The Yorkshireman Speaks

by Scott Bennett

Jemma and I have now been married a while. Fifteen years to be precise, or two mattresses as I like to think of it. I remember the first time I saw her, she gave me butterflies, which was a weird gift, but I liked it.

She’s an amazing person, the most honest human being I’ve ever met. She’s the only person I know who would get caught out with the “Have you got a valid TV license?” question on the BBC I-Player.

She is also front of house in our relationship and I am totally fine with that. Men need to realise that this is the answer to a simpler life, just let your partners take charge. Position yourself lower down in the hierarchy of the family, below the children but one up from the cat. Life is so much easier that way. I’m a bit like a capsized windsurfer on a lake, just letting the current take me, and honestly, it feels fantastic.

It means I can keep some space left in my brain for important things like, when the next bin day is, or what my favourite skip is at the tip is or what it would be like to combine Ricicles and Cocopops together.

Don’t get me wrong, I help out in my own little way. I ruin clingfilm. Seriously I destroy that stuff. I’m literally going through one roll per sandwich at the moment. I sniff the milk to see if it’s off, I got that wrong the other week so that’s gone, and I clean the bathroom. Well I say clean, I buff the taps and spray bleach on the porcelain.

Jemma however, she’s a powerhouse. She’s the PR, the director, the acceptable face of the organisation. The Bennett family couldn’t exist without this woman at the helm, it’d be like Amazon without Jeff Bezos, or Disneyland without Mickey Mouse.

I walked into town with her recently it took ages, she knows absolutely everyone. She stops and chats, she shakes hands, she knows all about everyone’s life. It was like taking a stroll with Mother Theresa. She’s so popular!
I’m just hovering in the background, like a bodyguard, holding the shopping bag and trying to keep her moving, I’m pathetic. “Come on ma’am, let’s keep to schedule, the butchers closes in an hour!”

She just takes charge of everything. We were going out somewhere for a meal and the organiser emailed the menu to us the week before. Jemma picked my food without even consulting me. I was sat there and the waitress came over:
“Who has ordered the burger!”

“He has” said my wife, like I was nine years old or something. I was annoyed that she didn’t ask me, but I was even more annoyed that she knew I wanted the burger.

When we go to friends’ houses, before we get to the door, she will fill me in on all the important things I need to know, like a president being briefed on their way to the war room. I get a potted history of their lives in record time.
“Right, he’s been having an affair but they are staying together for the sake of the kids, she’s just been made redundant and the dogs not well, so when we get in there sit down, shut up, smile, eat your food and don’t let me down!”

Sometimes just before the door opens she’ll chuck something else in:
“Oh also, she’s just had a nose job, so whatever you do, don’t look at it!”
“Good evening Helen!”

It’s great, I just sit there and enjoy a lovely evening in terrified silence. I always run things by her in the car on the way there too. Always best to check. After all my opinions are her opinions. When I start thinking for myself, that’s when things go off the rails. “Do we like these people darling? Just wanted to check before I invite them to ours for a BBQ.”

All the way through the evening she’ll give me pointers, I’m like a TV presenter with an ear piece and she’s the producer.
“Stop talking now you’re dominating the conversation.”
“No one wants to hear that rubbish.”
“Let someone else speak now.”
“Stop looking so miserable, cheer up.”
”Not like that, that’s too much, now you’re over compensating, dial it down!”

It’d be like being heckled by my own conscience! When I do make a mistake, she’ll let me know, she won’t tell me of course, no, I get the squeeze. All men are scared of the squeeze, it’s the most powerful tool a woman has. Sometimes I’m so frightened by it a little bit of wee comes out.

We’ll be there, set around the table. I feel her hand come out, it starts on my shoulder, I think it’s affectionate at first, then it runs all the way down along my leg to the knee, then she’ll give it a little squeeze and she just leans in…..and I think, “Oh God…”

Then she whispers in my ear, so close I could feel her hot breath on my cheek. All the time she was doing this she was still looking dead ahead. “Ok love, enough is enough, we have all had a laugh, a bit of a giggle, but that’s’ you done now okay……that’s you done!”

And you are done aren’t you. Even your mates know. “Scott looks upset I’ll go see if he’s okay.” “Leave him Dave, he’s had the squeeze, he’s a dead man now!”

I’ll know if I’ve had a bad month, because my leg is completely covered in bruises. Jemma is the man of the house too. I honestly couldn’t manage without her. She does everything. She went up a ladder to repair our house alarm because I’m too scared. I hate heights, my knees go wobbly and I feel sick. My dad was a fireman, and that clearly never came through the genes. Mind you my mum was a hairdresser and I can’t cut hair either, so I’m starting to think I might not be their child.

I stayed at the foot of the ladder, just shouting encouragement to her. She’s my hero, and also is available for guttering and roof tile replacement. On a romantic trip to Paris in 1998 she had to go to the top of the Eiffel tower on her own because I couldn’t do it. She took a selfie before it was even a thing, although that wasn’t a selfie it was more like a lonely.

Life is manic, especially with young children, and I often think we’re both only half listening to each other. After a while though it does start to get really annoying. I’ll say to her, “do you fancy a cup of tea?” – she’ll say back, “Shall we go prancing in the sea?” – it’s not even close!

How can she be that far away from it? That is how much she’s paying attention to me. I’ll say, “Would you like a glass of water?” she’ll fire back with, “Do you think I know your daughter?”

It’s madness. Jemma has a great temperament, she even believes you should never argue in front of the children. That’s an admirable belief although I don’t agree with that because if you don’t how do you know who has won? Surely someone has to keep score?

They say never go to bed on an argument, I say never argue in B&Q, you don’t want to annoy someone when they have a wall of hammers behind them. My advice, Dunlem, that’s the venue for a row. You can really wind someone up when you are surrounded by soft furnishings: “I’m not bothered love, what you gonna do, roll me in a duvet?! Use a fifteen tog, I don’t care, bring it on!”

We could argue anywhere Jemma and I, that’s healthy, that’s why I know we’ll be alright. We could be on an aeroplane, hurtling towards the earth in the crash position, she’d turn to me and say “…..oh god!” “I know it’s terrible isn’t it” “No, not that, I just can’t believe you are going to die in that jumper. You look like an old man! Quick, help me get this wedding ring off, I don’t want any connection to you!”

I’d say “Please darling, just hold me!” She’d snap back “Hold you, I can barely look at you. Imagine when they sift through the wreckage and find you wearing that jumper, they’ll think well don’t bother tagging this one, he was dead long before he hit the ground!”

But joking aside, we’re very happy, still together and still battling through life, with her leading the way and me in the background taking all the credit. So to all the men reading this, hand yourself over, admit defeat, it’s so much easier.

And just like that, that’s me done.

Scott Bennett Comedian
www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk
Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk
Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk
Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week
Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy
Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud
Twitter – @standupinashed

Lighter Fluid and Lava Rock

It’s thirty degrees in the shade, I’m sweating so much even my man boobs have started to cry, weeping endless tears into my Sports Direct vest. The inside of my underwear is now frankly like a war zone, it’s just chaos down there, everything is just smashed together, I have to keep lunging just to bring some peace to the region.

In this oppressive heat what can you do? Stay inside drinking ice cold drinks and wait for the rain to come? No, that’s a stupid idea, what you need to do is have a barbecue.

So, you spend three hours, on the hottest day of the year, stood behind an actual fire. Its absolute madness isn’t it? It’s the food you’re meant to be cooking, not yourself. It makes no sense, it’s like having a Cornetto in a snowstorm.

The only time you enjoy a barbecue is when you are a guest at one. If you’re on that grill it’s a miserable afternoon. Everyone else is sat there on the decking, sipping beer and having a great time. Meanwhile you’re stood at the end of the garden, totally engulfed in smoke, eyes streaming like you’ve just been tear gassed.

Occasionally one of the guests will come and check on you to see how you are. You think they might be concerned for your welfare, but all they are interested in is when those sausages will be ready. You are just the staff to these people now. If this was the Titanic, they are in the ballroom and you are downstairs in front of a boiler, shovelling coal into the furnace.

The reality of a barbecue is never as good as the fantasy. In Australia they are so casual and relaxed about it. A barbecue for them just happens organically, because they have the weather. In Britain, all ours are done in a panic. As soon as the temperature creeps above twenty five degrees, we lose our minds. You can hear the rallying cry being carried on the breeze, “go get me some charcoal briquettes Susan, today is the day to set fire to some meat!”

