I returned to the Manchester Comedy Store last night to try my luck in the gong show. This is the point where I would usually go into great detail about how due to a combination of circumstances and my own shortcomings, I was unsuccessful in my attempt at lasting the full five minutes*.
But after hearing some tragic news today, I’ve realised that none of it matters in the grander scheme of things.
The news I am referring to is the death of one of my friends on the London comedy circuit, Chris Joyce. It doesn’t really feel real typing that sentence even after drinking almost an entire bottle of wine.
I first encountered Chris at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, which Langton would be hosting. It would be my default gig on a Wednesday if I didn’t have anything else in the diary, which meant I’d be there most weeks. In the early days, Chris would bring most of the audience and rip the room apart with his song ‘She’s pretty racist’, about dating a girl with questionable views.
I’d usually be trying stuff out and fare less well. Although what got us talking was one of the stupidest bits of material I’ve ever written, being a series of jokes about giant squid. For some reason, Chris really loved this and would often come up to me before a gig and make sure that I was doing it. It turns out that something I’d written about giant squid had legs after all, eh? Yeah, that punchline has bombed on stage.
That stupid joke that he really liked ended up evolving into a sold-out Edinburgh show. I’m glad I got to tell him this, because if he hasn’t insisted I do it whenever I saw him then I might have lost faith in it and never come up with How To Win A Pub Quiz.
The last time I saw Chris was in Edinburgh in 2015 when I was flyering for my ridiculous run at the Kilderkin. But that’s the thing with life; you rarely know when something is happening for the last time.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumour ten months ago and I got the impression he’d beaten it and had returned to doing gigs. Unfortunately, this was more wishful thinking on my part.
I hoped we would do another gig together and I’d look across the room before I was about to go on, then he’d pump his fist at me while mouthing the chant ‘Squid, squid, squid’. Sadly, this won’t happen. What’s even sadder is that the world has lost a genuinely great bloke. It is rare to meet someone in comedy who is liked by everyone that they encounter, both as an act and a human being. Chris was one of these people and taken far too young.
In tribute, I will continue to do my giant squid joke in spite of it often getting a room of blank stares, because I know that somewhere in the ether there is going to be someone who is enjoying it.
RIP, mate. I’ll miss you. Squid, squid, squid.
*For the record, my time last night was 2 minutes 30 seconds. My worst ever time at the Comedy Store gong show in London, when I was on the same night as Chris. Before the show, we had an in-depth discussion about squid types and sizes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even able to get to this material in my tight 20 second set that night.