Comedians getting Christmas Lattes (series one)
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
Last night was a bit of a mad one for me, and I wanna tell you about it.
The truth is, I’ve always hated Christmas. I’m sure when Coca Cola invented it two thousand years ago they had good intentions, but in recent years Christmas has become an over commercialised mess. In his masterpiece “The Muppet Christmas Carol” Charles Dickens taught us that Christmas is about love and kindness and Kermit the Frog. But all that seems to have been lost. Instead of Christmas summoning the better sides of our nature, it teases out the worst aspects of our characters –our rapacious greed and our insatiable desire to DESTROY our grandparents at Guess Who. To quote another one of Dickens’s masterpieces, “What’s wrong with the world Momma?”
Where is the love?
And some of you think it’s clear where the love Is. You’ll point to the latest tear-jerking John Lewis advert and you’ll say, “There it is, Eric. There’s the love.” I won’t respond. “Eric, there’s the love, right there in the eyes of that little boy who just got his first piano.” I still won’t respond. “Come on, Eric, can’t you see the love is right there in little Elton John’s face…” You’ll begin poking me. “Eric… Eric are you breathing??” *dials phone* “Hi, I need an ambulance, he’s not responding at all... Oh god oh god please say something, Eric…” *intense weeping begins* “If you’re trying to make some kind of point, then you’ve made it, please say something, please…”
Well, I’m sorry for the panic, but I am trying to make a point. The point is John Lewis and other companies making these adverts don’t care about love, they care about money. I’d like to say they just use sentimentality as a cheap way to disguise their motives. But it’s actually much worse and more insidious than that. Their bigger project is to completely reprogram our minds – their ultimate aim to make love and capitalist consumption one and the same. In the future, when we want to say the magic words “I love you” to our latest squeeze, those words will mean absolutely nothing unless they’re also accompanied by a brand new Amazon Echo and a pair of Beats by Dre.
Well that was my frame of mind before last night. But something happened that completely changed my perspective. I was awoken in the night. “Fuck off, Santa,” I said, eyes half closed. “I can’t be arsed with it this year.” But when I opened my eyes fully, I realised it wasn’t Santa. It was actually The Ghost of Christmas Past.
The ghost showed me a flashback from around 3 or 4 years ago. I was at one of Jeremy Corbyn’s rallies, proper getting into it. I was shouting out “Jez we can!” and standing next to me was my ex-girlfriend Belle. Oh, how I loved her so. We’d only been together for a few months at this point but we fell in love and we were engaged to be married. But in the flashback she looks right pissed off at me. I remembered how I’d dragged her to that rally when we were supposed to go shopping for laptops that day instead. She left me shortly afterwards, telling me it wasn’t gonna work out because of how obsessed I was with anti-consumerist ideals. The Ghost then showed her transform into a fully-grown woman, married to a hedge-fund manager called Brian, totally besotted with a brand new Macbook Pro he’d bought her. I began to weep.
Next I was visited by The Ghost of Christmas Present. I saw a man in distress. You might think that man was me, but it wasn’t. It was a comedian I know called Paul Savage. Through no fault of his own, he isn’t very funny, so he’s not earned much money this year. Because of his poverty, Paul actually lives on the canal in Birmingham on a boat – which is ironic, because in the eyes of the comedy industry, Paul’s ship has sailed. Over a decade in the business and absolutely nothing to show for it, Paul’s comedy is a bit like the Titanic – in that I’ve never watched more than 10 minutes of it because it’s soooo boring.
Even sadder than all this is the fact that Paul has a really sick child called Tiny Tim. I’m not sure what his illness is, but he wears crutches and coughs a lot and it’s sad. Paul can’t afford to buy Tim expensive presents, so he decided to put lots of thought and love into his gifts instead – he drew comic book strips, wrote some short stories, he even wrote a song, all based on his relationship with his son. In the vision the Ghost presented to me, Tiny Tim thought Paul’s presents were fucking shit. He doesn’t want love, Tiny Tim wants an iPhone like the rest of his mates. It’s heart-breaking.