But if you’re not in that supermarket in the next twenty minutes your barbecue dreams are crushed quicker than the garlic in your marinade. You had big ideas involving kebabs on skewers, Peri Peri chargrilled chicken, fresh shrimps and organic lamb steaks. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Is there anything more depressing in life, than the sight of an empty meat isle in a supermarket? It’s like the end of the world’s worst game show.

Now you’re facing the prospect of having to feed a family of four on a six pack of sausages and some king prawns that a so passed their best before date they have started to grow beards.

There is so much prep to do a barbecue properly, some people get really into it. “I’ve been rubbing this meat all morning with infused chilli oil” –  “Cheers Kev, nice one, I thought you were cooking it not giving it a massage!”

But no matter what happens, there is only one rule. You cannot, under any circumstances, switch on that oven. That is like an athlete taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s cheating, and it would bring shame on your family. If the cavemen only had fire and they still managed, well so can you.

It’s that hunter gatherer instinct that makes having a barbecue so exciting. It connects us to our primal ancestors. The only difference is we didn’t have to hunt anything. Many of us didn’t even gather. We’re stood there in shorts and flip flops cooking meat we’ve had delivered from Asda, we haven’t had to go out at daybreak and spear a wildebeest.

It does tap into something in the male psyche though. Ask a man why he loves to barbecue and he even starts to talk like a Neanderthal. His eyes widen and he goes all monosyllabic. Ranting at you with his top off, whilst rubbing a honey and mustard glaze on his nipples, saying things like, “MEAT” “FIRE” “BEER” “FIRE!”

Men and women do tend to act differently at a barbecue. The women tend to congregate together, they are interested in each other, the garden is alive with excitable chatter.

The men are huddled together around the barbecue itself, with cans of lager, like tramps gathering around a burning barrel. Conversation is stilted and awkward, with many of the men hypnotised by that powerful combination of meat and flames. Occasionally someone will break the silence:

“I think it’s hot enough now Steve, if I were you, I’d pop another bag of coals on there.”

Traditionally it’s the man who likes to be in control of the barbecue. There is nothing more manly than standing there in your own garden, lager in hand, just casually poisoning the rest of the family.

The misconception that women can’t use one is ridiculous. In fact, they are often better at in than the men and the food they produce is actually edible.

The hygiene always worries me. You can never get that grill clean enough. The first ten minutes of any barbecue is spent burning off the remains of the last one.

It always amazes me, some restaurants have been closed down because of their poor food hygiene practices, yet on a summers day, I’ll gladly tuck into an undercooked burger, served by some Dad I hardly know, who’s stood there next to the bins, with his hand down his shorts.

Barbeque models are like cars, some people don’t really care as long as its practical, but others get really passionate about it. You can see the men eyeing up each other’s cooking stations, they can’t hide their jealousy. “Look at him with his triple burner, who does he think he is!” “Was that hotplate an optional extra?” “How many steaks to the gas bottle does it do pal?”

I’ve been to barbecues where the guy behind it has so much kit I’m surprised he didn’t have to employ roadies. It was like Iron Maiden on tour. Hundreds of utensils dangling from everywhere, tables for the raw meat, tables for the cooked meat, separate grills to cater for the vegetarians along with oils and rubs of every description. This man was like a conductor in his own meat-based orchestra. He even had a meat thermometer, presumably so he could check if his pork chops were a bit under the weather.

The designers of the barbecues have tapped into this too. Even the names of them are very masculine. They are called things like “Beefmaster” “Matador” they may as well just go all out and release a model called “The meat Bastard 3000”.

The most impressive display of barbecuing I have ever witnessed was on a holiday in Sidmouth in Devon. We were sat on the beach and a man in a wetsuit walked into the sea holding a fishing rod. Five minutes and he had reeled in about three fish. He then went back onto the beach, arranged some pebbles into a pit, brought out an old grill from his bag and proceeded to cook the fish in front of us. I was so in awe I was almost aroused. He was like an aquatic Ray Mears. They only way he could’ve been more manly was if he had emerged from that ocean with those fish between his teeth like a giant grizzly bear.

Sausages are always an issue for me. They are a logistical nightmare on the bars of that grill. I’ve never made it through a full cook off with all my sausages accounted for. They just seem to have a death wish those guys. And there is no trauma like seeing a sausage give up and fall through the bars into the abyss below. This must be how a child feels when the top of their ice cream falls off, or they let go of a new helium balloon at the fair. There is nothing you can do to rescue that fallen comrade. It had so much potential, it was ninety five percent pork, but now it’s just one hundred percent ash. It looks like something found in the ruins of Pompei after the volcano erupted.

You can try and recover it, but it’s over. Because let’s be honest, there is nothing bleaker in life than having to rinse your sausage under an outside tap in front of your family.

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk

Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk

Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week

Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy

Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud

Twitter – @standupinashed

Tip Top

Every Sunday morning at ten o’clock I’m there. Joining that queue with all the other broken people. Ready to cross that threshold and purge our souls, which are laden with the excesses of everyday life. I don’t consider it worshipping, it’s more like a pilgrimage. But here you don’t need a bible and a prayer mat, all you need is a people carrier and a permit. 

Whatever your story, whoever you are, you’ll always be welcome at the local tip.

Words cannot express the sheer cathartic joy I get from slinging bits of wood into a skip. Hearing it crash into the sides, making that thumping noise which sounds like a giant kettle drum in a steel band. I feel clean, I feel centred. This is the mindfulness money can’t buy. 

In this pandemic we’ve all craved something more spiritual. A connection with a higher power that gives us hope and guidance. Many people put their faith in religion. I always find it interesting when people say that it would be great if Jesus came back. Would it though? I think he’d just be frustrated, he’d be a celebrity wouldn’t he? The first week would just be him doing meet and greets! 

He’d be saying, “Can I sort out this famine in Nepal?” and they’d say, “sorry Jesus you can’t mate, you’ve got a book signing session at Waterstones and then you’re on the One Show!”

He’d just be sat there bewildered on the sofa in his sandals, next to Christopher Biggins wondering what on earth he was doing there. He’d have to get used to the modern world too. I can imagine him sitting in front of the laptop replying to all the negative feedback for the Bible on Amazon. 

“Seriously, who gives a miracle one star?!”

“Yes, it did really happen Dave_5673, I was there!”

He’d be a big player on the celebrity circuit too. Going on talk shows, occasionally throwing in the odd party piece like turning water into wine. Taking the Turin Shroud on The Antiques Roadshow. 

He’d probably have an agent too, who would be constantly trying to raise his profile.

“Jesus you need more of an online presence”

“I’m omnipresent mate!”

“You need more followers!”

“Followers?! I’ve got millions!”

“They’re not the right type of followers Jesus!”

“You’ll have to go on Love Island Jesus”

“Fine,but tell them I can’t do Sundays!”

Anyway, back to the tip. That Sunday morning visit has become a regular feature in my life now. As a forty-year-old father of two, it’s the closest I get to a little holiday. Sometimes as a treat I take my children with me. The first time they saw that place they were almost moved to tears. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Sat in the back of the car, buried by grass clippings, their faces pressed in wonder against the glass, taking in the sights, the sounds and the smells of this Disneyland of debris. 

A trip to the tip is an adventure for any kid. Up there with an afternoon in the laundrette, going through a car wash or going to Pets at Home, which is basically a free zoo. 

The tip is a true assault on the senses. You see so much there. A man carrying a full wardrobe on his back like a giant wooden tortoise. Couples dragging rubble sacks across the tarmac, like they are competing in the final of ‘World’s Strongest Man’. And an elderly gentleman who has queued up for an hour just to get rid of one tiny hanging basket. He could’ve put it in his wheelie bin at home but he’s here for the atmosphere.

Then there is that moment when the skips are replaced. It’s a ceremony which could rival the changing of the guard. There are lorries, chains and huge diggers that compress the rubbish down like the foot of a giant transformer. 

A recent addition saw a huge metal structure installed over the top of the cardboard skip. Constructed from galvanised steel, like the set of a Wrestlemania cage match, it had a small access slot, to force people into folding down their boxes. It’s a feat of engineering excellence that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Grand Designs.  

It’s a fact that kids love a job. They like to have a sense of purpose and responsibility. The tip trip is a chance to put that theory in action. When I saw my five-year-old giggle with excitement after flattening a cardboard box, and post it into that skip, I could understand why child labour was a thing for so many years. 

The place is truly wonderful, however there is one thing that can always upset the balance. One thing that prevents this unique world from being a true utopia. I’m talking about the much-feared tip marshals. 

These people are like the Orcs in the Lord of The Rings Films. Terrifying foot soldiers, clad in high vis jackets and safety boots, they prowl menacingly amongst the skips, waiting for their moment to strike. And just like in the Lord Of The Rings films, if you’re in the wrong shire, you’re in trouble. 

