Welsh comedians give Toronto a tongue-lashing – and drink Canada dry.
Heard the one about the three Welsh comedians who went to Toronto to celebrate St David’s Day? It’s no joke! It really happened. Honest. Just give me a minute and I’ll tell you all about it.
So I’m lying there in bed, at home, mending a puncture, and the ‘phone went. I’ve no idea who took it, but after a thorough search of the immediate neighbourhood, I eventually found the bugger in a local bar, chatting to a slim, attractive and expensive-looking ladies mobile ‘phone, promising her that he could get her into show business by way of product placement in an episode of ” Lewis “. He reckoned he could fix it for her to play the part of a mobile ‘phone (some stretch!) found next to the corpse of the first victim, lying prone in an Oxford side street.
What a damn cheek. I’ve owned that ‘phone for three years and he’s never made that sort of promise to me. And I’m someone who’s very often been found lying prone in an Oxford side street. It’s a great town for stag do’s.
It was just as well I found my ‘phone, because just after I’d brought it back home and resumed mending the puncture in bed, it rang. I say ‘rang‘, but I’m an individual and not one of the proloteriate sheep who follow the same trends and fashions that the masses follow. Because I am my own man, a comedy maverick who ploughs his own furrow… my ‘phone doesn’t ring. Oh, no, it has….a jokey ring tone!
Yeah, that’s right. I bet you don’t know anyone else with one.
Instead of going ‘ring ring‘, it plays the theme from ” East Enders “. Which, I have to admit, does have its down side. If ever the ‘phone’s not working properly, I feel compelled to point at it and in a loud Cockney accent, my face bright red with pent-up anger, I shout “Oi! You! You’re out of order!”.
Anyway, the ‘phone rang, so I put down my spanner and answered it. The ‘phone I mean, not the spanner. If ever you see me talking to a spanner, call the men in the white suits. Or buy me another drink. In fact buy me another drink any time, not just when I’m talking to a spanner.
The ‘phone call was from The St. David’s Society of Toronto and they wanted to invite me, Gary Slaymaker and Daniel Glyn to fly over to Canada for a night of first-class stand-up comedy. Naturally I was very grateful for the invitation, but before I committed us, I wanted to know the names of the first-class comedians we were being invited to watch.
Then they explained that we weren’t being asked to see a comedy show….they wanted us to perform one. Ah now, I can tell this is all beginning to make sense to you. The caffeine has kicked in and you’re obviously beginning to sober up a little.
They wanted us to fly over and perform our critically-acclaimed show ‘The Dragon Has Three Tongues’. Which is the much more successful version of our critically-ignored show which featured us, Jedward and Subo, which was called “The Dragon Has Three Tongues, Two T*ts and a Large Boyle “.
We’ve taken the show around Wales for a couple of years, and one day we may be lucky enough to find a venue willing to put it on. But this invitation to perform in Canada was something very special. It was an invitation to perform in Canada.
The invitation came from Myfanwy Bajaj (no doubt one of the Ceredigion Bajajs) President of the St. Davids Day Society of Toronto, who needed something a little different for their usual March 1st celebration. As she said…
“We have a new, younger group coming onto the Board of the Society, hoping that this will infuse some new life and enthusiasm into the society. It is very important to keep the Welsh connection alive in this diverse city of Toronto. We must all try to keep our identity in our multicultural surroundings.”
You might have guessed that The St David’s Day Society of Toronto is made up of Welsh ‘exiles’ in Canada, so what they wanted was us to mix the comedy with some ‘hiraeth’ (longing) for the Land of Their Fathers. And their Mothers. And their old Uncle Eynon with his unfortunate (and frequently room-clearing) habit.
It didn’t take Gary, Daniel and me long to agree to go. All we had to do was make sure our passports were up to date and our material was up to expectations. Then we packed our bags (I packed Gary’s, Daniel packed mine and Gary packed Daniels ….well it works for us) and excitedly headed off for the airport. Ten minutes later we not-very-excitedly walked back to my house to get the tickets for the National Express coach that was going to take us to Heathrow.
Now I don’t know whether you’ve ever travelled by National Express and I don’t want to diss the long-established travel company with its distinctive logo, but dear oh dear. It ain’t no fun being sat/squashed on a coach for six hours. Especially when the journey only takes four. The other two were spent trying to get my arse out of the tiny seat I was wedged in.
It’s less than half the cost of travelling by rail, so if you’re watching the pennies like we all are these days, and you can put up with being stuck in regular pockets ( are your pockets regular? ) of stop-start traffic on the M4 and M25, National Express travel might suit you. But it’s not for everyone. I was talking to one guy who was so fed up with the constant delays due to heavy traffic, he stood up and shouted, “This is a damned disgrace! And I’m telling you all that this is the last time I’ll ever travel with National Express!”. It was a very embarrassing episode, I can tell you. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been the driver.
To be fair, they do come around offering hot drinks. The steward said to me “Tea or coffee? ” and I looked at the cup he was holding and said ” You tell me !”.
We’d arranged to pre-record a piece for S4C via Skype at Heathrow and when we got there, Daniel Glyn managed to persuade the airline we were flying with – Air Canada – that we were celebrities, so they let us use the First Class Lounge to record the piece. The representative from Air Canada proudly told us “Yes, we’ve had loads of celebrities flying with us over the years. Big stars like John Denver, Patsy Cline, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Lynyrd Sknyrd… !”
We had a few technical hitches with the S4C link-up, but as it turned out, with all the drinks and food we were constantly being offered (including freshly cooked breakfasts) the S4C piece faded away in its importance. We left the First Class Lounge with our rucksacks bulging with more free drinks, cakes and snacks and because, when we were over the Atlantic, the cabin stewards were being kept so busy, we made over a hundred and fifty quid walking up and down the aisle selling these freebies to hungry and thirsty passengers.
When we flew into Toronto we landed quite near the airport and were met by Ram Bajaj, who had kindly offered accommodation for us three Welsh comics, with only the sketchiest idea of what we looked like. Of course when he saw what we really looked like, unsurprisingly he ran off to the exit, but we managed to catch up with him in the car park. I’m only kidding. We found him hiding in the gift shop.
Myfanwy and Rams hospitality was fantastic and I can never thank them enough. So I won’t bother.
Just joking. I’d like to say a huge thank you to our hosts. Their kindness and generosity made our trip to Canada so much more enjoyable and memorable. I had such a good time, I’m going back to spend July and August with them.
I suppose I should write and ask them first, but they do appreciate surprises.
They supplied me with my own room and Dan and Gary shared one (say no more). Dan had slept all the way over on the ‘plane so you’d think he’d be ‘sleeped out’, but he slept for much of his time in Toronto, only being fully awake ( and sharp as a tack with his material and delivery ) on stage. When he put his tiredness down to the fact that for days before the flight he’d used every available minute to jot down a new gag here or to jot down a new routine there, it was obvious to me what was wrong with him. He was suffering from jot lag.
After a day off, acclimatising ourselves to the city, the next day we were taken to the venue where we were performing that night and it was perfect for comedy. The seats faced the stage. On the night, aware that we were Ambassadors for our home country, we did what was expected of us. We wandered around holding up trays of Ferrero Rocher.
Once the comedy started, the audience were incredibly receptive to our material and the laughs kept on coming. From the off we could see they were in the mood to be entertained and we gave them exactly what they’d booked us for. Comedy and a little bit of nostalgia for the old country. The Show was a success and the feedback was wonderful. It was an amazing experience and if, invited back, we’d go at the drop of a spanner.
Which reminds me – I have to go back to bed to finish mending that puncture…