Tag: comedy

The Yorkshireman Speaks: Approaching forty…

Flirting with forty

Next year I am 40. I can’t quite believe it. I remember my mum and dad being this age, I didn’t think it would happen to me. I hoped I would be like a Yorkshire Benjamin button, a pound shop Peter Pan, but here I am, clinging onto the remnants of my thirties like a terrified toddler clutching their mothers’ hand on that first day at playgroup.

Forty is a strange age, it changes how you feel about certain things.

I used to go to festivals, days spent in muddy fields with nothing but a can of Strongbow and a wet wipe between three of us. Festivals at forty are different, it’s hard to be “down with the kids” when you have brought your own kids. The youth arrive on the Megabus, you’ve come in a people carrier with a roof box. You make your way through the field, holding a cool box in one hand and some fold up picnic chairs in the other. You’ve got one kid on your shoulders, another is following behind you in badly fitted wellingtons and a cagoule, any cool factor you may have managed to muster up is instantly destroyed when your wife, who is weighed down with an M and S picnic, shouts, “keep walking love, it’s way too loud here” it’s as if she is saying, “I want to find a lovely spot, well away from any kind of atmosphere.”

So, you sit there with your other forty-year-old friends, huddled around the picnic blanket, holding a cucumber and dip, talking about school catchment areas whilst a band from the 90’s who weren’t successful enough to retire, massacre songs you never liked the first time around. There is a moment of excitement when one of the group brings out a hip flask, what could it be? Vodka, Whiskey, Jager? Nope….Gaviscon. “Scott I’ve got some acid” “really?!” “Yeah, reflux, that red pepper humous is really repeating on me!”

It’s really odd, I’ve found myself enjoying a garden centre now, we go most Sundays, it’s just an excuse to go out. We go to the café for a brew and scone then just come home, we don’t even buy anything, no other shop offers that facility, you don’t go to B and Q for a roast dinner?

I used to get frustrated watching my dad play Super Mario, he’d just be wandering around aimlessly, bumping into stuff and dying, that’s me now!

I have started walking differently too. Young people stride purposefully, hands by the side, or holding a phone, frenetic, on the move, propelled by hope and ambition. I’ve noticed I’ve started ambling, with my hands behind my back, like a pensioner on a bus trip looking in the window of an antiques shop. I’m like a geriatric Liam Gallagher, I’m literally saying my future, is behind me.

Subconsciously I’m already old, I always have been. Look at the car I drive, it’s the most popular model with pensioners. I bought it because it had seven years warranty, although don’t ask me what happened after that, because no-one has ever made it. Seriously, I reckon they have to finish the paperwork via Ouija word. I asked to have it modified, pimped up. They brought it back in a cardigan, with some Werther’s originals in the ashtray.

I used to love playing video games, that’s all changed. Not only do I not have time to do it, I’m useless too, it’s as if my reflexes and cognitive skills have gone, I get nauseous walking around Ikea, so after playing a first-person role-playing game, I’d have to lie down for a week. I used to get frustrated watching my dad play Super Mario, he’d just be wandering around aimlessly, bumping into stuff and dying, that’s me now! All this online gaming is beyond me too, I live in a house with three women, my self-esteem is already rock bottom without having my arse handed to me by an eleven-year-old French kid whom I’ve never met.

The games are so vast, some take weeks to complete, if you’ve got kids, you haven’t got time to play them.

A friend of mine he is married but he doesn’t care, he sits up all night drinking cans of Monster and playing games with his VR headset on. He told me he was playing this game the other week and it was so realistic that at one point a woman came into the room behind him, opened the curtains, told him to “Grow up” and left with his kids.

Physiologically your body starts to change, have you ever tried going on the swings at the park as an adult? Three swings and you are ready to vomit in a bin.

They should make some games that are more appropriate for people in their forties. Maybe things like “Ikea dash”, the idea is to get to the café before the meatballs run out and the argument bar is always on red, you might have infinite lives but every single one of them feels exactly the same. There could be a game where you have to punch other people’s kids in a soft play centre, bonus points if the parents don’t catch you. Finally, a strategy game where the main character eats a bit late and then has to ransack a medicine cabinet looking for an emergency Rennie.

Your tastes in the opposite sex change when you get older too. There is nothing more attractive to me now than a woman who can handle a double buggy, intercept a runny nose and crack open a fruit shoot with her teeth all at the same time. She’s got one arm that’s more muscular than the rest, where she’s been carrying around a toddler for miles at a time. You don’t have to waste your time with your pointless sweet talk too, she’s got bums to wipe. Get to the point and make it quick.

