Hi, I'm John Harding,

Being a magician from Liverpool

…I was a little wary about my first stand up gig. Not about the show itself, I’d done plenty of stage work though this was the first time I’d been billed specifically as a comedian. It was more the venue, a freshers’ week comedy night in Luton University Student’s Union. Some of my friends had studied there (most rather briefly it has to be said) and I had seen first hand what happened to mouthy, smart Alec northern types. There was rumours that some of the local lads had a scoring system: 5 points for smacking a student, 10 for a Scouser, 15 for a bouncer – one friend, Joe, was all of the above, a veritable end-of-level bonus. This was in the early 2000’s mind you, I’m sure it’s all very different now. Well, reasonably sure.  As it transpired I needn’t have worried, my set went well. The problems came later…

I was to be the whole first half of the night, with my 45 minute set – I hadn’t realised at that point that stand-ups tend to do 20 minutes. The second half was to be taken up with a package  tour of circuit comics, headlined by Adam Bloom and compered by one Russell Brand. Now Russell’s issues at this time have been well documented, not least by himself, and I think it’s fair to say that on this evening he misjudged the mood of the room. Dressed as John Hurt in ‘The Elephant Man’, he had trouble making himself heard through the sack he was wearing on his head, and the audience started to chat amongst themselves. Saying “they’re not ready for a show” he left the stage asked for the DJ to quieten them down and announce him again. This did not please the assembled late teens enjoying their first week of independent living, and when he started the same routine, still in the sack, the booing started. He left the stage again and returned without the Merrick outfit, hair flowing behind him. This time he kept walking in front of the speakers, causing load squalls of feedback. In irritation he threw the microphone to the floor, breaking it. Some people started throwing beer mats, some were chanting for him to get off, the rest turned away from the stage. “What’s the matter with you people?” he shouted, “You listened to the ****ing  magician!” My sympathy for him somewhat lessened at that point.

A new microphone was found and the next comic went on, to a thoroughly disgruntled audience who gave him no chance at all. He barely whispered his way to 10 minutes. Waiting to go on next Adam Bloom was panicking. “What am I going to do?” he asked. “I dunno,” I replied. “Tell them some jokes?”…

He did and was fantastic, winning the crowd back and ending the night on a high. It seemed obvious that there was a future superstar of comedy in the room.

Fast forward to last week, and a friend in West Hollywood watches as a group of  girls accost the internationally famous film star Russell Brand for photos and autographs. Clearly loving the lifestyle, he’s charming and funny, and sends them away thrilled to have met him. “Nice legs by the way!” he calls, to shrieks of delight.

I suppose everyone is entitled to an off day.

May 17th, 2010

Category: True Stories