Fielding comebacks from Noel

“That’s a very Georgian beard,” a drunken artist said to me recently, and then when I looked like I might be about to thank him, he clarified; “That means weak.”

It’s a ruff not a beard, dumbass

I went away and thought about what I should have said. A few suggestions came to mind in the first 10 minutes:

“You, sir, are drunk and fat, and I shall be-” this is where I would falter and look at the floor – “weak bearded in the morning.”

No, Churchill couldn’t help me. What about:

“It’s not a beard, it’s pubes,” and as this sunk in, I’d add; “So, what you think is my body is actually my penis.”

That was too scary an image even for me. A month later, it came to me as I was having a shower:

“You, sir, have a Tudor physique.” And as he worked through his monarchical history, I’d save him the trouble: “That means morbidly obese.”

It’s so-so, I know. The best comeback I ever came back with was effectively handed to me on a plate. I’d bought some Prince-style high heel ankle boots from an ebay shop that catered to women with really big feet (men) and had just managed to make it to the bank machine in Spar before my night out.

“I like your shoes, mate,” came a voice from behind me and I turned to see a ten-headed man-pack. “My mum would like them,” Head No. 1 added, “I’ll give you her number.”

His face fell as he said the last bit, the words drifting over the cold tiled floor towards me like balloons towards a birthday boy.

“Thanks,” I said genuinely. “But I’ve already got it.”

Game Over. He didn’t even pretend he was going to beat me up, he/they just nodded and left.

All Hail the Winner!

Mostly though, while everybody else is on twitter-time, bouncing ideas around as fast as they can think them, I’m still posting my ideas by pigeon mail. Only the other day I was trying to sing a love song to Esther but I couldn’t remember the words:

Me: ♬ You’re the something something something of the something something, oh baby, oh baby… ♬

Esther: I like that, is it Steve Martin?

Me: No, it’s Stevie Wonder, I just can’t sing.

I’m well jel of the way stand up comedians can riff endlessly on the spot like action figures with longer than normal pull strings on their backs. Noel Fielding is a prime example. The other week I asked if I could interview Noel as he was passing through Sheffield on his solo tour. His PR asked me for my number and told me he’d be ringing me at midday on a Thursday for a 15 minute interview. Ringing me! Unfortunately, I had lots of students booked in that day, so I swiftly told them all to jog on so I could have a 2 hour gap just in case, you know, we became BFFs. Finally, at 5 minutes to 12, after having emptied my bowels and bought a cappuccino to sip as I was talking to him – no biggie my casual slurps would say – I received a text: ‘Really sorry but Noel has cancelled all interviews today’. Arsecockles! Three hours later, I got another text saying he could ring me at 6 if still convenient. Well, I’m still not going to say no, am I? The next half an hour was a frantic scrabble to keep up with someone who’s mind is a rhinestone-studded random idea generator, where every other line is a comeback to himself: Noel: Hello, is that Sheffield? Me: Hi Noel…I mean, is that London calling? Noel: (giggling) Yes, this is London calling.

Me: Do you mind if I record this? Noel: What, for training purposes?

Me: Ha, no I’m not a very fast writer…

Noel: Is it so you can touch yourself listening to me later?

Me: Haha, (silence as I actually consider it) erm, can I then?

Noel: Ooh I just dropped my contact lens and it killed a passing flying ant… Me: Oh (taking it half seriously) – you’d better pick it up. Noel: No, it was actually a bottle lid, it landed on a small boy’s face… Me: (Giggling) erm… I guess with celebs the smooth stone of their personas is created by the social encounters that flow over and round them every moment of their waking lives. I guess once you give up the idea that you’re ever going to be left alone, you can start having some fun… Or as Johnny Rotten put it when I asked if it was him:

It’s Farrrrrquharrrrr Farrrrrtybottom. I’m here, I’m ready, I’m free!

One day I’ll think of the perfect comebacks and I’ll ring the buggers up to tell them…

Me: You know that time you said that thing…

Them: No. Who are you?

Me: Well what you said was…Hello? Are you there? Come back, I know what to say now!

It seems I’m the Prince Regent of Comebacks.

So on second thoughts, I’ll take Tay’s advice and shake it off! 

Love is…a pair of opposable thumbs

How to hide six photocopies of my fists from a work colleague who thought I nipped out of our meeting to use the loo?

That was this week’s dilemma.

I have an idea for an art project you see, and when the impulse comes I can’t help myself, so I went and pressed my fists to the glass of the copier and tried out different positions. It was at this point that I realised how long it’s been since I was in a fight, and couldn’t remember what to do with my thumbs. Then I went to reception and asked for an A4 envelope and put the copies in there.

“Sorry,” I said back in the meeting, “I had to pick up an important letter from reception.”
“No worries”, she said, “Hope it’s nothing bad?”
“Oh no,” I replied, “just some info that should come in pretty handy.”


Knuckle Club Sandwich

Knuckle Club Sandwich

Lisa admitted this week that’s she’s considering cutting her thumbs off. “I can’t let them touch my hand,” she says, “I have to sleep very carefully with the duvet keeping them apart. Then I wake up and they’re touching again.”

I for one am glad of my thumbs; I need them to be special at sport. I’ll explain. There’s a river at the end of the garden and on the opposite side it looks like someone has dug a pond out of the riverbed, with an edge made of big flat rocks. At around 5pm every day, the sun filters into it and leaves the rest of the river in shadow. For about a day, we had a baby trout in there, and held our breath waiting for it to dart our from under the rim.