There is nothing quite like the joy you see when they are telling someone they can’t get rid of their rubbish because they don’t have a valid permit. The look on their faces is almost orgasmic. 

Sure, the man lives in the area, he pays his taxes, but if he didn’t manage to navigate the simple 40 page form to validate that permit, he’s nothing more than a common criminal. So what if he’s spent six hours loading a car and strapping a sofa to the roof? Like bouncers at a nightclub, if your names not down, you’re not coming in. They watch him drive away, knowing he’s probably going to fly tip it in a layby around the corner, but they’ve won and that’s what matters.

The amount of ID required to dump your own rubbish these days is truly staggering. You need a recent utility bill, your name and address, a driver’s license, a passport and your own mother in the back seat to vouch for you. Honestly, it’s easier to fake your own death than get rid of some garden waste. Who do they think you are, Jason Bourne?! “I’m deep undercover but today I’ve been gardening?”

Many of the men that work at the tip have something about them. I don’t understand why they don’t feature more in sexual fantasies alongside fireman and soldiers. They have a brooding intensity, an assured sense of self-confidence and the brute strength to rip the flex out of a knackered sandwich toaster using their bare hands! Phwoooaaar!

The tip is a haunting place at times, especially on a foggy morning. There are often workers rummaging in skips. Searching and separating. Sometimes without warning they’ll just pop up through the rubbish, frightening the life out of you like the dancers in the Thriller video. 

They will also claim a weird toy as a kind of macabre souvenir. You’ll always see a plastic baby with one eye missing nailed to the door of their little hut or tethered to the front of a lorry like a ghoulish mascot. 

During the pandemic the tip marshals became drunk on power. They often sat at the entrance on an old deck chair with a clipboard like a military checkpoint. As soon as you opened your boot they would interrogate you. And let me tell you there is no fear like that moment when they ask you what’s in that bin bag, it’s like a suspicious wife asking to see the messages on your mobile phone. 

They miss nothing:

“What’s that mate” 

“Some floorboards, I’ll just put them in the wood skip” 

“Wait a minute son………………….Tony!” 

A man then comes out in a white coat with a clipboard and a microscope. He rubs his finger along the wood and then licks it.

“We can’t take that mate, it’s got asbestos in it” 

“EH?!?!?” 

“Health and safety pal, nowt we can do” 

I try and speak their language, try and connect with them on their level, basically what I’m saying is I whistle and use the word “mate” a lot. It rarely works. 

Although there is one way you can outwit them, one way you can pass through security undetected. It’s quite simple. Go at lunchtime. As soon as they disappear into that little hut with a brew and a sausage roll, you could get rid of a dead body. Although if you do, then take precautions, please put it in the right skip number seven, non-recycling. 

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk

Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk

Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week

Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy

Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud

Twitter – @standupinashed

“Techno Techno Tech-NO!” – The frustrations with technology

Let me just start by saying the last year has been tough, but I think it was the best era for a pandemic like this to happen.

Netflix, Deliveroo, the internet, can you imagine trying to get through this nightmare twenty years ago?

Sitting there for eight hours a day, with terrestrial television, a box set of Bergerac on DVD and snake on a Nokia 3410, it would have been agony. That’s not a lockdown that’s a wet caravanning holiday to Rhyl.

Technology has helped us keep in touch with family. I’ve been stunned by how quickly my parents have adapted to this new online world.

My father is called “Roy”, which is the perfect name for a working-class, Yorkshire Luddite. You don’t get many baby Roy’s these days, do you? That’s not a baby that’s the name of a sixty-year-old bloke with a moustache and a smokers cough. Babies called Roy would come out of the womb already able to grout a bathroom. I reckon my dad was already a tradesman before he even took his first breath. Apparently, he was born by cesarian section, I imagine he probably used his first words to give his mother a quote for the damage. “We can plaster over that love, no worries, two hundred quid, see you Tuesday.”

He got this iPad so he could Facetime my children. He never got the hang of it, because he used to ring us first, half an hour before, to see if we were “prepared for the Facetime” what did he think it was? Live Aid or something? Just be spontaneous Dad!

He couldn’t use the camera either. For weeks we were being Facetimed by a Fridge Freezer. There was nothing there. Then all of a sudden accompanied by some heavy breathing, this eye would come creeping into view. “Here’s Grandad!” the kids didn’t sleep for weeks!

Now he’s setting up WhatsApp groups, video calls, Skype sessions. He’s learnt new words like, “bandwidth” and “emoji” I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he goes viral on Tik Tok.

Technology is incredible, but it does make our lives more complicated.

I feel like we have to remember more passwords than an MI5 agent these days. I’m running out of options now. I’ve used the children’s names, birthdays, old teachers. I’ve been through the cast of Neighbours, including Bouncer the dog, I’m really struggling now.

Everything is encrypted now too, which just causes more stress. I hate the person who invented that Captcha system. I think we should find them and take them hostage, and only let them go if they manage to spot three fire hydrants a zebra crossing and seven bicycles out of a window. I’m obviously not a robot. As if a robot would be online at two in the morning, googling “What is MC Hammer’s real name?”

I’ve signed up for so much stuff online and I can say with some confidence that I’ve never read those terms and conditions either. Who has time for that?

No one knows what is written in that small print.

I could have just agreed to donate a kidney if I miss a payment, but I want that phone more than I want to be thorough, so I’ll instantly click accept.

During lockdown, I’ve been in a toxic relationship too.

With my inkjet printer.

It’s the year 2021, we’ve put people on the moon and yet we still can’t design a printer that isn’t an absolute arsehole.

“Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.”

I know they’ll be people reading this who have an inkjet printer, I just want to ask how many times, today alone, have you sworn at it and threatened to sling it through the window? I bet it’s at least fifty.

Mine is possessed. HP, which stands for “Higher Power” I swear it’s trying to break me down.

Once, I got so angry with it, I pulled the power cord out of the back, the light stayed on, that defies physics. There is only one thing powering that, resentment.

Having that printer is like having a teenage boy in the house. This thing just sits in the corner all day, just grunting, there’s a light on but nothing’s happening, I’m always feeding it and it’s costing me a fortune.

I got that printer for thirty quid, an absolute bargain. I remember having to do a double-take in the shop. “They must be making a loss; they couldn’t manufacture it for that price?” This is because they know that they will get you on the ink. That’s not a printer, that’s a gateway drug!

That printer cost me thirty pounds; the ink is costing me over six hundred pounds a year!

That’s like someone selling you a car for five hundred quid and you then find out that it only runs on Unicorn pee!

It’s a scandal, people would march against these companies, but they can’t afford to print the placards.

I’ve got an idea for a new Terminator film; I’m going to email James Cameron this week. It’s the perfect concept, something that pitches man against machine in the ultimate battle to the death. But they’ll be no guns, no gadgets, no time travel, it’d just be one man trying to print a Ryan Air boarding pass for three hours!

We are obsessed with putting technology into things now too. Everything has to be internet ready and it’s getting out of hand.

I got bought a video doorbell for Christmas, it connects to the internet and you can tell you who is at your door when you’re away from home. When you’ve been in lockdown for over a year that’s just what you need. They may as well have got me vouchers for British Airways.

I’ve had a cheaper version of this gadget that has been working well for over fifteen years now, it’s called the front room window. It’s cheap, it’s low maintenance and doesn’t text me like a needy girlfriend every time some stranger looks through it.

I have enough stress to deal with in my life without my doorbell being able to contact me. I’ve got two kids, a cat and a mortgage, now I’ve got a doorbell to look after, I can’t deal with that!

If you’re already an anxious person, this is the last you need in your life. Imagine being sat on a beach in Greece (when we are allowed) on your holidays, trying to relax. Then your phone flags up a notification and you have to watch in real-time, someone trying to burgle your house, whilst you’re sat on a sun lounger, powerless and panicking, holding a Cornetto

“I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.”

You can buy a slow cooker that connects to the internet now. Just in case you want to monitor a casserole remotely. How boring is your life if part of your day is to check in on your slow cooker?!

“Everything okay Pete, you’ve gone pale”

“I’ve had an emergency at home”

“Oh no, is it the kids are they okay?”

“It’s worse than that, the slow cooker has got stuck on simmer!”

You can buy a Pepper Spray with a Bluetooth connection, camera and 4G. So, you can spray the assailant whilst sending a photo of them to the police. Imagine trying to do that?

“Mate, I know I’m terrified and you’ve got a knife, but can we do another one, I had my finger over the lens!” “Sure, I didn’t like that one anyway, my chin looked a bit fat”

You can buy an internet ready onesie so you can put your baby online too. With an accompanying app that monitors the heart rate and oxygen levels.

