Robin Ince, and hadn’t Robin told me? No, I said, Robin said he was dropping out but hadn’t said a word about Michael. Mr Legge kindly informed me that Robin Ince is an idiot, but he agreed to drop back in again and life continued. Thank god, everything was finally under control.

Until John Robertson dropped out.

This was at the start of this week. To be fair to John, he had a massive family crisis and cut short a tour of Singapore to fly back home early. I can’t discuss the nature of the crisis here, but I have permission to explain on the night of the gig. Which I will. Monday night, seven o’clock, cash-only bar. Bring your kids.

So we had a week to go until the gig and two headliners had cancelled on it. Frankly, at this stage I was prepared to just pretend John was still doing it and announce the cancellation on the night.

But then, Gandalf trotting down the hill with the cavalry, Michael Legge got back in touch. He’d heard John was having problems, and did we need another headliner, and if so, would Justin Moorhouse suit?

Well, thank heaven for Michael Legge. I bit his hand off. And that’s the line-up as it stands. We’ve got Chris Cairns MCing, we’ve got Michael Legge, Jonathan Meyer, Chris Tavener and volunteers from Feeling Funny coming to give us a rousing comedy night, with Justin Moorhouse rounding the whole evening off.

And if any bastard decides they want to drop out now, it’s too late. Let them try. I’m kidnapping them, tying them up and dumping them onstage until they get a bloody laugh.

I hope, after all this hard work, we raise a lot of money for our mental health charities. Would you like to help us? Tickets are still available at, along with all the information you need to attend. We’d be delighted to see you there.


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