Anyway, for the past decade, every time I have visited my grandad he’s given me a Nescafe jar full of coppers he’s collected in between visits. I’ve lugged this growing treasure trove between 3 or 4 house in that time. I’ve never been quite poor enough to bother cashing them in (the thought of how my fingers would smell after counting them out makes me feel sick). About a week after we moved in, Esther decided to use the pond as a wishing well. Before long Esther, me, Dom & Lisa were all tossing tuppences into the water, most of them missing. Was this ASBO-worthy littering or the birth of a new hipster hobby?

Being an only child, I had to throw differently to everyone else, by flicking them up and across with my poorly trimmed thumbnail. Anyway, now coins line the riverbed with twinkles of worthless gold. The failure rate for my technique was satisfyingly high, and I realised that my endeavours have to be impossible to be worth doing – if I can do it, surely it can’t be worth doing? This is a variation on the ‘I would never belong to a club that would admit me as a member.” And my latest run-in with a comedy compere:

I was forced to sit right under the microphone and so hid in the shadow of my porkpie hat, knowing full well there was no escape.

“Are you a hipster,” the Irish warm-up man asked, pointing rudely at my hat.

“I wouldn’t be a hipster if I was,” I said, feeling sick with my own logic.

He left me alone after that.


I thought it was the people on stage who were meant to get heckled by the audience, not the other way around. Just as they build up a battery of retorts, I will to. Here’s my latest put down, handily written on a table of my local pub when I found some chalk lying around:


Last night, I was trapped on the sofa by a sleeping Esther, next to a snoring cat. I couldn’t reach the remote and so was forced to watch Metallica at Glastonbury. Being made to endure a band I don’t like while twisted into a painful pose so as not to wake the critters I love is a very strange kind of happiness.

Love is…filling the negative space of your lover(s)

Love is…a beautiful still life made out of ugly objects

Love is…a story about characters who should never have met in real life

"Getti' smelly with Peter Petrelli"

“Gettin’ smelly with Peter Petrelli?”

Funny Business

Social Experiment #1: Brainwash Esther

Is it social if it’s just one person? Anyway, something my dad says has always stuck with me. Whenever he turns a light on or opens the curtains at home, he says

“Let’s get some light on the subject,”

as if he’s a coroner bending over a cadaver or the Queen blinding one of her citizens with interrogative torchlight.

Hypothesis: If I say this phrase over and over again, Esther will start saying it.

Method: For about a year, everytime I open our attic Velux blinds, I say with a flourish, “let’s get some light on the subject.” Since we have two blinds, I usually wake her up by pinging back the first one, and then as she’s reeling from the shock, I intone the motto to drive home the message.

Finally, one glorious day came about two months ago when not only did she do the blind opening ceremony herself, but she uttered the immortal words unprompted. Then I grinned too long, and she realised she had been tricked into it and stomped off downstairs to get breakfast (another small victory).

Now I have her so well trained that I only have to start it off, and she’ll complete the sentence, before cursing loudly.

“let’s get some light on the world”

Social Experiment #2: Me v Compere 

My ex-art school buddy Dave Green is now a stand-up comedian. We are the class of 07: a few of us have gone on to have glittering art careers, while most have ended up serving coffee or beer to people with glittering art careers.

Dave has done his time as one of the latter group, passing posh beverages to the likes of Stewart Lee & Tjinder Singh from Cornershop (I’m pretty starstruck at that one). Dave has a special talent for channelling social awkwardness into excruciating art or video that makes you cringe and laugh at the same time. He always was a funny guy and for the past 18 months he’s been trying to make a career out of it.

I went to see Dave on Thursday for my first ever comedy gig. By the time I got there, the compere had already singled out our group as feckless bourgeois types, nicknaming us the Art Movement and accusing friend Dane of being stoned. So, I was ripe for ribbing when I arrived a little late with my neoliberal arabian scarf & ironic bovver boy boots.

Compere “Are you an artist too?”

Me “Yes” (thinking, ‘I’m a writer but I’ll just go with it’), before adding “A piss artist.”

Compere “I make the fucking jokes, alright? What do you think of the Turner Prize?”

Now he’s got me. I have no idea who’s in it this year.

Me “I haven’t been nominated, so I don’t care”.

Compere “You’re a right lot of Yoko Onos aren’t you?”.

Crowd guffaws.

Compere “What kind of art do you do? Do you paint?”

I feel a compulsion to correct my earlier statement about being an artist not a writer, so I say-

Me “I lie-“.

But instead of the crucial next bit “-d about being an artist,” I leave it at that.

Confused but hearty laughter, as if a roomful of assumptions were being confirmed.

Compere “Bloody hell, you’re not making this easy are you? Let me introduce the next act…”

Had I won? Or had I merely accepted the part he offered me? Who knows. Whatever the case, it was awkward.

“Or do I?”

When Dave finally came on, he did us arty farties proud, combining pyschoanalysis and religion and sex jokes with a surreal deadpan.

“I’ve got tinnitus. The ringing in my ears isn’t so bad but the voices in my head keep harmonising with it”

Afterwards, over a pint in the Broadfield, Dave tells me about his phobia of sitting facing people on trains. On the way up from London he’d chosen a table seat and then been too scared to move when it filled up around him. His main problem is what to do once you’ve accidentally caught someone’s eye: how can you go back to not looking at them again…

He’s made a film about it:

The following day he left for his train home and I got this text:

“I’m sitting opposite someone”