Physiologically your body starts to change, have you ever tried going on the swings at the park as an adult? Three swings and you are ready to vomit in a bin. It’s to do with the change in your centre of gravity, which is probably fortunate, otherwise we’d never want go to work. Offices would be empty and playgrounds would be full. You’d see them full of account managers in shirts and ties, lying on roundabouts and trying to skype a meeting with head office from the top of the snake slide.

When Douglas Barder, the successful WWII fighter pilot lost both his legs it actually enhanced his combat abilities as he could resist larger G-forces. That’s clearly the answer, if you want to enjoy the swings as an adult all you have to do is chop off both your legs, but then you’d not be able to go on the climbing frame, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Or in this case, just swings, with another adult pushing you.

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

Motherhood #4

Motherhood at Christmas…

Crikey, that swung around as quickly as a toddler with a loaded paintbrush. Christmas is here again, the shops would have you believe that they are selling out of this years craze and school friends are swinging the vote for my daughter’s requests from Santa. This is our 6th Christmas as parents, and here’s my completely serious, helpful guide to a stress-free festive period.

Go abroad. Honestly, leave the country. I’m not talking about taking your partner and kids either, just you. Get on a cheap flight anywhere and even 2 weeks trekking the Gobi desert with no water will be a comparative breeze.

Fake your own death. Only until the January sales, mind. Don’t want to miss out on those 7O% off bargains in Debenhams do you? It’ll be a late Christmas present to your kids when you re-emerge, Lazarus-like, on the 6th. If you time it right the decorations will have put themselves away, too.

“Pop a box of mince pies to a mate or neighbour you haven’t seen in a while and don’t be worried about ignoring social media.”

Adopt an inappropriate wild animal. Accidentally trouser a baby squirrel from your local shelter. The entire family will be so focussed on hourly feeds and instagramming it wearing hats that they won’t notice your absence. You can spend Christmas in the local and by the time it’s all over the animal will be grown up and you can sell it for parts on the dark web.

Create a family treasure hunt which just leads them really far away. Hide clues at service stations up the M6 until they are on the Scottish border and you’ve turned the kid’s bedroom into a games room and are 29 hours deep into Call of Duty. When they inevitably call home just pretend you’ve got amnesia and don’t remember your former lives together.

Introduce the kids to horror films. This serves the duel purpose of keeping them very quiet AND brings up questions about their own mortality. Start with The Exorcist and work backwards. They’ll shore up a huge amount of appreciation for not being possessed by a demon over the festive period that you’re guaranteed to be lathered with gratitude come Christmas morning.

Now obviously I’m being a tad over-dramatic here (except about the baby squirrel – this is just plain sensible) but it’s worth keeping in mind that not everyone loves this time of year as much as they might seem. Pop a box of mince pies to a mate or neighbour you haven’t seen in a while and don’t be worried about ignoring social media, it can be an utterly false picture of how happy everyone else is. Look after yourselves first, and everyone around you will be happier as a result. Take care, kids, and if it all goes wrong I’ll see you in the Gobi desert.

DL

The Yorkshireman Speaks

This month our Yorkshireman talks about the joys of being a young fogey…

Young fogey

Dear readers, its official, I am a proud “Young Fogey.” This body I inhabit is too young for me, don’t get me wrong I’m thrilled with its agility and thick, majestic blonde hair (my best feature by a mile) but the old guy in the control room is at least forty years ahead. I’m like a new model of Terminator, made from clothes collected from the PDSA charity shop, powered by Horlicks and pockets crammed full of Werther’s originals. This new model, lets call it the “T-with two sugars”, spends most of his time tutting about the younger generation and obsessing about all the trivial annoyances life throws his way. It doesn’t help that I’ve just bought a car primarily driven by pensioners. I didn’t realise this until I was in the dealership and I said to the salesman, “seven years warranty, what happens after that?” He said “I’ve no idea Mr Bennett, no-one has ever made it.”

“It’s strange to think that the younger generation of today will be in the old folk’s homes of tomorrow.”

Let’s look at the evidence for this “Young Fogey” phenomenon. Firstly, let’s take fashion. I always considered myself to be fairly trendy young man. The fact I’ve just used the phrase “trendy young man” would indicate that this isn’t probably true, but I find fashion today utterly baffling. I’ve recently embraced skinny jeans, much to my wife’s dismay. “All jeans are skinny jeans when you have legs like yours love, they just don’t look right, you’re thirty-eight and a father of two, it’s over, let it go.” She’s right of course, I can’t pull that look off. I was complaining the other day of pains in my calf muscles, I was going to book an appointment at the physio. I’d gone as far as to dial the number when it occurred to me to remove my jeans, instantly the pain stopped.

I’m just so confused by it all. I’ve seen the youngsters in their high trousers, with bare feet and leather slip on brogues. It looks like they’ve been to school, done a session of PE, lost their socks and put on their mate’s clothes by mistake.