The perfect gadget for those parents on the edge who are already terrified of leaving their kid alone. Having a baby is nerve-wracking enough without having it wired into the grid. It’s bad enough having a baby monitor. That’s meant to bring you peace of mind, but all that happens is you’ll be sat in the front room having a cup of tea listening to your exhausted partner swearing at your child. Very embarrassing, particularly if the midwife is there.

Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.

It was really weird, you’d be listening to the sound of her breathing, a lullaby being played on the mobile, then it would just get interrupted by Darren at Cable Cars.

“Tony, pick up at Oceana night club mate, you nearby!”

“Can do mate, Roger that!”

Can I just say at this point, I’m ashamed of the way I speak to my Alexa. It’s appalling.

I’m just barking orders at that poor woman all day long. “Alexa, play Radio 2” “Alexa, set the timer for my eggs, Alexa what happened to Zammo from Grange Hill?”

I can just see her at the other end, just running around all stressed and flustered. I never give her a break. If I spoke to my wife like I speak to my Alexa she’d hit me with a frying pan.

The worst thing is sometimes Alexa gets told off for stuff that isn’t even her fault. She gets caught in the crossfire during our marital arguments.

She’ll be playing the radio as I’ve told her to do, my wife will be annoyed with me for some reason and when she walks into the kitchen who does she shout at first? Not me, poor old Alexa!

She turns to that blue light and with venom and hatred she yells.

“ALEXA……..OFF!”

“SHUT YER FACE ALEXA!”

I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.

We should have an adoption agency for mistreated appliances like this. Kindles who haven’t been charged for years, old I-phones that have been discarded in drawers and Fitbits that were worn once and then slung angrily into the corner of the room, after the owner realized that running was yet another thing in life that they’ve failed miserably at.

I think technology has changed arguments forever. They aren’t as much fun as they used to be, are they? It used to be an angry shouting match, people screaming down telephones, tears, maybe even actual violence.

Now, just one sentence sends us into a panic, “David has left the WhatsApp group!” “On no!” “What have we done to David!”

When technology lets you down, there is nothing worse.

We’re in a constant battle with our broadband at the moment. It’s become an essential service and ours is appalling. I rang up to complain to my service provider, I was all charged up, foaming at the mouth, ready to give these clowns both barrels.

But what I’ve noticed is that some of these companies have what seems to be, a secret Nanna department. It’s so clever. I was expecting to get some seventeen year old idiot called Gavin who I could have happily unloaded both barrels on. But instead, I got Dorothy, a softly spoken Scottish woman with a voice like Mrs Doubtfire, and it totally threw me.

I reckon it wasn’t a call centre at all. Just a care home, with a load of lovely old ladies, sat in rows with headsets on and a tartan blanket on their knees. Taking calls in between Countdown and Homes under the Hammer.

So, I tried to put my complaint to her.

“Listen, this broadband isn’t good enough Dorothy, I’m trying to work from home at the moment, we’ve got the children being home-schooled, it’s slow, expensive and unreliable and frankly I’ve had enough of it”

She paused and then her little gentle voice piped up.

“ahhh, two wee girls, what are their names?”

“Olivia and Sophia”

“Beautiful names, I’ve got two wee girls myself. They’ve grown up and left home now, one of them is in Canada, I rarely see her. They all leave dear; I suppose you’re going to do the same are you?”

“Errr…..right okay, sorry about that. No, I don’t want to leave but it’s the upload speed that’s the problem, Dorothy, It’s useless”

“I know my dear, and that’s the one thing we don’t guarantee, I’m so sorry”

“Where I live is the same, my little cottage here on the isle of Sky, we have to make do dear. There are people dying in this pandemic, but I know that a little bit of buffering whilst you’re trying to watch Bridgerton is more than anyone should have to deal with”

“If I could I would come down there with some cable, a shovel and a wheelbarrow and put in that fibre myself. I would my dear, but I can’t do that poppet, I’m 83, my best installation days are behind me now!”

So, I rang up to complain and all I did was have a chat with an old lady for twenty minutes. Worse thing is, she was so good, I’ve not even left, I’ve signed a contract for another three years.

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk

Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk

Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week

Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy

Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud

Twitter – @standupinashed

The season of Noel and antibacterial gel

So as I write this dear readers we are all in the middle of Lockdown 2 and like most sequels it’s not nearly as good as the original. What did we expect though? We all saw the trailer back in March and we didn’t enjoy that either. This isn’t Terminator 2, it’s more like, 2 Lockdown: 2 furious.

At least in the original there was some poignant moments, the clapping for the keyworkers, the excitement of that first family zoom quiz, the satisfaction of taking that first Banana Bread out of the oven. It even had a cool catchphrase…..”stay safe” amazing, that’s like the new, “I’ll be back.”

Rumour has it that this second film is already way over budget and that’s just the millions the government have wasted on this track and trace app.

We were all impressed by the stunts in that first lockdown film too, they felt new and fresh. “Eat out to help out” was a good one. That bit with the big spike at the end was really impressive, even if we did all see it coming.

The first lockdown film, just captured the public’s imagination. It had a plot that united the country, then some bloke drove to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight and people suddenly lost interest. We all know it’s a movie, but that twist was too farfetched for even the most imaginative of us.

The government keeps dangling the idea of Christmas in our faces as some kind of bribery-bauble. I don’t think they get it, do they? I spent the entire month of April sitting on the sofa=eating pringles and watching the Tiger King back to back. I’ve had my Christmas. I don’t want Santa, I want freedom!

This is the only thing that makes this second lockdown bearable for me. In the first one my social media timeline was flooded by those annoying people. The one’s that looked at this whole crisis as a gift. You remember those ones, we had a name for them didn’t we? What was it now? Oh yes, I remember, “Bellends.”

They never stopped banging on about this moment as being the chance for them to finally finish that novel, grapple with a new language or learn that musical instrument.

What is wrong with them? Don’t they understand that no crisis in history has been improved by the addition of a trumpet?

As for finishing a novel, time isn’t the only barrier there is it? if it was just a question of having time on your hands then why aren’t we seeing serial killers bashing out endless literary works? Take Rose West for instance, twenty five years and not one book, not even a podcast!

Many of us during the first lockdown, myself included, realised that time wasn’t the issue, we just lacked motivation. Some days were bleak. The lowest point was a Tuesday in April. All I did that day was griddle some aubergines. An entire day and that was my only achievement. I remember I needed a wee, but I decided to hold it in because I thought it would be nice to have some plans for the day after.

I get why people find these lockdowns frustrating, it feels like we’ve all been grounded by Boris Johnson.

If the R-Rate goes up again he’ll probably take our games consoles off us and send us to bed with no tea.

But this is the first time in history where staying in your house and doing nothing is seen as being heroic. You’re saving the NHS one boxset at a time. In the war you used to hear things like:

“It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”

Well now it’s:

“Do your bit, be a lazy sh*t”

When this is over, we might all get medals, but not a George cross, just a gold brooch in the shape of a pizza slice.

Lockdown 2 isn’t about personal goals, bettering oneself or getting fit. It’s cold, it’s dark, we’re all a bit tired. This is a month of letting yourself go, sticking the elasticated sweatpants back on and trying to get gout by 1 st December.

The fact remains though, that Christmas is going to be very different this year.

Firstly Christmas shopping isn’t going to be the same. The traditional Black Friday sales at the end of November will have to be done online. It’s good that we can still get those discounts but I will miss the adrenaline rush of having to wrestle another man to the ground just to get my hands on a cheap coffee maker.

It means more people shopping online. This is going to make Jeff Bezos from Amazon the richest man in history. By January he’ll have more money than Bruce Wayne. Can you imagine what his tax bill will be though? Of course you can, It’ll probably be nothing, same as last year.

It’s everyone’s first Christmas during a global pandemic, and I think there will be some key differences. The first one concerns Santa himself. What if he has to self-isolate? Are his reindeer in his support bubble? These are worrying times. Kids can still visit him, either over Zoom, direct to the North Pole, (if his broadband is up to it), or in person, with Santa handing over a freshly sanitised present on the end of a fishing rod.

He won’t be the first person who’s had to change their business practices this year. In an increasingly cashless society, 2021 will be the first year that the Tooth Fairy brings in a chip and pin device.

Everyone is worried about how the new regulations will impact upon the plans people have for Christmas. It’s going to affect us, especially if the rule of six is still in place on Christmas day. Only six people will allowed around the table and that’s a problem. Myself, Jemma and the two kids are in obviously, but what about the grandparents?

