Nightingale Café January 18, 2014


Nightingale Café January 18, 2014


Maybe I should go inside

With all the others

I am the only one outside

And I am cold


The street is shiny wet

Two joggers overtake an old lady

The waitress delivers my porridge

It is too hot and I am too cold

Maybe I should go inside


And then it appears

Above the bus stop

Arcing the sky

The matchless miracle

A rainbow

I watch it for the duration of its life

At which point the porridge and I

Are at our perfect temperatures


As I eat the oats

I read an article about

A woman who caught a falling baby


And I think

Well this day

This Saturday

Has started superbly

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)  Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014 


I am a stand up

I am a stand up (from my autobiography My Name is Daphne Fairfax)



I am a stand-up comic. Even now, after a couple of thousand gigs, making this statement gives me a bristle of pride and a bump of self-importance. ‘That must be the hardest job in the world,’ people say routinely to stand-ups. It is not of course, but it is the most singular job in show business and, in some ways, the most glamorous. The stand-up comedian is a solitary warrior, ignoring the theatre’s fourth wall in a direct Brechtian assault on his (or her) audience, the one performer whose success or failure is determined instantly and audibly. He does not sit down in timid informality, he stands up, like you stand up against bullies or for your rights. He has come to banish cant, bullshit, hypocrisy and the straight face. He does not hide behind costumes, music, cameras, props or masks, he relies on no-one but himself, he is not edited or enhanced after the event, he strides onto the middle of the stage and addresses the crowd, like a politician with no party on his back, like a preacher without God, a gladiator come to slay a roomful of lions and Christians. He ‘kills’, he ‘rips the room apart,’ he ‘storms it’ and the world applauds at his feet. I am a stand-up comic. Who would not be proud to be able to stand up and say that?


But when he fails, when no laughs come, when he ‘dies’, ‘goes down the toilet,’ why then he is an arse and he must get the first train out of town. The stand-up is a con artist who will dance to any tune that gets him a gig and pander to any prejudice that keeps him in the spotlight. He distributes prejudice with a smile, disseminates the lie that laughter redeems or that it is, as Nietzsche said, ‘the one true metaphysical consolation,’ when really it is a way of hiding from the serious business of life – the tragedy of existence.


The first time I tried stand-up I died. I also went down the pan at gigs numbers five, twelve, thirty-seven and so on, until just two weeks ago when, in a large, bland businessmen’s hotel near Derby, my quips left a roomful of car salesmen indifferent to the point of belligerence. To add to my shame, the shape of the room meant that after my public humiliation, when every part of me screamed to get out quick, I had to skirt around the edge of my former audience to reach the exit. They turned in their seats to consider me. Every comic knows this walk of shame. You try to avoid eye contact with anyone. You know what they are thinking; they are thinking you are a useless, unfunny cunt. They are wondering how much you’ve been paid for pissing them off  and how the hell you ever persuaded someone to book you. Like the golden-duck batsman’s long walk back to the pavilion, or the defendant’s grim passage from the dock to the cells, the cry of `take him down` pounding in his ears, it is a head-down procession of despair.

In stand up comedy when you die you are a zero but when you kill you are, briefly, immortal.

Mostly, though, it’s somewhere in the middle.


Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)  Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014


Just before Christmas

Just before Christmas, as the gales and the sirens blew wildly outside, I heard the sad news of the death of comedy’s number one mover-and-shaker, Addison Creswell. Ruthless, abrasive and extravagant, Addison was beloved by (most of) those who knew and worked with him and he engendered almost as many outlandish stories as his old mucker/rival, Malcolm Hardee.

Yes, he was an arch capitalist with a taste for cigars and smart members clubs but I met him first when he was organizing benefits for the miners during the strike of 1984. He was only in his early twenties then but his character was already fully formed – the gushing energy, the East End gangster persona, the designer suits, the head-locks…..

Addison had an acute eye for new talent and how best to promote it. He offered his clients total loyalty but demanded they take his advice on what to wear, which gigs to do, which parties to attend and the best people to schmooze at them. If you had become a comic in order to get rich and famous (and, as far as Addison was concerned, you surely must have) and you had the talent then he was the man who could make it happen. And he was right. You need only Google the list of comedians he represented to see what a crucial role he played in the growth of comedy in the last 30 years

Most comedy agents and TV producers are not extravert; they stand back and make it possible for the big, show-off comedian to shine. Not Addison, who, despite having no desire himself to caper in the limelight, was more charismatic than many of his acts. You did not forget encounters with Mister Cresswell…..

I used to see him in my Soho days , gleaming and glinting in the Groucho club or hustling in the Atlantic bar near Piccadilly Circus. He was always warmly welcoming and would soon be recounting his latest adventures with producers, commissioning editors, lawyers, PR girls and film stars. His speech, delivered in a sort of cockney geezer twang that belied his middle class upbringing, was exhilarating but exhausting; he didn’t talk to you, he beat you up with words and gesticulations.

Every sentence contained words which would be banned on Radio 4 and was accompanied by a repertoire of shrugs, cuts in the air, indignant waves and punches. The features on his face leapt around such that several expressions passed across it every second. Yet he delivered all his speech from one side of the mouth, – the other side clamped shut as though appalled at what its partner was up to. The overall effect was to lend everything he said an air of drama and breathless significance.

Addison was popular with media moguls because he possessed a kind of street-wise glamour that they envied. Even those who found him repellent detected occasional flashes of self-parody that redeemed him and made possible all the deals he cut.

There are those who might suggest that Addison coarsened comedy, making it all about money and status, that he lacked any finer artistic instincts and undermined the comedians who were not in his stable, but I knew him from the off and I can tell you we are saying goodbye to a man with a huge vigorous spirit, a bloke who gripped life by the throat and delighted his friends, a man who added to the gaiety of the nation, a man whose life and work will be remembered and celebrated for a while to come. Seeya Addison.