Some of today’s fashion is so permanent, take tattoos for instance.  That’s quite a commitment to make, misjudge that one and you need lasers and surgery to put it right. More alarming than that is the holes in the ear lobes, stretchers they call them, plastic hoops forming gaping windows in your ears. I’m all for individualism but I think it makes your face look like a camping ground sheet, imagine what that will look like in your eighties? I suppose it’ll give somewhere for a nurse to hang a drip, when the NHS goes down the tubes they’ll be the ones laughing. I can’t talk to people with these things in, I just stare through these holes, I’m mesmerised and every time people are moving in the background, I think it’s the opening titles to a James Bond film.

It’s strange to think that the younger generation of today will be in the old folk’s homes of tomorrow. That’ll be an odd sight in that day lounge. They’ll be an old man, by the bay window, in a 3D printed wheelchair, with sleeve tattoos, vaping. The district nurse approaches, “Hi Jordan” Jordan?!? An old man called Jordan, a grandad called Jordan! “Jordan, it’s Sylvia the nurse love, turn down Stormzy and listen, I’m here to clean your nipple piercings.” This is only twenty years away from being a reality.

My grandad had stories to tell, he’d been on battleships in the war, he’d made it through seas with waves seventy-foot-high, torpedoes thundering towards them, what anecdotes this generation have to pass on? “I remember when I met your Grandma, remember her, Grandma Mercedes? We were doing zero-hour contracts at Sports Direct at the time, it was tough. I remember when we moved into our first house, last month actually, it took sixty-eight years to get on that ladder. I still recall our first date, her on her I-pad, me on mine, sharing videos on Lad Bible.”

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

Motorway adventures, skiving, and quotes from my daughter

This month it’s late night motorway adventures, the joys of skiving and the best things my daughter said to me this week.

Running on fumes

As a stand-up comedian much of my time is spent behind the wheel of my trusty Sportswagon, thundering along the nation’s tarmac-topped arteries delivering a wide load of comedy gold to the good people of Britain. It can be quite lonely and there is only so much Smooth radio and late night phone-ins about alopecia that can be tolerated before one is consumed by madness.

As a result I and another fellow comedian, Dan, have started using this dead time to have late night in car chats; we are like two truckers on CB radios, we even start the conversation with the words “breaker breaker!”  It’s a great chance to talk about life before a gig and decompress after it. As any sort of social life has been sacrificed at the altar of stand-up comedy, this is the nearest we get to a chat down the pub. The only difference is that we are both behind a wheel, stone cold sober and going in opposite directions to the various comedy clubs strewn throughout this great island. Of course we have snacks, crisps between the knees or a cheeky packet of dry roasted, opened out into that underused alcove below the stereo.

Last night I performed at a function in a Bradford tennis club; smashing folk; everyone had a ball, well two actually in case they messed up the first serve. A special mention goes to the man on the front table who kept his back to me for the entire performance. It was like doing a gig to a taxi driver; I even gave him a tip at the end, which was to “face the front.” It was a steely determination to not participate that can only be admired. At one point I almost got him to rotate by ninety degrees. I wondered if he was a big owl and would just move his head round on the jokes he liked, but it was not to be. He reminded me of my father actually, mainly because he is often bitterly disappointed in me too.

After the gig I got the phone call from Dan, “Breaker Breaker!” We were so engrossed in our post gig forensic dissections that I failed to notice that I was running low on fuel and had just blundered onto the motorway without thinking. I knew I could be in trouble. Dan proceeded to stick with me like a wing-man; it was like a pilot being talked in for an emergency landing. “Stay at fifty six mate, just cruise,” he said. I was like the hero Sully Sullenberger who pulled off that famous emergency landing on the Hudson River. The car fuel computer said thirty miles to go, services were twenty eight miles away: it’s going to be close. Then the computer blanked out, I was without instruments, I’d lost an engine, I was, in aviation terms, flying blind. You can’t ring the RAC for running out of fuel like this, I mean you probably can, but they’ll just come out, call you a bellend and charge you a hundred quid. It was unbearably tense for the next ten miles. I was now rubbing the dashboard of the car and offering words of encouragement; like that scene in cool hand Luke where they feed him the eggs. It was man and machine working as one. At this point Dan was on his driveway, but being a true professional and wonderful human he stayed with me. “I’m not leaving till I know you’ve made it!” Fourteen miles to go. I passed a turning for Leeds city centre, part of me wanted to turn off. “You’ll not find an Asda,” said Dan, “stick with the motorway.” I now had just 4 miles to go. “Does the car feel light?” Dan said, “Yes,” I said, “think she’s fading.” One mile to go. This was agony, but at this point I knew I could at least attempt a manful power walk from here should I need to. The turning then appeared, Salvation! The markers for the slip road, “three lines, two lines, one line” we counted them down together, like a New Year’s Eve countdown coming live from Big Ben, I’d made it!