We’ve decided the best way to so this is to have a “Royal Rumble” style battle between them all for the two remaining seats at the table. I put money on my mum. She may be seventy but she fights dirty. She does Pilates, she’s spent hours lifting a Dyson and wringing out dishcloths, she’s wiry and lethal.

These regulations are also the perfect way to get rid of those family members who always ruin your Christmas! All those snide comments, those crap presents, now it’s payback time!

You could eliminate them like a talent show. Sit them down one by one in the kitchen.

“Uncle Alan, we’ve come to our decision, it’s been very difficult, you did very well, we all liked you and your attempts at humour…but I’m afraid to say, it’s a no!”

Feel free to come back and audition next December!

I’ve just found out that my four year old’s school Nativity play is happening without an audience this year. You can’t see my face but if you could, you would see how utterly devastated I am. I’ve decided to try and still recreate that experience at home though. My wife and I will sit for three hours on tiny chairs with our backs to a radiator, reading lines from a script at a breathtakingly slow pace at a volume practically inaudible to the human ear.

Something we’ve all got on our Christmas lists this year is that vaccine. This is our only hope for a route back to normality again.

The recent news has been encouraging. It’s a full on race now, with Oxford, Pfizer and the Russian one, Sputnik 5 all competing to be the first to get the doses ready for the population.

The Russian one is my favourite so far, Sputnik 5. That sounds like one up from Cillit Bang. Putin was so confident that is was safe, that way back in May he tested the first batch on his own children. What a hero, I can’t even get my two to try Broccoli.

In order for it to be effective we have to persuade the anti-vax lot to take it, which isn’t going to be easy.

“But I don’t know what’s in it, I don’t trust it!”

“Fine, Susan, I’ll have your share, you go and try your luck with some herbal tea and some ginseng from Holland and Barret.”

The conspiracy theorists claim that Bill Gates is trying to inject a microchip into all our brains, to track our every moment. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of that but haven’t you already have got something in your pocket that can do that? Your mobile phone.

“Why would you think that Microsoft would be interested in planting a chip in your head Alan?”

“All you’ve done today is read the paper, scratch your nut sack and make a cheese toastie, no one is putting that explosive information into a spreadsheet mate.”

A lot of people have said they don’t want to take the vaccine as they don’t want to put something they don’t trust inside their bodies. It’s funny, a lot of these people probably spent their teenage years experimenting with any chemicals they could get their hands on. Back in the nineties they would willingly hoover up drain cleaner off a cistern in Yates Wine Lodge every Saturday night, but now all of a sudden their body is a temple?

The vaccine will have to be stored at temperatures four times lower than the average freezer. Scientists haven’t decided on the location yet, but the other day I was in Iceland and I noticed that they had cleared a space next to the oven chips, so it looks like it could be sorted.

The vaccine will have to be stored at temperatures four times lower than the average freezer. Scientists haven’t decided on the location yet, but the other day I was in Iceland and I noticed that they had cleared a space next to the oven chips, so it looks like it could be sorted.

I haven’t seen one trailer, or music video. The vaccine hasn’t even got its own twitter account yet?

Surely this is the easiest PR job in the world, isn’t it?

I’ll give them the slogan now, “If you want to go outside again mate? Then stick this in your arm”, job done.

But whatever you do this Christmas, whoever you’re with, just remember that you’ve made it through, you’re still here and you’re doing brilliantly. So kick back, relax, take the pressure off, after the year we’ve all had, we totally deserve it.

Merry Christmas everyone and a happy new year.

Let’s be honest it can’t be worse than the last one, can it?

SB

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Twitter – @scottbcomedyuk
Instagram – @scottbcomedyuk
Stand up from the shed – Live stream Every Week
Live – www.facebook.com/scottybcomedy
Podcast – Search “Stand up from the shed” on Apple and Soundcloud
Twitter – @standupinashed

Working nine till five (in your dressing gown)

One of the consequences of Coronavirus is that many of us have had to start working from home. As a stand-up comedian, this hasn’t been easy, you can’t just start doing an impromptu gig at the dinner table, treating your kids like drunken hecklers. You can’t do “your mum” style put-downs when you’re married to her.

If you ever wanted an insight into what it’s like to be married to a comedian, my wife Jemma once came to a gig with me. Afterwards, I overheard her talking to an audience member who said, “was that your husband on stage earlier?” “Yes,” Jemma said. They then said, “oh it must be great living with him, I bet you never stop laughing!” Jemma sighed wearily and replied, “oh yes, it’s hilarious…”

Over the last six months, social media has been flooded with pictures of people’s home office setups, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some people have a set up like the HQ of Google. Two monitors, a perfectly positioned desk, expertly lit so they can slay all those crucial Zoom meetings.

Others are perched on the toilet, naked from the waist down, with their laptops balanced on an Alibaba laundry basket, trying to stop the cat from flashing its bumhole on the webcam.

When I worked in an office I kept the fact that I did stand up comedy a bit of a secret. The two worlds don’t really mix, an office isn’t a comedy club: “Give is a cheer if you know how the photocopier works!”

“Right, are you ready for your next meeting? let’s start the applause…..build it up, stamp your feet, go wild and crazy and welcome to the Projector a very good friend of mine, Kevin and his monthly sales figures!”

The government have tried to encourage people back into the office, but it hasn’t been easy. They assumed that people would relish the chance to get back to normal, pick up where they left off all those months ago. But they forgot one small point. Most people really hate their jobs.

We’ve all had a taste of a different life and now we don’t want to go back.

In this month’s article, I take a look at some of the things many of us wouldn’t miss about working in an office.

Wasted time

There used to be the mindset that working from home meant that you were skiving. Rolling over in bed to hit send on an email before going back to sleep. This pandemic has shown that to be nonsense. Studies have shown that people are more productive when they are at home, because they feel like they’re on their own time. Forget promotions and pay rises, nothing is more motivating than your own inflatable hot tub, a box set and an ice-cold beer.

It was all about trust. There wasn’t any. The manager wanted you at a desk where they could see you, like a toddler in a tie. At their disposal, so they could drag you into pointless meetings that went on for hours, where the only outcome was “I think we need another meeting”

The commute

Nothing starts your day like a two-hour journey nestled nose deep into a strangers armpit. Or perhaps you’re pinned against the glass of a train window, as the person next to you unfolds their morning paper like they are trying to change a duvet. Only a psychopath could miss the morning commute. Even in your own car, it’s miserable. Sitting there in that little metal coffin, staring at the exhaust in front, listening to Heart FM and wondering what happened to your dreams.
The rush hour just seemed to get earlier every day, with Friday afternoon seemingly the exact point in the week where everyone would synchronize their car accidents, causing hours of tailbacks all across the country.

Lunch

Why sit in your own garden eating home-cooked food you’ve lovingly prepared, when you can spend a tenner on a floppy cheese sandwich, which has been thrown together by someone in a factory who has just recently tested positive for COVID?

The amount of money we wasted on Coffee and lunches was staggering. Of course, there are the smug people with a fresh pasta salad they made the night before. But the rest of us have woken up fifteen minutes before we have to leave and we’ve had to brush our teeth in the car park.

You have to have a think about what lunch you bring in to the office. A tuna salad may seem like a fairly innocuous, but not when it’s in a poorly sealed Tupperware. Tuna juice is one of the most potent substances known to man and it’s got a longer half-life than Novichok. Even a small leak makes your rucksack smell like a fishing trawler. It gets into your skin, on your clothes, everywhere you go you’re followed by hundreds of stray cats.

Smelly food, in general, should be banned from an office. Anyone who brings in a curry to reheat in a communal microwave needs to get in the bin. That’s not lunch, that’s social terrorism.

I stopped taking a yoghurt to work. I had too many accidents. Is there anything more stressful than opening a yoghurt when you’re wearing a black suit? They are so highly pressurized, peeling back that film lid is like trying to defuse a bomb. No matter how gentle you are, it just fires itself at you, spitting the stuff everywhere like an angry cobra.

Making tea

When you’re working from home and you get up to make a brew, it doesn’t condemn you to an hour at the kettle, working your way through more orders than a barista in Starbucks. There is always that one person in an office, who waits until someone gets up before asking for a drink, never offering to make one themselves. I feel for them when working from home, just staring at an empty cup, gasping for a drink but not having the skills to make it happen.

Some of the orders are ridiculous too, “Make sure you leave the T-Bag in for thirty seconds, stir three times, sweetener and no sugar. Make sure you use soya milk for Susan as normal milk will kill her!”

Hot Desking

I’ve never been keen on the idea of hot desking. Why do I have to share custody of a mouse with Bryan? It’s not the school hamster? We’ve all seen him idly scratching his testicles near the water cooler. Is it called a hot desk because after he’s been on it I’d like to set fire to it?

