Last week I was on tour with a band, and I guested with them a couple of times, and next week I’m doing the same at a gig with my brother’s band The Wiselys – truly, this is a golden season for me. Whenever I see a live band – from two old blokes in a pub to the Arctic Monkeys – I want to get up and join in. It’s a defining urge in my life, and quite an unusual one it seems, particularly now; men my age with a penchant for popular music tend to collect records, go to gigs… I always want to have a go on the songs.
I’ve been in bands – Donkey Monkey, the Glass Needle, the Space Babies and Galar to name but a few. And hey – what names. But this guy, this I-could-have-been-a-rock-star-but-I-never-was character that I’ve become, is definitely a product of being a comedian. I say ‘character’ – it’s all true. Comedy is truth I suppose – or therapy at least.
When I started out in stand-up I didn’t play guitar; the music was there, I often sang snatches of popular songs, but like many an audience member I had a vague idea that comedy songs were rubbish. I say vague idea, all the comedy songs I’ve actually heard tend to be great; in those days it was Boothby Graffoe and Bill Bailey, these days we’ve got Tim Minchin, Flight of the Conchords, Lonely Island, but that prejudice is definitely there; a sense – the occasional strangely angry audience member or know-how-to-tease-where-it-hurts fellow comedian will remind me – that stand-up with music is cheating.
When it comes down to it, I was the ‘wrong’ type of comedian, even before I picked up the guitar; I didn’t get into this business because I love Bill Hicks, or Stewart Lee, I got into it because I like to get up in front of a bunch of people and try and get laughs. Jokes, music, falling over – they all come under the banner of Showing Off, and that’s what I came to do. Have an uncontrollable urge to do in fact – ask anyone who knows me off stage. I’m never off. If it wasn’t for the natural outlet of comedy gigs I’d be a nightmare. More of a nightmare.
So the music was always going to happen, not from a love of, I don’t know, Jasper Carrott? Billy Connolly? God I’m old… but because I’ve got skills, and I saw a chance to show off.
One day I borrowed an open spot’s guitar and mocked a couple of popular tunes (Madonna’s Don’t Tell Me and Eminem’s Stan, which should give you a fairly good sense of when this was), and the guy-who-shoehorns-the-music-in-because-lets-face-it-that-pop-star-thing-is-never-going-to-happen-for-him was born.
Now I’m a one-man band, and I make no apologies; it’s funny and it rocks. I’m going on tour with a piano, drums, guitars, backing vocals, congas and a cow bell. It’s an eight-piece band, but I pick up all the pieces. I used to be the same way with pizza. The uncontrollable urge to have a go continues.