I told a joke.

So I was in the Edinburgh fringe for a week and while it all started in a naff kind of way, with my luggage and flyers not arriving, things ended up going pretty well. In fact something weird happened which I’d never even considered before I left. I actually had five minutes of fame! OK, I may not have had big audiences, but I did have five minutes of fame.
A couple of months ago I wrote a joke, a silly one-liner. I normally have a process for writing jokes, which is to come up with the punchline first, but this one arrived fully formed. I was sitting down on my bed when I thought of it. Yes, I can even remember what I was doing when the joke arrived!
I incorporated it into my regular set and tried it in a few places, married as it was to a ‘bit’ that I do with a poem supposedly written the night before and stapled to a crisp packet. (That’s how weird my life is . .). It got good laughs but I didn’t think much more of it. As a matter of course, or rather, as an aside, I added it to my Edinburgh show.
The first day I was there a call went out to submit jokes from shows to a newspaper reviewer, which I duly did with a very apologetic email, which I ended with the words, ‘I can hear you laughing from here’, which I’d meant to be a sarcastic sign off. I then completely forgot that I’d done this and I tried to get through a tough first day with no costume, technology, flyers or posters.
The second day went well and I had a great audience. I was so happy with the audience that I went and had a celebratory Scottish breakfast. I wasn’t happy with my performance that day, though, and I texted my friend Melanie Branton to say that I would go back to my flat and rehearse all afternoon. I had to tech Dan Simpson ‘s show that night, so I needed all the rehearsal time I could grab.
A few minutes into rehearsing, I got a message from Jo Mortimer to say that I’d been mentioned on the Guardian website. And indeed, there it was. The joke! Oh, that’s nice, I thought. I also felt guilty as I’d forgotten to do the joke in the show that day.
And then things went manic. Over a thousand people looked at my website over the next two hours. Twitter went into meltdown as people quoted the joke and tagged me. I left to tech Dans show and when I got back there were hundreds of social media notifications. Oh good, I thought. Maybe I won’t have to do much flyering tomorrow!
The only trouble was, the article did not link to my show, there was no way that people could find Juicy through the article. The next day was crazier still. The print copy of the Guardian came out, and the joke was read out on Radio Two during the breakfast show. Other websites began quoting the joke. I’d just gone out to start flyering when I was contacted by Radio Five Live. Would I go live on air and chat about the joke? Sure, I said. So instead of flyering, I was back at my university flat talking on the radio to researchers and then the host herself. And again, they did not mention the show.
The show that day was not well attended. I’d done hardly any flyering, though two people were there who’d done a bit of detective work and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The tag line I used on social media while publicising the show was ‘come for the joke, stay for the poetry’.
By the end of that day the joke had been mentioned on the Daily Telegraph website, and then the next day it was printed in The Mirror along with Tim Vine’s joke, as well as the Western Morning News and god knows where else, I couldn’t keep track. My own website had more visitors over three days than it normally gets in a year.
And then . . .
and then it all kind of calmed down. Visits to the website dropped away, and by the Saturday, the joke was more or less forgotten. My five minutes of fame had gone.
I’m so glad it happened, though. Not least that I can use this in publicity on flyers and things. When I got back to Devon my parents gave me a joke book, because apparently this might help with my ‘stage act’ and that I might be able to ‘read them out to the audience’. And friends and work colleagues keep telling me jokes and funny anecdotes and end by saying, ‘you can use that in your act if you like’. But apart from that, everything is fairly normal now and it’s like it never happened at all!

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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