It was at that point I looked down from the fuel gauge, where i had fixed my stare for the last twenty five agonising minutes.

“Ah shit Dan, I’ve had the air-con on too mate.”

It was at the point my wing-man lost sympathy and hung up.

I skive to feel alive

The job of a parent is a thankless and relentless one. We live for those stolen moments, the respite of finally having some brief time to yourself. It can be like a little holiday: often you’ll just start to relax and enjoy it and then suddenly it’s over. So here is the confession, I, Scott Bennett, am a serial skiver. A shirker of responsibilities, a conniving, devious excuse for a man who will take any opportunity he can to kill time and bask in the solitude of his own company. This behaviour is addictive. Sometimes I will tell my wife I am going to put the bin out and just hang around behind the shed for forty five minutes. Sitting there next to the water butt just staring at wood paneling, it’s glorious. Whenever I feel low I think back to that special time and smile. On many occasions I’ve often hidden in the house itself, pretending to count the saucepans in the pantry. I can hear my wife on the baby monitor, desperately struggling with the two children upstairs and I think, “I’m going to have one more brew, then I’ll deal with that.” Shameful! On more than one occasion my wife has come to find me, red-faced with a baby under her arm. She asks what I have been doing: “I’ve been shouting for your help!” “Work,” is my reply. The reality is I was looking on Youtube at interviews with the surviving cast members of the 90’s sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’: appalling behaviour.

My wife and I are as bad as each other. Only last week we found we had run out of nappies. As soon as it was announced it was carnage in that hallway; a race was on to see who could neglect their parental responsibilities the quickest. I’m trying to trip her up, she’s pulling at my sleeves, it looked like a fight in a prison yard; the children looked on in disgust. I lurch for my car keys, my wife grabs my wallet out of my back pocket, “You’ll get nowhere without this pal!” I shouted back, “You can keep it, I’ll steal them!” I race down the driveway still wearing my slippers and open the car. As I get in I can just make out her voice behind me, “on’t you dare be too long.” I drive away as fast as I can, which on that day was nine miles per hour. I put on some Enya, turn on the heated seats and congratulate myself on my victory.

I’m not saying I took a long time, but when I came back with those nappies, my daughter had grown out of them.

Things my six year old said to me this week

Upon asking how her day was at school:

“I think I accidentally ate some soap.”

When passing a discarded item of clothing on the pavement as we walked into town:

“Look daddy, a dead sock.”

Scott Bennett
Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

The Yorkshireman Speaks… on pets, audience etiquette, noise and sneaky toddlers

A new addition to the family

As a family of four my wife and I thought that two children would be enough. Our house is already jammed to the rafters with mountains of soft toys and plastic landfill; I had to circumnavigate a course of Duplo blocks this very morning just to relieve my bladder. This all changed however, when last week my wife told me she wanted another, and this time we decided to adopt.

It was a big decision but last week I found myself getting ready to welcome the latest addition to the family. We fell in love with him straight away, he’s from Beeston, he’s called “Squidger” and he’s a goldfish. My daughter desperately wanted a pet so naturally we started with Dog then gradually worked backwards until we compromised with a goldfish; it was either that or a worm from the garden. When I was a lad I remember getting a goldfish, I say getting I actually mean “winning.”

Whenever the fair came to town, I’d go out with a fiver, lose a filling on a toffee apple, throw up my burger on the waltzers and come home with a live pet in a plastic bag. No one really knew what they were doing; you just got it home, stuck it in a Tupperware, called it Alan and left it on the windowsill to die. Dad would then have to go out and replace him with Alan MK2, who looked identical and then pretended that nothing was wrong.

We had one for years, he was like some sort of aquatic Bruce Forstyth and he grew to a huge size. Frankly he was too big for the tank; it was like a human trying to swim in a foot spa. I half expected to come home one day to find Alan kicking back with his fins out of the tank, wearing a dressing gown, swigging brandy and smoking a cigar. Thankfully this has all changed; you now have to be assessed to see if you are responsible enough to allow Alan into your home.

I thought it was ironic that the human I was buying this fish for was less well planned than the fish itself, but that’s just the way it is. We set up the tank a week before Squidgers arrival. Gravel had to be washed thoroughly, the water treated and a sample taken back to the garden centre to be tested in the lab. We were asked questions about where we were putting the tank and told what meals to give Squidger and how often. I’m pleased to say we passed with flying colours and Squidger is settling in well. They’ve said we need to go back in a month to assess how he is “getting on with everything” but so far so good.

He’s not sleeping because he’s a goldfish, so the bedtime story drags on a bit, but apart from that he’s great. He loves the film Finding Nemo and has already got his 50M swimming badge after only one lesson. Sometimes it can get awkward however, last night we had fish and chips and had to eat them in the shed, it just didn’t feel right.