Banter

“Office Banter” or as it’s now more commonly known “harassment” is another thing I think we’d all like to see the back of. There is nothing wrong with having a laugh with your colleagues, but the phrase, “Is just banter mate!” has been used as a defence by so many bellends over the years.

There is a place for humour in the workplace, but it has to be well-timed and well balanced. A witty remark or an inside joke always goes down well. Saying, “It’s nearly Friday!” at 9.30 am on a Monday morning, quite rightly makes the rest of the office want to strangle you with a printer cable.

Cakes

An unwritten rule in any office is that when it’s your birthday, you bring in cakes. This is part of your contract. I was once working in an office when someone decided to buck this trend and bring in a fruit platter. People looked at her like she’d left a dog turd on the desk. There was genuine anger. I swear I saw people taking their money back out of her card.

Team building days

Team building events, for when eight hours a day five days a week just isn’t enough for some people. If you don’t like these people now, standing in a cagoule in a forest in the pouring rain, trying to make a den out of twigs certainly won’t improve matters.

Boring people

The worst thing to have in an office is that painfully boring person, who sucks the life out of everyone. If you’re thinking that you haven’t got one in your organisation then it’s probably you.

As soon as they start talking, you’re just thinking of ways to get out of the conversation. You wonder if you could fake a heart attack? Or secretly text a family member to ring you with an emergency?

There was a guy I used to work called Alan Koch, it was a German name I think, ironic really because people called him that anyway.

He’d box you in in the corridor. He knew you wanted to leave, so he never stopped talking. I think he could probably play the didgeridoo because he was doing circular breathing. Getting away from him was like trying to pull out into traffic at a busy junction. You can be polite and wait for a gap, but at some point, you have to just got to put your head down and go for it, otherwise, you’ll be there all day.

Wherever he went people would dive into meeting rooms to avoid him, it was like watching a tornado sweeping across a plain.

My boss once got trapped by him near the door, he had nowhere to go and Alan had him in the tractor beam of one of his long anecdotes. With a look of despair on his face, my boss spotted me over Alan’s shoulder and, with tears almost welling in his eyes, mouthed the words, “help me.”

So that concludes the meeting for today folks. Please don’t forget to read the minutes when I send them through. It’ll be tomorrow though, I’m off back to bed now until the school run.

SB

The end is in sight…

As the government start to relax the social distancing laws, it looks like we might finally be coming out of this nightmare. The year 2020 will forever be known as the time when your wheelie bin went out more often than you did.

The same people who told us to stay inside are now telling us to go out again. It might be because the infection rate is going down or it could be to help get the economy moving again so that their rich mates can make a return on some of their investments. It’s hard to know the truth, isn’t it?

As I write this, the two-metre rule has been reduced to one metre (except for people who you don’t like) and the pubs are about to re-open. If you listen carefully you can just make out the sound of thousands of webcams being slung back into desks.

So I thought this month I’d do a retrospective review of the whole lockdown experience and reflect on how it might’ve changed us and our society, what the future holds and ponder if this whole experience might’ve been the reset the world needed?

New Terminology

I’ve known people who have been social distancing long before it was trendy, I mean they called it divorce, but it was effectively the same thing. These are terms that are now part of our everyday vocabulary that we had never heard of before March this year.

My children, who are 10 and 4, were playing with their Barbie dolls the other day, I could overhear them talking, “are you coming to the party Chelsea?” “Yes, but we must keep two metres apart and don’t forget your face masks!”
It’s amazing, I’ve got so good at estimating what two metres are now, that I reckon I could plan out an extension without even using a tape measure.

We have had so many new words. “Furloughed” sounds like a medical emergency involving some farming machinery and scientists were constantly talking about how important it was to “flatten the curve” something which I used to do when we were allowed in the gym.

“Stay alert, we don’t want a second peak” I agreed with that, I put on so much weight during the first one, I don’t think my body could take anymore. I’ve already seen my second peak, although you’d probably call them “moobs”

Booze and Baking

It’s been a toxic combination of constant drinking and home baking that’s been my downfall. I went into this pandemic quite healthy, now I’m drinking at midday and my blood group is basically Banana Bread.

When I go for my next health check to the doctors he’s going to ask me how much alcohol I drink. I’ll say “BC or AC doctor, before Corona or After Corona, because those are two very different statistics. I barely drank before, now I’m putting away more units than a kitchen fitter.

We were in a Whatsapp group for our street, wasn’t everyone? You’d see messages at three in the morning, desperate people on the hunt for yeast. At any one time, there would be at least five people walking up and down the road with little bags of white powder, leaving it in plant pots and behind gates, like a really middle-class drug deal.

Motivational pressure

There were, of course, those people who said at the start of this, “I see this time as a gift, I’m going to write a novel, I’m going to paint, I’m going to learn a new musical instrument.” No. To those people, I say this, has any crisis in history been improved with the addition of a Trumpet?

Time wasn’t the issue for me, I’m just lazy. If being productive was just down to time, then why hasn’t every serial killer doing a life sentence written a bestselling novel?

Keeping fit

Who would have thought letting humans out for one walk a day, would be the key to solving Britain’s obesity crisis. We were up at nine, doing lunges in front of the fireplace with Joe Wicks, then we were out for our daily walk, like prisoners on death row wandering around the yard.

Poor old Joe Wicks. As the numbers dwindled he desperately tried to hold onto viewers. He wore fancy dress, had music playing, asked people to write in with shout outs. The only way he could have kept us Brits committed would have been to introduce exercises that involved using KFC bargain buckets as dumbbells.

Zoom Quizzes

The family zoom quiz became a regular feature in everyone’s calendar. Our children haven’t been educated in months but luckily we have been filling their heads with pointless trivia. They’ll not get any GCSE’s but at least they’ll be able to tell you the depth of Lake Tahoe to the nearest millimetre. If Oxford University do a degree in “Disney facts” my daughter will pass with flying colours.

You think you’re popular now, try and organize a Zoom quiz after this pandemic, see how many people are interested then. “No thanks Bryan, we only let you do it because you had the best broadband, we’re off out with our real friends tonight, this is one round you aren’t going to be involved in pal!”

Retail therapy

There are a few people who for them this pandemic has been an unparalleled success. Delivery drivers. I’m not saying I’ve ordered too much online, but the Amazon guy now has his own key.

There have been so many “essential” purchases haven’t there? New trainers. Gallons of fence preserver, Pizza ovens and Chimineas. Can you imagine the conversation I’ll have with my grandchildren in years to come?

“Tell me about the great pandemic of 2020 Grandad.”

“Oh, it was awful son, six weeks we had to wait for that inflatable hot tub and don’t get me started on that rattan patio furniture!”

Homeschooling

People have had very different lockdowns. The people without kids have appreciated the downtime, whereas those with kids have appreciated the teachers.

A lot of things will bounce back after this pandemic, not teacher recruitment though. No-one is going to want to pick that profession, mainly because we have all realised what our own children are actually like.

I never wanted to be a teacher. Let me tell you that there is nothing more humiliating than having to google maths problems aimed at a nine-year-old. Some of the concepts were lost on me, what the hell are Phonics? I think I saw them support the Chemical Brothers at Rock City in the early Nineties!

The new normal

In my last stand up show, “Relax”, I talked about how frenetic the world was and how, because of the pressures of life, humans have forgotten how to relax. Well, I clearly had a direct line to God himself, because along came Corona, and we’ve had three months of sitting on our butts in our jogging bottoms watching boxsets.

In a recent survey, only 10% of Brits were actually looking forward to going back to their old lives. It seems that this pandemic, although terrifying and unprecedented, is nothing compared to the fear of “normality”

This tells me one thing, we were living our lives all wrong. Working endless hours in jobs you could do from home, lives wasted sitting in tin boxes on the A52 listening to Sarah Cox. Meals missed with our children, no time for exercise and no time for each other.

The environment is better, the air is cleaner, the rivers are blue and the birds are singing. Maybe this is the only way we can save the planet? By stopping the human’s living on it.

This is what’s leaving us all so confused. We are all less anxious now, yes we’ve all lost money, the more unfortunate ones amongst us may have even lost our loved ones, but we have all learnt a valuable lesson. We lost sight of what was important and we now need to start making time for ourselves.

Let’s build a new normal, something that improves our quality of life. Although if that involves playing a trumpet, frankly I’d rather we didn’t bother.

SB

A Zoom with a view

As soon as you get that email, your heart starts pounding, “please join Zoom meeting in progress.” Fantastic, yet another chance to be scrutinized by thirty people all at once. That’s not a meeting, that’s an audition. This is a growing phenomenon phycologists have termed, “Zoom Fatigue.”

