Water. The only drink for a wise man?

Wednesday 18 August 2010, 10:22

Elis James Elis James

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Most people can empathise with that feeling of not realising how drunk you are until you try doing something you usually do sober (ie 'why am I in my kitchen trying to make a cup of tea in a pint glass?').

It quite often happens when you're sat in a nightclub having drinks bought for you in succession (I'm aware this only really applies to Page Three models and people who drink in enormous rounds), and you think 'wooooah' on getting up to go to the toilet, as the nightclub dancefloor starts to feel like you're walking on a catamaran.

Anyway. I always perform stand up comedy sober, but I got this feeling on Monday night when there was late show I'd forgotten about... which I had to do hammered.

Now then. I don't drink at all before stand up. I am funnier sober, my timing is better and my ad-libbing more sharp. The least I can do is turn up for work without being drunk; after all I talk for a living and everyone knows a slurring newsreader is probably quite a bad thing, so I work on that principle.

However, while it's occasionally possible for footballers to look graceful and fat (Jan Molby immediately springs to mind, Lee Trundle during his early years at Swansea and John Barnes at the end of his career, when I thought he was both cuddly and effective), it is possible for some stand ups to be incredible whilst inebriated.

In fact, there can be something quite exhilarating about a drunk yet lucid comic freewheeling their way through a hazy flight of fancy, spittle flecked moments of genius being punctuated by sips from a glass of wine or beer.

Dylan Moran drinks on stage, Johnny Vegas has clearly had a pint before performing, and these are two of the most lauded stand ups of their generation.

Unfortunately, I am one of the comics who proves the rule, as demonstrated on Monday.

Following my solo show at 7.40pm, I met a friend for something to eat. The show had gone well and I decided to drink a bottle of red with my salad, being fairly health conscious during the festival (that's my five-a-day if you include the grapes in the wine).

We talked about comedy, football and everything in between, at which point I thought 'I love the taste of expensive premium lager,' and had a few of those. A couple of lagers later I got a text saying 'as you're closing the show, you don't have to arrive until 12.15am,' at which point I thought 'oh dear.'

I turned up, a few espressos sloshing around my stomach just to make my insides think that I'd had a breakdown, and as I was announced I was beginning to think 'well this should prove no significant problem,' until I walked on stage and the mic stand wasn't quite where I expected it to be (ie about three feet away from where my hand was flailing).

I said 'hello' and the audience said 'hello' back. I then said 'hello' again and mumbled desperately 'why aren't you saying hello to me?' before somebody replied 'because you're drunk!' I took a moment to steady myself before delivering a retort that would shake artistic foundations in London, New York and Swansea.

'Yes!' I replied. 'I'm drunk... because I had a drink!'

The gig went pretty badly. I decided to do some 'greatest hits' material, thinking 'I can just get my head down and bash these out' in the way pub covers bands hastily decide to do Mustang Sally instead of Miles Davis if there are mini kievs being thrown at the bassist.

Unfortunately, I gave away the reveal to my best routine (ie the punchline, and thing the routine rests on) about five minutes too early, thus rendering the whole set up pointless. I carried on with the set up regardless, however, displaying a titanic lack of judgement.

So, that's five minutes of the gig wasted, now it's time for some banter. I asked various members of the crowd questions, answered clumsily each time before deciding on the hoof to perform a routine from last year's Edinburgh show - the most ambitious thing I've ever written and, also, something I haven't done for a year.

I have no memory of how it went. My only memory is of Dave in the tech box doing that 'wind up now!' motion with his hands, which is probably a bad sign. I left the stage, the other comedians gave me a hug (we were all mates so they found it hilarious) and I walked home, a lesson learnt and preparing myself for a hangover.

I spoke to my friend John the next day and he was philosophical about it all. 'It's good to blow out the cobwebs' he said. 'Prove to yourself that you can't do stand up drunk. If you'd nailed it then suddenly you've set a precedent for drinking heavily before each gig, which is dangerous and the next thing you know you're asking for crème de menthe on the rider before performing the fresher's week show at Reading University.'

So if you're disappointed that I'm not writing this from a harem in Edinburgh, other comics drinking champagne from a football boot as Page Three girls look on, squealing things like 'despite being three sheets to the wind his metaphors are still as snappy and hilarious as ever,' I can only apologise. Maybe it's lack of practice.

If you see me in September, sleeping in the car park of Reading University, clutching a bottle of cooking sherry and urine stained notebook, then you'll know I've put the hours in.

Elis James is performing his show Daytripper at The Tron in Hunter Square, at 7.40pm (not 19 August).

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