Monologues seem pretty easy…..a face talking to a camera in a shabby bedsit. Alan Bennett is rightly recognised as the master. It’s not an easy discipline and when it’s done well (a particular favourite is A Cream Cracker Under the Settee) it’s wonderful. A few years back I tried my hand with A Last Laugh. It didn’t make the grade, but it was an attempt at something new and I quite enjoyed writing it…..
The Last Laugh
Ged, aged about 35, is talking.
“Have a go,” Brian said, “And give us a bloody rest for five minutes.” I smiled at that. You don’t show a weakness at our place. You never let them know when they’ve struck a nerve. Cheeky sod. A rest for five minutes? That’s the thanks you get for trying to brighten up the place. Trying to remove some of the doom and gloom from this world. That lot’d rather go around moaning. “I’m only doing my bit to cheer you up, you miserable buggers,” I told them. “Someone’s got to try. There’s not much to laugh about in plastic mouldings.” Brian gave me one of those sickly smiles, the kind he reserves for sales reps when he’s about to show them out of the office.
Brian’s my boss and although we’ve got the best workshop in south Manchester, he’s definitely the biggest tool in the place. Some people work their nuts off to get a bigger car or house, not Brian. Oh, no. He’s still stuck in the same two-up, two-down terrace in Macclesfield. He’s forced his way up the ladder solely to make the lives of those beneath him a misery. If you were the one who flushed his head down the bogs in Second Year, I challenge you….come and see what you’ve done. You are responsible for creating a monster.
Anyway, he comes up to me and says: “One of life’s characters; that’s what you are.” I could see him winking as he said it. He must think I’m stupid. Then last Friday he says “I’ve put you down for a comedy night, it’s your big chance.” I didn’t believe him at first, but it turned out it was true. He’d put me down for a club his mate runs off Oldham Road. The Laughter Factory it’s called. I wonder if Tony Wilson’s going to sue. “You’re alright with that, aren’t you, mate,” he says, not even bothering to hide that horrid grin – the grin that reminds me of the way a spider watches a fly. “Could be your big break,” he says, and walks off whistling. Hadn’t got any choice, had I. I was bricking it, but I wasn’t going to let him know that. I didn’t sleep that night – three days to go. Next morning Brian’s waiting for me at the factory gates. “Gonna be a cracker Friday night,” he says and unfurls a bloody great poster. He’s only got the print department at our place to do it. It’s got my name on it in bold type with “Sale’s finest comic” beneath it. The next three days there were people coming up to me and saying: “I didn’t know you were a comic?” “How long you been doing this?” “Tell us a joke” and “This bear walks into a pub and says..”
I can’t chicken out, can I? So I’m there on the big night and I can see Brian nudging people and pointing at me. He keeps pointing towards the toilets. The first few acts die and I’m guzzling back mineral water because I don’t trust pop and no way am I having alcohol. My bladder’s fit to bust when the compere, Dougie Fontayne, I kid you not, announces me.
“All the way from Sale, but there’s nothing cut price about him-”
I stumble on some loose carpet. There’s laughter, but not the kind I want. I can see Brian creased up. I fiddle with the microphone. “I used to be an undertaker, but I got fired for funeral directing on the M6-” Shit. My first gag. “I mean I used to be a funeral director and I got fired for undertaking-”
There was silence. You could hear a crisp packet someone had scrunched up at the bar slowly unravelling in an ashtray. “I used to make doors but I got sick of people knocking my work.”
Nothing, absolutely zilch. Brian is wetting himself with laughter. Then I get an evil thought. My boss is as bald as a coot and very touchy about it. You can’t say a word about it or even look above his eyebrows. And I see him laughing his head off at me. “Someone’s having a good time,” I said, and a guy in the front row shouts “Who?” I smile and point to the back of the room. Brian sees me and looks worried. “The guy in the back row. The one with the swimming hat on,” I said and the place erupted. Everyone in that club was laughing except Brian.