The global pandemic has made video conferencing the most important tool in business. I wish I’d have had the foresight to buy shares in Zoom or Skype before the world caved in. Back in January they were worth pence, now you could sell them and retire in the Algarve with your very own butler.

When recruiting new staff for the office, historically a boss would look at your experience, or your ability to work as a team. Now it’s how good your broadband is and the resolution of your webcam. This lack of physical human contact isn’t normal though, in fact I think it’s an invasion of privacy.

When you’re in the office, you can avoid boring Colin when he’s walking towards you down the corridor. You do a tuck and roll into an empty meeting room, pretend to have another phone call, fake death, anything to avoid his mood hoovering demeanour. With Zoom its impossible, eight hours a day, seven days a week, he can be there with you, sat in your own living room, staring into your eyes and slowly eroding your will to live.

Having to be on guard all the time is tiring, you can’t relax. People often Zoom in front of a bookcase, to make them look intelligent. Always remember though that the other viewers are looking at what is behind you, so play it safe. The Dictionary, a couple of Bill Bryson novels, a few cookbooks. Don’t sit there with fifteen copies of Mein Kampf in the background and a Haynes manual for a Volkswagon Beetle; you’ll be furloughed faster than you can say “COVID.” It’s tapped into our love of being nosey. People are speaking but we really aren’t listening, we’re looking at their houses. It’s like an episode of “Through The Keyhole.”

Karen will be giving a presentation on the latest sales figures and all you can think is, “my god, she’s got a rubbish sofa. I think the springs have gone on that. What wallpaper is that? Al Fresco I reckon, someone got their bonus this year, look at the dust on her telly; disgraceful!”

The tidiest place in your house now is anything in the range of the Webcam. Down that lens is the life you aspire too. Clean lines, fresh flowers, perfect lighting, it’s like an Apple advert. A few millimetres either side; crack den. Piles of dirty plates, last night’s takeaway boxes and underwear hanging from light fittings like voodoo trophies.

The worst bit is when you are waiting to go into the Zoom meeting. All you can see is your own horrible face and hair. You look tired, greasy and have jowls hanging down like a fat badger.

I’m starting to detest the “join with video” button. I don’t want to “join with video” can’t we do audio? You know what I look like. They should have a button that allows you to “join with someone else’s face” that would be wonderful. Imagine doing a meeting to discuss the new company logo with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

There is no good camera angle. I’ve seen more nostrils these past few months than a toddlers finger. You can try putting your laptop on books, hanging the webcam from a light fitting. You could send a drone with a GoPro hundreds of feet up into the air, but you still look ugly.

It’s not normal conversation either, because you are acutely aware of everyone’s body language. Even the slightest facial expression is registered. You feel like a Police Officer, watching a press conference, where you just know the person making the appeal is as guilty as hell.

“Janet rolled her eyes then, she hates me.”

“Now Keith looks bored.”

“Great, I’ve offended Carol.”

“Did Dave just swear at me?”

You can’t speak properly because of the delay, you just constantly say, “No you go first, no after you.” Are we talking here or holding the door open?

“You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere.”

Everyone is shouting at each other, it’s just mayhem, it sounds like a football match. It’s the internet, you have a microphone, stop bellowing at me like Brian Blessed you moron.

You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere. You can try and leave but no-one will let you.

“I’ve got to go guys sorry.”

“Where, where can you go, we’re in Lockdown!”

“Err, over near the plant for a bit.”

Every Zoom meeting ends the same way, doesn’t it? People frantically looking around their phone or laptop to try and find the “Leave meeting button” We are then all treated to ten minutes of waggling fingers in full 3D, coming towards us like pink tentacles as they fumble around the screen.

They’ll be a lot of people realizing how much their friends actually hate them now. If they don’t make an effort now it’s unlikely that they’re going to when the world returns to normal. People are literally spending all day sitting around staring at the walls and waiting for deliveries, they’ve had hours of free time and they still don’t call you. Imagine getting stood up now for a better internet offer, that would be brutal.

“Sorry mate I can’t come to your Zoom birthday, my third cousin is doing a Disney Quiz!”

Speaking of quizzes, please someone save me from this hell. Every single day there is another one, it’s absolutely endless, I feel like I’m in a never-ending edition of Mastermind. Our kids aren’t getting educated now, they are just learning loads of pointless trivia. They will grow up with no qualifications, unable to get a job, but at least they’ll be able to tell you what the depth of Lake Tahoe is to the nearest metre.

What I would say is that if you’re a quizmaster enjoy this moment in the spotlight. You might be popular now, but try hosting a zoom quiz after lockdown.

“No thanks Kev you weirdo, we only let you do it because you had the best broadband, now we’re off out for a drink with our real friends. This is one round you aren’t involved in!”

“Looking good on Zoom is now a major concern for people, it’s like the nightmare of the Instagram selfie but live.”

The Zoom host has all the power. It’s basically a dictatorship. Sitting there lauding it over everyone, monitoring the screens, like a perverted security guard.

“Obey me or I will silence you!”

Looking good on Zoom is now a major concern for people, it’s like the nightmare of the Instagram selfie but live. I have seen tutorials on YouTube. These American Zoom Guru’s, with their perfect physique, skin and teeth, telling us how beautiful we can look just by switching on a desk lamp. They claim that they can help you “slay your Zoom meeting.”

They offer handy tips like the clothing you should wear (simple and professional) the way you should always look interested, by sitting there with an inane grin on your face like a Waxwork Amanda Holden.

Working from home isn’t easy, especially when the children are trapped with you. But fear not, the Guru has advice for you there too. “Tell the children that when the computer is on, Mummy or Daddy are working. If they are going to choke on those grapes, they need to do it outside of work hours.”

Stop putting pressure on yourself, it’s an achievement at the moment just to get out of bed, just get through the days, that’s all we need to do. This isn’t about winning or succeeding, it’s about surviving.

Just have a whip-round with a wet wipe and put some pants on, that’s all you need to do. Oh and don’t worry about boring Colin, before you know it things will have returned to normal and then you can ignore him in person.

SB

The show goes on…

Let me tell you where I am readers. I’m here in the only place I feel safe at the moment… my shed. The first is a group called the “Men’s Shedders Association” But this isn’t just any garden shed, I’m not perched on a lawnmower with my feet on a bag of charcoal. This baby has carpets, curtains and even a coffee maker.

I’ve been self-isolating way before it was trendy. Although I didn’t call it that, I called it “hiding from my kids.”

This shed is quite compact, about six foot long by four foot wide, about the size of a downstairs toilet in the North or a one bed flat in Central London. On the 14th March BC (before Corona) I did my last live Stand up gig. Now I can’t get on stage, so like everyone else, I’ve decided to start working from home. Every week I do my own live stand up gig to a webcam here in the shed for the people on Facebook, it’s essentially a cross between Babestation and B and Q.

In Italy they sang songs from balconies, it was tender, it was beautiful. Here in Nottingham you’ve got a Yorkshireman bellowing punchlines in a wooden bunker at the bottom of his garden.

The response has been amazing, I’ve been on BBC News, Sky News, Five Live, over twenty thousand people have watched the first show as it was streamed live. It seems one man’s pandemic is another man’s career break. Someone even asked me who I’d got to do my PR! What?! PR? I didn’t plan this!? I didn’t think, forget “Live at the Apollo”, I want to be the acceptable face of the Coronavirus!

I think people were looking for a distraction though, which comedy certainly has the power to be.

Doing these jokes now feels a bit like missionary work, I don’t think of myself as a comedian
anymore, I’m basically Bob Geldof with punchlines.

My friends have said, how can you do stand up with no laughter Scott, isn’t it weird? No, I’ve performed in Doncaster, I’ve been here before.

I’ve got one physical audience member in the shed with me, my wife Jemma. Her role is sound engineer, morale officer and when she lays down a draft excluder. She also makes sure I stick to time, by frantically tugging on the leg of my jeans when I start waffling on. We go live every Thursday night and on that day I put a bit of extra effort in. I empty the dishwasher, I cook, I clean the entire house, I deal with the children, the last thing I need is my only audience member turning against me.

Roy and Margaret, my parents, also feature. My dad plays the ukulele and my mum sings. Listening to them do a rendition of The Urban Spaceman with my mum playing the Kazoo, was the first time since this crisis began, that I realized, just what a long haul this would be.