But I’m on the phone

As a performer I love being on stage, there in the moment, connecting with the audience. However over the years I’ve started to notice something, people are utterly ruled by their mobile phones.

It’s getting to the point where you have to make a decision as an act to stop and deal with it or ignore it completely. I will often look out into the crowd and you’ll see that one person, face lit up like a low budget E.T, as they paw at their screens in the darkness. If you do confront them, they can often look at you as if to say, “but I’m on my phone?” It’s a strange phenomenon.

I’ve been at the theatre and someone in the audience has facetimed a friend to do a live video. I doubt that Shakespeare ever dreamt that one day the majesty of the line “to be or not to be” would be punctuated by the beep of an iPhone and a tiny voice from Wigan asking someone to angle the screen so they could see Prince Hamlets Jacobean ruff. I watched some you tube videos of concerts from 1995 the other night, yes the sound and picture quality was poor but the crowd certainly wasn’t. They were all facing forwards, all united in that moment and not a mobile phone to be seen; pure nostalgic bliss.

Shhhhhhhhhh!

As I sit and type this article I am working my way through my evening bowl of cereal, a regular night time treat and my wife is scowling at me. It’s not the fact that I’m using all the milk, it’s because the chomping and tinkling noises I’m making are getting on her nerves.

I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew

Since the arrival of the new baby, noise, or should I say, and I’m whispering as I do, the reduction of it, has become the number one priority at Bennett towers. We always argue about it, which we have to do via sign language of course, which often looks like two angry mime artists facing off in an argument over territory in Covent Garden.

I can’t eat an apple after 7pm, because I sound like a racehorse having its breakfast, I get told to turn the television down before I’ve even switched it on which is frankly impossible and all the creaky floorboards in the house have been marked out like a chalk line around a murder victim. It’s getting to the point where I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew.

I’ve tethered cushions to my feet using the belts from my trousers and if I ever need to cough or sneeze I have two options, run into the garden and unload into the wheelie bin or reduce the outburst by plunging my head into the fish tank and letting it out underwater. The medical term for this is called Misophonia, which literally translated means “hatred of sounds.”

There really should be more awareness of this condition but probably no one would be allowed to talk about it. Interestingly my wife has no issue with our one year old playing a drum or the six year old stomping round the house in tap shoes blowing a kazoo and wearing a skirt made from bubble wrap, so I can’t help wondering if it’s just me.

Sneaky toddler

Our one year old is on the move now, bounding round the house like a borrower on speed. Every day is like a baby version of the film Final Destination, corners of coffee tables are missed by a whisker, and an open stair gate is pounced upon like a prisoner looking to breakout. Frankly it’s an achievement that we get her through a day unscathed.

The latest hobby she has is to take our essential items, house and car keys, watches, jewelry and scatter them throughout the house. We’ve found remote controls in the bin this week and I couldn’t get my trainers on today as they were full of loose change a wallet and a angrily chewed Duplo brick.

It’s like having a tiny gangster living with us who has been tipped off last minute about a raid from the drug squad and desperately shedding their stash of gear.

If I see my daughter passing small parcels rolled up in a bib at the next “tiny feet” play session, I’ll know something is going down.

Scott Bennett

The Yorkshireman Speaks…on Trump, TV Dramas and kids clubs.

Top Trumps?

As I write this article we are about to see one of most potentially controversial presidents in living memory, being “sworn in” This is a term that is quite apt, as most of the world is thinking, “what the bloody hell happened there?” America has raised a star spangled middle finger to political elitism and voted for a man of the people.

Yes, to the rest of us he’s a figure of ridicule, a wig wearing toddler with a temper problem and a penchant for grabbing females in their unmentionables, but to many Americans he is a blueprint of the American dream. A self-made man, one of their own, you can see this in that famous family photograph. He, sat on a gold throne in a tailored suit, Ivana draped in fur and precious gemstones and his youngest son riding on the back of the lion.

In an eerie parallel with our own Brexit vote, I can understand how it happened. Poor opposition, campaigns embroiled in dirty tactics and lies and a desire from the electorate to regain control and kick out at the establishment. Americans have voted for change and this is much easier to sell than more of the same. It’s hard to tell what will happen when Trump takes over.

As a comedian people have said it must be a gift from the gods having him in charge. In truth, yes he is perfect comedy fodder, I mean which other president fires out tweets at four in the morning in a slanging match with an Oscar winning actress? He’s like an angry, drunken uncle with a broadband connection.

To be honest though I would prefer some stability in the world, comedians are not that masochistic, that’s like saying a lifeguard only does the job because they want to watch people drown. However I do think the world has changed. I hate the way that showing compassion nowadays brands you as a “lefty” or “snowflake.”

