It is expected that my memory is increasingly unreliable. Huge swathes of my past have gone forever but then occasionally little vignettes recur. A happy memory is offered up that I am grateful to be reminded of.
A recent example involves the Banana Cabaret, a long-standing comedy club in a huge South London boozer called The Bedford, which I still play on the odd occasion. I have many intact memories of this comedy club: the time I recorded my ever first radio show in their upstairs room for the BBC, doing two shows on a Saturday night and the occasion when a bunch of punters had come to see me perform and waiting to go on, I was fretting that I had nothing new to say. Who’d be a really famous comedian?
And now (with a memory jog), the time that my old pal, Mike Gunn held his wedding reception at The Bedford pub.
I am very affectionate about any of my old comedy mates and particularly so the brave souls who are still at the coal face, providing laughs in exchange for dwindling amounts of cash. I have a particular affection for Mike. Way back when, we gigged together in Hong Kong. We had eschewed our bog-standard hotel booking in favour of a hideously expensive luxury apartment instead – courtesy of a rich UK banker, who happened to be the sister of a lady Nikki had met at a twin’s club. (A club for mums burdened with the ‘joy’ of twins). I didn’t know this lady very well and I didn’t know her sister at all, so you will understand my reticence at accepting such a kind offer but they were insistent.
At the time, I didn’t know Mike very well either and it wasn’t until we settled in to our 11-hour flight that he said something I will never forget…
“In my twenties there wasn’t a single day that I didn’t shoot up brown…”
Even I knew that brown was heroin and immediately I panicked. Here we are, bound for Asia to stay in an apartment of a millionaire. So, what if Mike relapses and I return to an empty apartment – everything sold – just Mike sitting on the parquet flooring smoking an enormous bong.
But Mike remained sober (and remains so) the gigs were unbelievable and we became firm friends, going on to host our own radio show for the BBC. Our brilliant show lasted precisely three Saturdays but this was no reflection on us. We were brilliant but the posh BBC suits couldn’t see it talent – and we were cast aside.
And so, to Mike’s wedding and the incident I am reminded of…
The bride and groom were joined by family and friends, including lots of professionally funny people, including me. The happy occasion and our familiarity with the venue (and no gigs to do) created a particularly convivial atmosphere. Of all the comedians present, I was unusual because I was already encumbered with three little boys, Tom and our twins, Sam and Harry – all charging about and causing mayhem for Nikki and I. And courtesy of the Holland boys, the happy couple were about to become less happy.
The mistake they made was not the cake itself. A wedding dress needs to be a white but the cake can be any colour and even chocolate – which is particularly attractive to little boys.
But placing such a cake on a particularly low vantage place was certainly a cardinal error.
Like placing a cooked turkey on a low table in a house with a dog – chances are that Christmas day will be ruined.
When I saw Harry with a face covered in chocolate I didn’t think much of it. Eighteen months old with his shock of curly hair and wicked grin, he looked even more adorable as everyone remarked. I thought someone must have given him a chocolate bar. Cute.
But then I heard that the wedding cake was chocolate.
The cake was no longer pristine – after a tiny hand had gouged out an impromptu portion.
Nikki was mortified, although I admit to a degree of glee and pride because it was funny and weddings are about creating memories, right?
And yet this memory almost slipped off my hard driver entirely. At the Banana Cabaret very recently, I couldn’t recall this incident – fixated I expect on being funny for the packed and expectant room.
But then watching something on telly jogged Nikki’s memory…
‘…didn’t one of our twins ruin a cake at one of your comics mate’s wedding?’
And just like a key or a PIN number, my brain opened up and the happy memory came trundling along.
I am afraid that happy couple became less and less happy and have long since stopped being a couple. I hope Harry wasn’t a bad omen. Oddly enough, he hardly eats chocolate these days and perhaps this is a good thing.
Mike remains a fabulous comedian – well worth checking out at www.mikegunn.co.uk
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