A HUGE NAME DROP

In the last post I wrote that the only introduction I needed was, “Ladies and gentlemen, the magic and comedy of John Lenahan.” Saying that, there are times when a compère (MC for you Americans) has to do more. This is especially true at parties. At parties people are often having a good time without entertainment. A quick intro at a noisy party, means you arrive on stage to an audience that just continues to talk among themselves. Trust me – being ignored on stage is worse than being boo-ed.

If you will allow me to drop a huge name, I’ll tell the story of a show where I desperately needed a good compère.

A good few years ago I got booked to perform at Paul McCartney’s Christmas party at his converted barn in the countryside of Kent. When I arrived I saw at once that it was going to be a difficult room. There was lots of drinking and eating (Linda had done the catering) and people were having a grand time. The stage was in a bad spot with bad light – it was a recipe for a disastrous gig. As I have mentioned in another post, a performer is only as good as his last performance and since this was my last show before Christmas, I envisioned myself spending my holidays curled up in the corner with a bottle of port saying, “I died in front of a Beatle.” The only thing that could save me was a good introduction. Unfortunately the guy who was going to introduce me was the guy who hired me – Paul’s accountant.

The first thing he said to me was, “I’ve never been on stage before I’m really nervous about introducing you.”

“So don’t do it then,” I replied, “There are tons of show business people out there who would be delighted to get on stage.”

And there were. Sitting next to Paul and Linda was Ben Elton. Ben at the time was one of the biggest comedians in the country and the host of the Uk’s version of Saturday Night Live. Sitting next to him was the godfather of all modern British comedy Spike Milligan. And there were lots more.

But the accountant said, “No I have to do this,” and shuffled on stage looking at his shoes.

He started by doing housekeeping, “The food will be served until… The buses will be leaving at …” Nobody paid any notice to him and with everyone in the audience chatting away – he introduced me.

Amazingly I was met with complete and total attention. No one was talking and every eye in the room was on me. But they were a strange crowd and first couple of jokes got nothing. One’s instincts in a situation like this is to speed up but the correct thing to do is – slow down. So I took a deep breath and with great force of will kept going nice and slow. Eventually I got one laugh, then another, then it turned into a really great show.

When I got off stage Ben Elton came up to me. I had done a couple of gigs with Ben and had appeared on Saturday Night Live. He congratulated me on my performance and how well I had handled such a tough start.

“Thanks,” I said, “I was amazed how quickly the audience settled down.”

“Don’t you know what happened?” he asked.

I shook my head no.

He said, “None of us at Paul’s table were paying much attention to the guy mumbling on stage until we thought we heard him say, ‘And now for a little magic , here’s John Lennon.’”

JL

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6 Responses to “A HUGE NAME DROP”

  1. Scott Pack Says:

    Ha! This is very good indeed.

  2. shedworking Says:

    Laughing out loud for the first time this week.

  3. Rob Says:

    That’s hilarious John… another great anecdote.

    I saw your Monday night show and loved it – enough to buy you a beer afterwards with my mate Sergio. Discussing with him the trick with the cards and names, I came to realise that memory/time distortion was at play, and amateurs such as myself are not at all immune! You may recall I hounded you about this effect and its impossibility. Amazing as the trick is, my muddled memory made it all the more impossible.

    Planning on attending again very soon with a few friends. Much to learn through observation. Also, devouring your blog since your Monday night plug… Love your writing style John.

    All the best,
    Rob

  4. Frances Pack Says:

    I looked at this while sitting plodding through loads of boring work E Mails and being a Beatles Fan, in my early days, I couldn’t stop laughing.
    Now I’m ready to go back to the my interesting E Mails

  5. Lizzie Says:

    A way back in your blog – I have a wonderful Refol – you put the question “who says money can’t buy you love?”. It was partly John Lennon, thogh originaly it was “can’t buy me love”, but since you mention him again here i think it’s time this link had a place in the blog.

    http://www.imaginepeace.com/news.html

  6. Elliott Hodges Says:

    thats hysterical.
    made me laugh out loud.

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