Finally, a third spirit, called The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed me a scene from the future. It was set in a shopping centre. There were people outside a Nike store, discussing the death of a local socialist, laughing and seemingly rejoicing in the fact this person had reached their end. In the middle of the shopping centre, some sort of service was taking place. The voice of Amazon’s Alexa was reading out what appeared to be a Eulogy. Except it was less like a Eulogy and more like a roast; Alexa was completely ripping into this guy as the crowd of consumers laughed. The scene panned towards a giant Ipad that read, “Today is the funeral of Eric Rushton, local twat.”
“No!” I screamed. “This can’t be my fate; this can’t be what becomes of me!”
The Ghost told me that unless I changed my ways, I was doomed to a life of misery, public scorn, and worst of all involuntary celibacy. The future was about consumption and I had to realise that if I wanted to have any sort of live worth living.
But how do I play this game? How do I do my part? How do I do my bit to fuel the completely healthy world of mindless consumption that detaches us from our actual emotions?
And then it hit me: I can turn this story into an episode of my unrecorded podcast. That’s content baby! That will lead to consumption! I could even get a sponsor. And so I’m delighted to announce that this new Christmas series of my podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes” is brought to you by John Lewis.
I woke up this morning full of Heinz beans and I felt like I had another chance again. I pressed the bed to make sure it was real and I started laughing – I felt as giddy as a drunken man. Opening my curtains wide, there was a young boy standing on the street. “It’s Christmas Mr. Rushton!” He shouted up to me. “I know lad! I know!” I shouted back, still laughing.
But there was still something I wanted to fix. I told the child to wait there and I went and got some money. It was a wad of £500 that I had for some reason. “Use this money to buy the biggest, juiciest iPhone you can find lad and deliver it to Paul Savage. Tell him it’s for Tiny Tim.”
And so I sent him on his way, and all day I’ve been full of life again. I can’t wait to shop and live life properly, the way society expects me to. I’m a changed man and I hope this tale can help others to see the light too.
Please never ever forget the true meaning of Christmas: buying and consuming stuff.
All this week I’ll be bringing you more episodes of my new series “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes” and I can’t wait. Make sure you keep shopping and keep tuning in! X
P.S. I’ve not heard back from that kid I gave £500 cash to yet, but I’m sure it’ll all work out fine.
So Christmas is over. There’s wrapping paper everywhere, the fridge is empty, all the Quality Streets have been eaten (apart from the shit toffee ones), you’re tired, you’re hungover, you’re lonely, you’re in a romantic relationship with the wrong person, your job doesn’t fulfil you, you can’t resolve the traumas of your childhood, your fantasies of happiness all involve proving someone wrong who stopped caring about you long long ago…
Anyway, enough of that. if you need cheering up but your ears are too tired from all the screaming you do to try and drown out your inner-demons, then I’ve got just the right thing. Today is episode 2 of my unrecorded festive podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”.
Close your ears, open your eyes, and welcome to the show today’s guest LINDSEY SANTORO.
Funny as fuck and firmly in her thirties, Lindsey is one of the strongest acts on the UK club circuit at the moment. When I’m on the bill with Lindsey, there’s a part of me that always dreads it. Not because of her abrasive manner and overbearing personality, but because of her comedic prowess. Following her is like following Piers Morgan on twitter – you can do it, but you’d have to be an idiot to want to.
Lindsey is also known and widely mocked on the circuit for turning up to all her gigs with her pussy-whipped husband David. Whereas she is loud and obnoxious, David is a sweet and lovely man who looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly. Never mind physical skirmishes, David would lose a fight with even the concept of confrontation. The thought would arise in his mind and he’d instantly apologise to himself for being so beastly.
“Lindsey, you have a ferocious personality. How have you ended up with someone who is essentially Ned Flanders?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess opposites attract. I just love him.”
When she said this, I could tell from her angry face that she absolutely meant it. She went on to tell me that David is her whole world. She says she loves him so much that she constantly wants to squeeze him, but is worried she’ll crush and kill him like Lennie when he kills Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men.
“Good reference,” I said.
We then went on to have a wider discussion about the comedy circuit. Lindsey told me she’d been thinking a lot recently about how spending time with lots of comedians in quite a close-knit community changes you. She thinks, at first, you’re a bit stranded mentally, and you get to know all these people who are in a similar position. The rules and norms of the industry provide a framework so that people can work together in harmony. But after a while, that framework gives way to people’s darker and less civilised sides. Egos reign supreme and bitching begins. The whole thing becomes toxic. The comedy doesn’t provide mental salvation, and so we turn into savages.
“It’s a bit like how William Golding describes the breakdown of civilised behaviour in his famous novel Lord of the Flies,” she said.
Hmmm. I began to think something else was going on here. It was when she started making references to J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls that I got really suspicious.
“Are you studying GCSE English by any chance, Lindsey?”
She looked down at her seasonally sumptuous gingerbread latte. She was humbled. The confident beast that walked into this interview had been tamed.
“The thing is Eric, when I was at school… well… I never did no good in my exams. And I’ve always felt like I’m just a stupid loudmouth. So I’m trying to put that right now.”
What followed was actually quite moving. Lindsey opened up and told me how she’s always been quite insecure intellectually. She feels like she doesn’t know what so-called “clever” people are on about half the time. She said she used to be able to cope with it, until she realised her posh husband David was also a clever person. So in an effort to be able to connect with him more, she’s grappling with texts such as A View from the Bridge and To Kill A Mockingbird. How sweet is that? I think she’s the real clever one.
On that note, I promptly wrapped up the interview, leaving her to study her Macbeth revision guide in peace.
Sometimes there’s a lot more to a person than you’d think.
Good luck with your exams, Lindsey!
Tune in next time, guys xxx
2018 is drawing to a close and I know a lot of you feel sorry for me. You think, Ooh, Eric’s had a bad year. Eric’s really struggling. Eric’s hopes and aspirations are crumbling to dust, clinging to him like the disgusting flecks of dandruff perpetually sprinkled across his shoulders, providing him with nothing but public humiliation yet unable to be fully shaken off.
And yeah, you’re right, I suppose I did have a bad year.
Let’s think of some of the bad things that happened this year, shall we?
Well firstly, I made lots of new friends from all different walks of life. Which I guess is pretty sad!
I wrote more than I’ve ever written before, developing not only my voice but my sense of style and narrative structure. Another one for the negative column!
I did my first ever solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe, which was a dream of mine when I first started doing comedy. Pretty terrible that I finally achieved it!
I moved out of my mum’s, got a job that I really enjoy and now have the independence and financial security to fully pursue my goals. Oh God this is starting to get bleak!
And I suppose saddest of all is that I kissed 6 DIFFERENT GIRLS this year.
Someone get the violins out!
So yeah, sure, Eric had a bad year – you keep telling yourself that, mate.
Fuck the haters.
Anyway, the thing I’m most proud of achieving this year is that I’ve managed to change the podcasting game for good. When I first started this project, I was absolutely convinced nobody would listen to it. And thankfully I was proven right. You guys have understood what this podcast is all about from the start.
However, somewhat disappointingly, my final guest of 2018 is the underwhelming Craig Dixon. I wanted to get an established pro to end 2018 on, but because a lot of them are busy doing lucrative New Year’s Eve gigs tonight, I had to settle for someone who I knew would definitely be free.
Craig has been gigging for around a year now and has failed to achieve anything whatsoever really. He’s a good guy, and I enjoy his company a lot, but sometimes it depresses me that I see his talentless face so much. There’s been a huge amount of buzz around me on the West Midlands circuit for around 18 months now, yet I’m still doing gigs with people like Craig. It worries me that I’m not progressing like I should be.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that we’re friends, Craig? Shouldn’t I be above you at this point?”
“Well, Eric,” he said. “I think it’s important to remember that we’re all just trying our best, we’re all doing this to express ourselves, and none of us are any better or any worse than anybody else. No one has the right to elevate themselves above others. Especially someone who has a tally chart of how many girls they’ve kissed.”
It was an extremely wise and accurate point. And I’m gonna try my best to remember it in 2019.
See you next year guys! xxx
It’s over. Done. That’s it. Christmas has gone away and just like your Dad it’s never coming back.
Nah, that’s not true. It’ll be back next year. But your Dad won’t. I’m sorry.
Christmas this year was a weird one for me. Don’t get me wrong, when I think back to the month or so before this period, Christmas was just what I needed. I was flagging a bit back then. The nights were getting longer and so were the gaps between my mealtimes. I’d recently moved out of my mum’s flat and I’m not very good at cooking, so I was basically getting up, eating some cereal, and just hoping the hunger stayed away for the rest of the day. Also, I was super lonely.
But at Christmas time, love and food comes rushing into your life from all directions. Sure, a lot of the love and food can be too sickly sweet at times, leaving an aftertaste of resentment and cranberry sauce, but it’s needed. And overall, it’s just a pretty happy time. You see your mates and you get drunk a lot and it’s pretty sweet. Now I’m back to my loneliness and cereal, I crave it.
I miss Christmas. I miss it so much that I almost wish it didn’t happen. The New Year has got its hands around my neck and it’s asking me how I’m gonna make a difference this year whilst strangling me and I don’t know how to respond. The future seems so uncertain (especially with Brexit and that MADMAN in the Whitehouse) and I’m scared to confront it. As Craig David once put it: “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”
One person who may be able to help me with this impending sense of doom is my best friend and today’s guest Arnold T. Rice. We met several years ago on the fiercely competitive and cutthroat student stand up circuit, and despite meeting in such a bear pit, we have always been very close friends. Whereas I did a proper degree, studying Mathematics at Warwick University, Arnold studied at the University of Life, where he passed with a 2:2. Looking back, I think it was Arnold’s street smarts that first attracted me to him.
“Don’t put a fork in there, mate,” he once said to me, saving my life as I attempted to fish out a scotch pancake from the toaster. “I did a whole module on that and it turns out it’s not a good idea, Eric.”
Unfortunately, a couple of years ago Arnold was diagnosed with a rare skeletal disease that required treatment from a specialist. To afford the operation, Arnold traded in the frugal life of a stand-up comedian for wealth, becoming a fat cat social worker instead. However, despite now earning the big bucks, Arnold always insists to me that the most important thing in life is art. We constantly discuss it and Arnold is always sending me little quotes about life and art, including that one by Craig David.
My favourite thing that he’s shared with me recently comes from Antony Costa, singer from Blue and author of the seminal 20th century masterpiece Slaughterhouse 5. In a letter addressed to college graduates asking what they should do with their lives, he told them the following:
“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.”
I love that quote more than I love All Rise, honestly. And I was thinking today – and maybe I’m just emotional and this is the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes talking – that maybe I can make a difference this year through my art. Not in a pretentious way, but I just mean, if I keep writing my little jokes and doing my podcasts, then that’s something, init? A few people will enjoy it and I’ll be expressing myself. The scary future that looms won’t seem so scary, because I’ll have a way of making sense of the world, a purpose. Like Will Young once said – “He who has a why can bear almost any how.”
But then, what if that’s not enough? Because art doesn’t really create tangible results in the real world. It doesn’t stop Brexit or that MADMAN. It fulfils to an extent, but doing great art and living a great life seem like separate endeavours. Costa’s words meant a lot to me, but they didn’t prevent the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2008 financial crisis or Westlife's 2018 comeback.
During our coffee today, I told Arnold about my doubts.
“Do you think that doing art for art’s sake is enough, Arnold?”
“Absolutely,” he said. “but my thinking has gone a bit further recently. At the moment, I’m starting to realise that life itself is art.”
“How do you mean?” I asked, wiping gingerbread latte from my lips (if life is some sort of painting, I don’t want there to be froth around my mouth).
“Well, in life, I think we concern ourselves too much with targets and goals. We worry about what we’re achieving, what it’s for. But in doing that, maybe we miss the beauty of the whole thing. If there is a creator, this is their fucking magnum opus and we’re right at the centre of it. We should embrace it all – the happy bits, the sad bits, the weird bits, EVERYTHING. There doesn’t need to be a point to it – life is like art. The best art is done for art’s sake. Maybe the best lives are lived for life’s sake.”
Despite not being an early noughties pop star, Arnold just proved himself to be as profound as anyone. That was some of the truest shit I’d ever heard spoken in my life. When I heard that, it was like a cloud was lifted. I felt free. I realised the intrinsic value in everything. Christmas may be over, the New Year and the political situation we’re in may be scary as fuck, but it doesn’t matter. Not because of art, but because it is art.
Messy, glorious, life-affirming art.
We’re all in this masterpiece together. Some of us are creating things, some of us work in business, and some of us are just sat at home wanking. But we’re all doing art. Art for art’s sake. Life for life’s sake.
Anyway, that’s the end of the Christmas series of my podcast, and as the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said – “I think I better leave right now, before I fall any deeper.”
I’ll be back soon with another series!
In the meantime, let’s all go around making great art, shall we?