But It’s been amazing to see how my parents have embraced technology. Before the pandemic they were useless. It’s all changed now though. I’ve got my mum inviting me to three-way video conferencing sessions on Zoom, dad is in the spare bedroom, with a headset on, streaming a live vlog to his followers on Twitch. By the end of this pandemic, even your Gran will have a podcast.

“These days feel like a little window into my retirement years and I’ll be honest, it’s not looking good. I’ve got no money, no pension, no social life and the worst thing is, the kids are still at home.”

I’m trying to embrace this downtime, to see it as a moment of reflection a time to take a breath. These days feel like a little window into my retirement years and I’ll be honest, it’s not looking good. I’ve got no money, no pension, no social life and the worst thing is, the kids are still at home.

I’ve felt something these past few days that I haven’t experienced in years. Boredom.

Last Tuesday all I did was griddle some aubergines, that was it, a whole day and that was my only achievement. I needed the toilet, but I decided to hold it in, just so I could have something to look forward to on the Wednesday. I can’t wait for Friday, that’s the day I finally get to top up the bird feeders.

We are trying to ration our food at home now. We are down to our last pack of pasta and our delivery slot is still two weeks away. If things carry on like this I’ll have no choice but to go up into the loft and strip all the fusilli from my daughter’s primary school pictures.

We did a freezer eat down last week, clearing out all those leftovers. It feels very cathartic, but those were some weird meals. It was like Heston Blumenthal was on the pans. On the menu were potato waffles, sweetcorn, falafel and some unknown accompaniment, which I’m now convinced was breast milk. Either that or cod in butter sauce?

But In the midst of this trauma, there are things to celebrate. There is a real sense of community now, people are pulling together. We have a WhatsApp group in Nottingham, where people shop for those who can’t get out. Everyone is very reasonable on there, you have to think about what you ask for. You can’t have people risking their health just to pick you up some fresh peppercorns. “We’re in a state of national emergency Malcolm, I think you might have to accept that your food might be a little less seasoned from now on!”

No one knows what the world will look like when we come out of this. I was watching a video of a concert on YouTube the other night and something didn’t seem right. At first I thought it was the lack of mobile phones, then I realized what it was, people were stood in a crowd! It freaked me out! I wanted to yell at the television! “What are you doing guys, are you insane! you should be 2 metres apart, come on, social distancing! where is your hand santiser, where are your masks! Is this an essential concert?!”

Close contact could soon be a fetish. They’ll be underground cuddling clubs, proximity perverts hanging around in alleyways in long trench coats. “Come in here and stand next to me, go on, breath on my neck, that’s it, touch it, go on, you know you want to, touch my face, shake my hand, let’s go down to the basement for a game of Twister!”

Humour is one of the best tools we have to get through this. Only a fortnight ago, we were laughing about how we were having to greet each other. We touched elbows, we saluted, I even did a fist bump with the pensioner across the road. It was the most gangster thing ever. When all this has blown over we’ve made plans to pimp us his mobility scooter, then go down the old folks home and start dealing Viagra.

But I’m really missing my job. I’ve done shows every weekend for nearly a decade and I feel lost without it. I miss the hen parties and the stag nights, the punters on their phones and the drunken heckles from the shadows. I’ve done gigs where I’ve driven for four hours on a Tuesday night, in torrential rain, to perform to two people and a dog, for no money, at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon…..and I even miss those ones now too.

I can’t keep doing jokes to my wife in the shed, it’s not normal. If you carry on like that you won’t have a career, or a wife.

After all, when this is over I think we will all need a laugh. Comedy is going to be in such demand and I can’t wait to be on the frontline, back in that comedy club where I belong.

But until that day comes, I guess this shed will just have to do.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

They’re not ageing, they’re transitioning!

As this issue is about community, I want to tell you about two of my favourite communities, both of whom have a spiritual affinity with one another.

The first is a group called the “Men’s Shedders Association.” I recently did a charity fundraising gig for them, my dream is to be the ambassador, the comedy circuits very own Angelina Jolie. I might even adopt one of these stray men and bring them back home to live with me. In a house full of women it would be nice to finally have a wingman for when my wife and I have an argument.

There is a serious reason that this charity was set up. Men’s mental health is a big concern. The statistics on male suicide make for horrific reading. It remains the most common form of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK. Years of being told to “Man up” and the stigma surrounding mental health has made it hard for men to talk about their problems.

Thankfully things are changing and the “Shedders Association” is one initiative set up to help. Men of all ages, young and old can now gather together in sheds all across the country, it’s a bit like an open prison, except that the only vices they have are the ones holding the wood.

It seems like men find it easier to talk when we are these sort of environments. Sawdust are our smelling salts and a Black and Decker Workmate is just another one of the lads. If you have a BBQ you can see how hard men find it to converse. Women will be sat on the patio furniture with a glass of Pimms, the air is alive with their excitable chatter. The men will usually be stood around the flames with a can of lager in hand, just staring in silence. Occasionally one of the older ones will pluck up the courage to speak: “It looks like you need another bag of lava rock on there Keith.”

I have a shed and it’s changed my life. It’s the only room in the house the children haven’t conquered. I like my kids but I love my shed. It’s my place, my own private temple. It’s not hedonism its shedonism! It’s how men bond too. My mates never ask me about my kids, but they will always ask me about that shed. “How is she doing mate?” “Great!” “I’ve got some pictures on my phone” “Oh, she’s beautiful!” “I’m treating her this weekend” “Are you?” “Yeah, a bit of Cuprinol.”

My wife Jemma got me that shed as a surprise when I became a professional comedian. It was somewhere I could concentrate, a private place away from the chaos of family life. At first, I thought it was a lovely gesture, now I’ve realised it’s just a way for her to get me out of the house.

Some of the men in the shedders association are retired. Their wives send them in there, to keep them occupied and stop them from getting lonely. They spend hours making coffee tables, catapults, and tiny models of cathedrals out of matchsticks, whilst their own homes just fall apart. “John I don’t need another bloody spice rack, when are you going to decorate that back bedroom!”

Another community I am fascinated with are the monks. To the onlooker they seem to have the right idea, taking themselves off the grid, seeking something more spiritual and meaningful in a world of panic and fear.

I’ve met a monk. I know this sounds like the start of a joke, “a comedian and a monk walk down a hill”, but it’s true. I was out for a walk on my own one day, in a country park in Gloucestershire. In the grounds, there was this Monastery. As I walked past the entrance, this monk came out of the gate and fell into step with me. He was in white robes, but he’d stuck on a fleece, bobble hat, and walking boots, an undercover monk, a friar with a wire. Some people find god after a moment of despair, this guy looked like he’d found him halfway through plastering a fireplace. It looked like he was on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition and had taken the wrong bearing, for nearly four decades! He said, “are you walking my way?” I thought, my God, he’s trying to recruit me! He got the calling when he was 25, he’d been there 35 years. He’d left his whole family behind to serve god. I told him I’d just turned 40. He said that is the age we start to look for fulfilment within ourselves, we stop chasing and start reflecting. This could be the moment for you, he said. “Now I’m not saying I’d want to abandon my family, I love my wife and children more than anything else in the world, they are everything to me…however…. it’d be nice to be brother Scott just for a weekend.”

I think that’s what these monasteries are full of, tired dads who said they were going to put the bin out one day and just kept going. They didn’t stop until their heads hit the monastery door. The monks find them there in the morning, just laid out on the steps: “We’ve got some more brother Michael and this one is weeping!” “School holidays Brother John always a busy time!” “Five this week alone” They just prize the Ikea bags out of their hands and take them through to the vestry. I think this is a secret fantasy for most men. As they get older you can see their inner monk slowing starting to come out. They aren’t ageing, they’re transitioning! They get the bald head, the potbelly, start spending all day in their dressing gowns, mumbling to themselves, they take a vow of celibacy, often not their choice. They wake up one day and say to their wives, “Susan, I’m going to put my name down for an allotment!”

But if the price of tranquillity is to give up everything you love, I don’t want it. I couldn’t handle the guilt, it would be unbearable. Maybe they aren’t holy these guys, maybe they’re just really selfish. We can’t all abandon our responsibilities just to save ourselves. It can’t be that good in there either. If it was, then why are they all drinking booze?! Not only that, but they are also making it themselves, it’s like Breaking Bad in there, I bought some of their Trappist Ale, its 9%, that’s stronger than special brew!

When you see them doing those chants in their robes, they aren’t praying, they’re hungover, what are they trying to forget! In this world of pressure and chaos, a garden shed is more than just an outbuilding, it’s a place of sanctuary. All you need is the Pope to pop by and bless it then and you’ve got your own Monastery. You can be your own monk by not even leaving your own home!

Speaking of which, I’ll see you all later, I’m off to rub down some plywood.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB