From Jester To King XLI
By Simon Barget
Once upon a time, Richard Bloom had wanted to be a comedian. He had wanted to get onto the stage and deliver wry observations to a willing and enthusiastic or even excoriating crowd. He had wanted to be seen to have found out the truth about things and be applauded and lauded for having done so. He had wanted the adulation, he had wanted the fame. He had thought he had something to give. He was sure he had something to give. He had wanted to be the modern stand-up comedian with their ‘you know when youre in’s’ and their ‘I was actually in’s’ or ‘I had a gig the other week in’s’ and then their taking a situation and applying the perverse logic that had seemed to have been applied to that situation and then taking another wholly unrelated situation and applying that perverse logic to make the very demonstration that the logic was perverse and the whole world was awry. Cue laughter of recognition. If only everyone was so astute. If only they had the guts. The guy sees things so clearly. If only if only. He wrote furiously in his little note book but all he could come up with was bees. And then which passenger the arm-rest belonged to on a northern line tube carriage seeing that there wasn’t two whole rests for each. An undersupply of armrests to provoke passenger unrest. This was not the exact thrust of his set but just my personal ad liberandum. He took courses where they couldn’t tell you how to be a stand-up but a few tips wouldn’t go a begging. He took other courses where the leader couldn’t tell you how to write or what to write but there was a rule of 3 and that you should take any topic, got one?, then take an emotion, tick? and then write about that subject imbued with that emotion then change it up with all sorts of different emotions like disinterest or hurt or fear or awe. There wasn’t a catch-all method but if you did a couple of these things then they could certainly put you on your way. And it wouldn’t hurt to get yourself a copy of Brian Jesovic’s ‘The stand-up comic’s tool kit’, not necessarily to take any or all of it on board but just to give yourself an idea of the kinds of things real stand-ups do to be real stand-ups and stay real stand-ups.
Anyhow all of this was not nearly as important as being around other fledgling stand-ups and creatives and people who thought they could be stand-ups perhaps even misguidedly just to give you that sense of what the whole thing was like and that you could actually do it. And my oh my were there a ready supply of people who thought they could do it, a ready stream of young boys and girls quite happy to thrust their hand up at whichever course Bloom happened to be at on that evening or Saturday lunchtime to share with the group their specific individual creative unique response to the exercise just handed out by Luke Jumanji today’s course leader. Why the girls were keener than the boys, because they had more to say and were eager to say it. Luke Giberil was eager too and energetic and supportive and invited each participant to talk to him after in the bar for personalised feedback but make sure you’re a woman or he might not have time to get to your turn, not that he has anything against men per se it’s just that the girls are keener and prettier. I have nothing against Luke Giberil, he’s a singular voice with his own thoroughly unorthodox and refreshing take on the world.
I say all of this because I got a call from Richard Bloom and he eventually tells me all of the above. I got a call because I am the late and great Steven L. Bloom formerly of Napier Kentucky, no seriously I got an email from this guy asking me if he could take a look at his set. Not that you’d know but I offer three hour sessions in my place in Folkestone for £100 just because a guy needs to pay his bills and maybe I can help, I don’t know, let’s not get into that, let’s not get into how all stand-up these days is tired and dull and formulaic and there’s really no point bothering. I have never been and would never refer to myself as a stand-up. I don’t mean to sound big-headed but at least I make stuff up and create characters and do voices, and there’s a story to it too. Oh well. So he sends me his set and I click on it for a second just to get an idea, he’s videoed himself, and I’m sorry to say that even for one second that I’m watching this thing, this guy is the most miserable mumbling pathetic guy I have seen in my life and I cannot bring myself to watch any more than even that second. The whole thing is dead air and I didn’t even so much as listen to what he was saying because you couldn’t make out anyway but the whole thing screamed TURN OFF TURN OFF TURN OFF. What am I going to be able to tell a guy who I think is next to useless? So we’ve already agreed Tuesday at 2 and I said I’d send him my address when he sends me the stand-up, but as soon as I see it as I say I’m having second thoughts but I can’t bring myself to cancel because I just feel sorry for the guy but I can’t bring myself to confirm either and send him my address so I just leave it and it’s already Friday at which point I get an email from him asking if we’re still on and I reply almost immediately saying of course we are and I’m looking forward to it. Oh dear. And you might not realise that for some people £100 is a decent amount of money especially as I have no gigs no voice-over work no nothing on the horizon, there’s the rent to pay on this place, even Rothmans Super Kings are almost £10 a packet now, I mean I have to do what every other adult in this world does which is look after number one. Then he replies to my email saying he thought the video might have put me off! Oh god no! And I reply to that saying not one bit, thought there was some good stuff. Does this make me a bad person?
Anyway he comes down and gets to my flat bang on time and it turns out he’s not a bad guy at all, even though he is very quiet, says some very complimentary things about my YouTube videos and how I’m the first guy he’s come across in ages who’s actually half decent and original and that some of my material actually made him change the way he thought about an issue, like my Trump supporting and my pro-Brexit stance. And then we get on to our common surnames and how we could be brothers and how my grandfather was Jewish but not my father and then I put on the dreaded video and I realise that most of it I can’t hear properly, there’s a bit where he says Lodz as in the town in Poland – the skit is about him going back and excavating his great great great great grandfather who would have lived somewhere near there -- and I thought he was saying woods as in the place where all the trees are and I say so, and then I feel bad because it’s obvious I have not played the thing at all before he got here or paid the slightest bit of attention let alone prepared pointers or made notes on it but he seems cool with it and then I get him to stand-up and try doing his bit but he’s so quiet and shy and self-conscious so I gingerly tell him that he needs to be more confident, basically the first rule is that you cannot go out on stage without authority, that is the key however rubbish you are, and the best way, well I think personally anyway is to do a voice, and then we’re thinking what voice we can come up with, and as nice as the guy is, he’s got no, I don’t know what the word is, he’s got no personality, no power, zero oomph, he literally cannot project his voice you know like you do when you’re making a speech rather than just talking like you’re talking to one other person even when he tries to do his New York Jew it was still this mumbly bumbly mumble, and I could not bring myself to tell this guy that I can never hear what he says but I do keep saying to speak a little louder if you can, because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, he seems somehow delicate and not really receptive to feedback. A really nice guy though so it wasn’t too painful all in all.
We have a joint together, I walk him back to the station to go to the cash machine with him and get my cash. Then a week or so later he sends me an email thanking me saying although he doesn’t think stand-up is for him, he has started straight writing again and he hopes I don’t mind but some of it is based on me and that somehow I have inspired him and that’s all very nice I suppose, I feel flattered and initially I have no interest in clicking on the thing but then curiosity gets the better of me and it’s all nicely set out on this website and reading this stuff which I can see is about me feels a bit uncomfortable and the more I read because he sends me his new stuff every week, the more I see that he makes me out, I mean the character who I think is meant to be me, as being a bit deluded, more than a bit, he thinks so much of himself and can’t understand why he’s not world famous, an icon, a superstar, there’s a bit he does which is an about the comedian and I have to say I did underestimate the guy, I mean he never told me he was a writer but the tone is really sharp, it’s definitely satire which has always been my field, you know those about the artist texts that they have just above a few paintings in a gallery that are always sickeningly earnest and fawning, well he satirises that and said I was the first comedian to have a joke patented and that I won the best joke in the Midwest award for ten years running etc, anyway it hurt a little when I realised that this guy Richard had not been so unwise to me and it’s more uncomfortable than the people who write negative comments on my YouTube videos or who shout out sometimes because they somehow think I’m right wing and don’t get it, clearly this guy gets it, I can feel it, anyway, I don’t really want him to write any more stuff about me especially as he only met me once, it’s like being stalked by someone, just because you’re a little bit in the public eye and have a little bit of a presence, this is what can happen, people can see you and respond to you, perceptive people and that’s a downside that I really hadn’t considered properly until now. The idiots I can live with.