Long train rides can be very boring. I was on a train bound for Leicester recently, feeling rather bored, when I realised the person I was sat next to was reading an online newspaper article which had a photo of me in it. This immediately made my journey more interesting. I realised they were reading jokes written by the participants at the UK Pun Championships, of which I was one.
Why he wasn't laughing uproariously, I don't know. Perhaps the potential embarrassment. Little did he know I probably felt far more embarrassed than he did. Instinctively I turned away so as not to be recognised, but couldn’t help smiling at being in a rather unusual situation, and, let’s face it, one which comedians would love to find themselves in. There’s nothing like having your ego massaged and being handed more material on a plate.
The reason for that newspaper article, and for me being on a train, was that I was on my way to take part in a very well publicised and unique comedy event. As a gag and pun writer and performer, I was one of only 3 comedians in the whole of the UK to be selected to take part again, in the second UK Pun Championships finals at the Leicester Comedy Festival. And the PR behind the event ensured it made the news in most national dailies.
The competition is a ‘pun-off’ between pairs of comedians around selected topics. In the final this year, hosted by Lee Nelson, I made it through to the last four on the night thanks to some neat gags I had in my back pocket about the general election. But when it came to the topic of chat up lines, which is hardly my forte in real life, I was weak, and so missed out on taking part in the final 'pun-off'.
To be honest though, it’s the sort of night where it really is all about the taking part. There’s the camaraderie, the audience who are entirely up for it, having Lee Nelson as a brilliant MC, being wined and dined. And I’ve had a Chortle review out of it, which said that I had strong material (I’ve since used that quote a lot!). Another is that it forced me to write jokes on topics I wouldn’t normally consider. After discovering the gems amongst the new writing at new material nights, it meant my set could be expanded in both length and breadth.
And so, just a month later, I’m bringing my first full solo show back to this year's Glasgow International Comedy Festival. It debuted a year ago in Yesbar and I’m looking forward to performing it there again. It’s such a lovely wee venue. A lot has happened in the past year, as I have taken my show to the Leith, Edinburgh Fringe and Leicester Comedy Festivals and added in some of that new material. It feels like a much more rounded show now. It’s still a mixture of spoken and visual wordplay, but packed with even more and better jokes and one-liners.
There’s no story arc, emotional rollercoaster or challenge to change your life. But there are some clever one-liners which will help you forget about real life for an hour. If this is the kind of humour you appreciate, I’m sure you’ll enjoy my show. See it as a kind of comedic therapy.
I’m also appearing in the compilation show 4 Fifers for a Fiver in the same venue (Yesbar) on Monday 23 March at 19:30. That’s because I live in Fife, and there are at least 4 of us from there. And because it costs a fiver.
And next time you’re on a train, reading an article about the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, check to see who is sat next to you. Are they by any chance wearing dark glasses and smiling to themselves?