Since when was this trait categorized as a bad thing? I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months, Trump may trigger Armageddon, but I think they’ll be plenty of laughs along the way.

No more dramas

It was the finale of the series Sherlock last weekend and I must admit I am a fan. It’s all about that 9pm Sunday evening slot now and it’s a firm favourite in our household. I like to watch the Antiques roadshow first, because I’m basically a pensioner trapped in a 37 year-old’s body, Imagine, if you will a Yorkshire Benjamin Button. I like to watch it on catch up, that way you get the extra frisson of excitement knowing the items are worth even more.

Anyway I’d love to tell you about the series finale of Sherlock, I would, but I’m still utterly confused. There is an irony in a detective show being so baffling you need a degree in criminology just to be able to follow it. It appears Sherlock had a long lost sister, who had been dressing up as various characters and stalking him. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo. The final straw for me was seeing Paul Weller (of the Jam) laid out on the floor dressed as a Viking, I don’t know why and I don’t think he does either; utter twaddle.

Television drama is having a renaissance at the moment. Ever since the mumblefest that was Wolf Hall, I said ‘WOLF HALL!” it’s all about the feature length drama. Apparently people are writing in to complain about the lack of diction from some of the main characters in these dramas. I think they should have an interpreter, like they do late night for the deaf community. They could bring in Brian Blessed, a man who’s known for vocal projection skills so impressive they could start an avalanche. You wouldn’t be able to have your television volume above eight but at least you’d be able to follow the plot.

The latest hit is Taboo starring the intense and brooding Tom Hardy, (“cheer up son, give us a smile!”)  I haven’t seen it but my father-in-law offered a succinct but devastating review; “It’s all filmed through chair legs and mist.” They turned it off and watched “How stuff’s made” on Quest instead.

It’s not the winning it’s the taking part

It’s a natural thing for parents to think their child is unique and wonderful. It’s true some children will go on to achieve great things, future leaders, scientists who have moments of genius and cure diseases. However statistics dictate that some of them will reach the dizzy heights of middle management in an estate agents in Wigan and stay there until death brings the freedom they crave; but there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios.

It’s in the environment of the kids club we see this competitiveness magnified. Parents of children in the junior football team, screaming at their first born from the touch-line “mark him” “spread the ball” and my favourite “let me live my dreams vicariously through you!”

In the case of my daughter we had to endure the nightmare that is ballet lessons. I’ve sat through hours of recitals and paid thirty odd quid a month to essentially watch her bow in pumps. She enjoys it but she’s not a natural, she’s clumsy, which is an issue for the ballerina. Yesterday she fell over on a lino floor, just collapsed into a heap like a controlled demolition, she’s passionate and enthusiastic but she’s no Darcey Bussell.

But it doesn’t matter, it’s all about confidence. I myself did karate as a child, albeit only for two weeks. I failed to see how doing my little routines up and down the floor of a working man’s club in Yorkshire, taught by a man who I’m convinced had just been recently released from prison, was going to help me in a real time combat situation. Imagine it kicks off in the middle of Nottingham, fists are flying, men wrestling each other to the ground, broken glass everywhere and then here I come, doing my little moves, “stop everyone, look at this, we appear to have been joined by an angry line dancer!”

I’m not worried about my daughter. She’s already an independent thinker. I realised this last week when I tried and failed to put the fatherly foot down. “Olivia,” I said, “if you don’t get dressed this minute, mummy, daddy and your sister will all go out and you’ll be left here at home all on your own!” She looked up at me from her My Little Pony magazine, thought for a moment and replied, “Okay daddy that sounds great!” “No!” I said, “that’s not how this should go!” She continued, “You’re right daddy, I need to be punished, I’ll just stay here in bed with my magazine and think about how bad I’ve been.” I tried again, the desperation evident in my voice. “This isn’t right Olivia, you’re meant to be scared!” “I think you’re the one that’s scared daddy,” she said smiling. ”It’s Sunday morning and you’ve got to go to IKEA.”

A tribute to comedy’s unsung heroes

Scott Bennett puts the spotlight on his behind-the-scenes supporters

When I first started stand-up people would often ask me if it was a hobby. At the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.

Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.

I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I’m weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it’s because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.

I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. Now, being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material. An expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it’s effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.

It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous.  I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn’t tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I’m dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.

My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it’s the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day..

I don’t know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes

Scott Bennett

Summer Lovin? – Not for this guy

We are now in full summer mode and although I can’t argue against the benefits of the much welcomed injection of vitamin D into my pasty white carcass, I must admit I’m not a fan of the summer months. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the longer nights, a beer in the garden (but that’s mainly because of the beer) a chance to give friends and family food poisoning at my own BBQ and that mood of optimism in the air; but despite that I don’t think the summer agrees with me.

In the UK we seem to have extremes when it comes to the weather. It’s always so unexpected, it catches us off guard. Snow that comes so heavy that everything grinds to a halt, floods that border on the biblical and days so hot and humid you feel like you’ve been parachuted into an oil field in Iraq. I find it hard to even think when temperatures creep into the thirties, small tasks seem as daunting as an expedition to Everest. On the hottest day of the year my wife and I had to change the bed, a task that makes me want to weep at the best of times.

After the first pillow case I was already wet through, the sweat was pouring down my back and running in between my butt cheeks like a river and I had so much sweat in my eyes I couldn’t see the buttons on the duvet cover.

The thing the summer does though is give us Brits something to talk about, our favorite subject; the weather. As the temperature increases our ways of describing it becomes more and more bizarre. “Ohh isn’t it muggy out there!” No, unless you’ve just being mugged, that makes no sense. “The problem is, it’s just too close” well yes it will be close, it’s the weather and it’s all around you. In Yorkshire they used to say “eeee its crackin’ flags out there!” meaning it’s so hot it’s capable of causing fracture to your patio slabs, quite poetic, but still sounds like utter bollocks. “It’s warm we can’t work; pass me a beer” that’s all the words you need.

Everyone has their own methods for coping with the heat; particularly at night. I’m almost used to falling asleep now to the gentle white noise of a humming desk fan. There is always that moment when you forget where the fan is and proceed to trip yourself up over the cable on the way to your 4th pee of the night.

I don’t wear my bed clothes in a heatwave, but I like a single sheet on me, there has to be a small amount of weight there. I can’t do totally naked, laid out like a human sacrifice, I feel far too vulnerable. Also the hot weather brings with it the increase in midges and blood sucking insects and the last thing I want is to offer myself up like some sort of human all you can eat buffet.

It’s normally the early hours of the morning when the heat subsides enough to allow you to drift off. You’ve then got at least 4 hours of fidgety, sweat soaked sleep before you are rudely awaken by that “summer soundtrack”. The buzz of a Strimmer, a lawnmower, the neighbour building yet another outdoor “project” that just seems to be him hammering the same nail in again and again for three straight hours, or a determined mosquito who proceeds to fly back and forth past your ear until you eventually declare war, put the light on and chase him round the room with a rolled up newspaper.

The daytimes are easier; you can always find relief in an air conditioned shop or supermarket. If you’re crafty you can spend twenty minutes in the frozen food isle leaning over some Aunt Bessies roast potatoes, wearing nothing but your underwear. It’s heaven and really reduces your core body temperature; the hour interview in the manager’s office and the subsequent court appearance is a small price to pay.

As a blonde haired white man, I burn like kindling in the most moderate of heat. I think we underestimate the weather in the UK, like the sun is somehow a different one to the one that you lie back and bask in on a foreign holiday. We seem to think nothing of doing a full day’s work in the garden, bear chested, without sun cream and with only the one cup of tea to hydrate us. “Its fine love, we are in Wigan on a Wednesday, it’s not going to burn me, this is British sun; best in the world!” the day after we are in agony, peeling sheets of skin of our bodies so large you could wrap presents with them.

In the summer months my hay fever condition announces itself with a new found anger and aggression, like a pit-bull on steroids. With eyes streaming like I’ve just been tear gassed, a nose itchier than that of a supermodel with a grand a day coke habit, hives and bumps on my skin a blind man could read as brail and body riddled with so many antihistamines I can barely stay conscious.  All in all it’s not a good “look.” They always warn you about not operating heavy machinery when you take antihistamines, which makes me feel sad, how many forklift truck drivers and welders are struggling out there? Unable to work because they have to walk that fine line between sleeping and sneezing.

Summer attire is also stressful. I am completely lost with the sock, sandal, plimsoll, deck shoe or moccasin etiquette. There are normal length socks, sometimes worn with leather sandals, which only geography teachers and bible salesmen are allowed to wear. There are trainer socks, which seem more socially acceptable, white socks though, never black, particularly if you are wearing shorts. Black socks with trainers and shorts looks like you’ve been doing P.E at school and forgotten your kit and had to rummage around in the lost property box. I find picking clothes for a heatwave is difficult. I never go commando though, I don’t care how hot it is, I still need some organization down there.

When it’s warm my testicles seem to be constantly in love with my inner thighs, I often have to peel them away from each other like I’m removing a sticker from a windscreen. It’s like a battle down there most days and both parties need to be segregated for their own good.

I can’t and won’t wear a vest and going topless isn’t something I feel comfortable with. The other day I saw a man with his top off, riding a ladies bike with a basket on the front. In the basket of the bike there was a pack of lager and a small dog keeping looking out; it was like a low budget version of the film E.T. It was 24 degrees and we were in a car park outside Lidl, it’s not the Algarve. Put your top back on.

It’s quite late now and the heat has subsided, I’m going to attempt to turn in for the night, or maybe the whole season? I might find the coolest spot in the house; black out the windows, fill my socks with ice, and survive on nothing but a freezer full of Magnum Classics.

See you in October

Scott Bennett

Coffee culture And my Addiction To that naughty Bean

I am currently sipping away at my 6th coffee of the day. This one has been made using my brand new coffee maker I received as a birthday gift. My kitchen is like a fragrant, noisy, caffeine infused version of Breaking Bad. I love coffee and in the midst of the sleep deprived rabbit hole that the arrival of a 10 week old baby brings, I need it.

Coffee is a passion; for me it’s a bit like a good bottle of wine.  I like my coffee to have a story. I’m not interested in some freeze dried, corporate, mass manufactured bastardization of that beautiful bean.  It needs to have a soul. I want my coffee beans to be exotic, to have been grown from seeds first passed through the digestive system of an ageing mountain goat at high altitude. It should have a caffeine content that borders on the illegal and a body smoother than a chat up line from an Italian waiter who has took a shine to your wife. It should be gentle with a finish so long that you could watch the Lord of The Rings box set and still be able to taste it.

Afterwards I want that lingering smell to permeate through my entire house like a plug in air freshener and every time you inhale you experience that magic all over again.

I heard recently that many university campuses now are dumping the sticky floored boozer and instead having a coffee shop. At first I was stunned by this. I mean how many student liaisons were nurtured near the jukebox in a sweaty union bar on a wet Wednesday night, where a snake bite and black was only £1?

I include myself in this group. I met my wife in freshers week and I dread to think what she would have really thought of me if all we had swimming round our bellies was a soya chai latte with a hint of cinnamon. However now I understand, coffee is big business.

Coffee culture exploded into the UK in the mid-nineties and we’ve never looked back. I’m old enough to remember a time before there was a Costa or Nero on every street. The Gold Blend coffee adverts, where viewers were captivated with a blossoming romance happening over a cup of instant coffee, showed how we regarded the drink at the time. We Brits weren’t seduced by the fancy coffee shop culture of our French or Italian cousins.

My dad still to this day secretly prefers the instant variety, he thinks the freeze dried granules are the nearest us mere mortals will get to consuming foods made for astronauts. He’s convinced that the best cup of coffee he has ever tasted was served in a polystyrene cup out of a van at a rainy car boot sale in a field in Doncaster in 1989. Although this may have something to do with the fact that it was 25p and came with a free Club biscuit.

During my childhood there were very few options for coffee enthusiasts. You had two main choices, a flask or a greasy spoon café. No one ever sat down and relaxed in a coffee shop back then. We were always on the move. We did go to a greasy spoon café on a Saturday afternoon in Wakefield before going to see an afternoon matinee at the cinema.

With checkered table cloths and a big plastic tomato sauce holder in the middle as a rudimentary paperweight, the place was a bit of a dive. It had a glass window with water running down it, I used to think it was quite a stylish addition, looking back it was probably a creative twist on a leaking condensing pipe. I would have a steak Canadian and a calypso pop (the E numbers kept you going all day) and my dad would have an egg butty and a cup of tea. Everyone seemed to drink tea back then; rumour has it that we won wars on tea.

My wife’s family are huge tea drinkers; my father in law was pushing fifteen brews a day when he used to “work” for the council. When he first met me he offered me a brew, I refused (as I didn’t really care for it at the time, I preferred Ribena) he looked at my wife as if to say, “not sure about this one love!”

A visit to a coffee shop is part of our family routine every weekend now. The people who work in these places are proper cool; I think I’m ever so slightly in awe of one of the dudes in our local establishment.

I use the term “dude” deliberately. They are like the kids at school who had a motorbike at sixteen, smoked roll ups and could play the guitar. With a quiff, a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves and those things that the youth put in their ears now which make the lobes look like the eyelets in a camping ground sheet. It’s the job I would have wanted when I was younger.

It’s interesting that the coffee shops never really suffered during the recession. It’s the one luxury we are not prepared to forfeit. I worked out recently that I’m spending on average ten pounds a week on coffee, that’s over five hundred quid a year on beans! Even Jack wouldn’t have gone with that deal and he got a beanstalk out of it.

But I don’t begrudge it, particularly if it’s going to support the independent guys of the coffee world. I won’t mention the corporate giants; let’s just call them “Tarducks” who attempt to make a connection with you by asking your name to write on the cup. It didn’t wash with me, I used to say “HMRC” and then quickly take my coffee and leave.

Scott Bennett

 

 

 

 

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