Apart from a marathon compering session, I did 2 solo performances at Glastonbury last week, both of which were utterly different from any other gig I have ever done. I arrive at the first in the backstage bar of one of the bigger arenas to find a band rocking away and dancing going on. Oh dear – when people are grooving they do not wish to sit down and listen to stand-up comedy. There is an audience to the side of the stage but facing it only seven punters, 3 of whom are, damnit, children.
I start with a couple of ancient gags which go down tolerably well but I can see the children are already bored. Scanning through it swiftly, I realize that nearly all my material will either be incomprehensible or too rude for them. So I take a chance and offer 50p for one of the kids to come up on stage and talk to me. 10-year old Olivia is soon standing next to me answering my questions. ‘Are you enjoying yourself?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you like your tent?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you only answer questions with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’? ‘ ‘Yes’ She has a rather stern delivery and gets a laugh with each monosyllable. Soon her best friend Isabel has joined us and proves to have an extremely charming and infectious laugh. Olivia and Isabel are enjoying themselves and so is everyone else.
‘Who does your mum look like?’ I ask Olivia.
‘Beyonce,’ she says. Her mum whoops and comes up to wave.
‘And who do I look like?’
Olivia scrutinizes me intently.
‘Robbie Williams,’ she says.
Never work with children and animals but, if you do, step back and let them get the laughs.
2 nights later and I have a half-hour spot in the Cabaret tent, a duty I have discharged successfully in the past. On warm afternoons you sometimes find the audience is sparse or still recovering from the previous night ,so I am pleased to find I am due on at 9.45. Unfortunately, at the same time, in some larger venue on the other side of the site, a band called the Rolling Stones are playing.
You may be surprised to learn that many more festival-goers attend the Stones gig than mine – or you may not be surprised. There are about 20 people in the very large Cabaret tent, several of whom are hopelessly pissed. Carl Donnelly, most excellent MC, proposes that he jolly some of the audience onto the stage before I come on. Why not? When I stride up to the microphone I find 6 people sitting at my feet, and so I decide to declare myself the new Messiah and the 6 as my apostles.
I can’t remember a great deal about the next 25 minutes except that I soon ceded the Messiahship to Dave, whose message was that we should all be drunk and enjoy Glastonbury. Later I got 2 of my followers to have a gladiatorial sword fight using 2 rolled-up copies of the Daily Mail. I seem to recall that Dave was killed in this combat so I am not sure who is the Messiah now. Was it Alice the stoned astrophysicist, or Blue, the self-possessed boy I took to be a girl? It’s all a bit blurry now – as Glastonbury immediately becomes once you have returned from the mayhem and had that oh so fabulous bath.
Thank you Glastonbury for another crazed time with old friends and new. And thanks to Olivia and Isabel, the best new double act around.