We’re all down with charity, right?
Giving over our money. And if not cash, then our time to help people less fortunate than ourselves?
Comedians are in high demand by charities to perform at fundraising events. Some offer to pay for said services but most do not and I usually base my decision on my availability and the worthiness of the cause.
There being a hierarchy of good causes that we broadly adhere to.
The fatal diseases obviously rank high and are compounded when associated with children. Tangible effects and deprivations also; homelessness, blindness, Parkinson’s Disease and EB of course, a disease that The Brothers Trust is determined to shine a much needed light on.
Odd then that this week I found myself performing for nix to raise money not for a children’s hospice but for a children’s theatre company.
Raising money then, not for children who are dying – but for children who are dying to act!
Listen, I love the arts as much as the next bloke, but as causes go?
‘We need to raise £700,000 more of our £4m target…”
…went the leaflets of the theatre company that happens to be in one of London’s wealthiest suburbs.
But I agreed with good reason.
An old friend had asked me – the avuncular stand-up comedian cum thespy actor, Omid Djalili who I like and enjoy working with. It was a Monday night and reasonably local for me. I had nothing else on and yes, I am happy to help the arts. After all, it is the area where I have worked all my life. It has been good to me (in-part) but very good to my offspring.
So, I said yes and inked the date in to my diary – or more accurately, keyed it in to my phone.
Such charity gigs and their success are dependent on the audiences they can attract. More important even than the acts appearing because no matter how funny they are, they aren’t much good in an empty room – which is why charity gigs need acts who can shift tickets – ‘draws’ as we call them.
Insufficient bums on seats makes laughs scant and revenues thin – and without running myself down, despite my best efforts over the years, I am more ‘bill fill’ than ticket selling headliner.
But no worries of an empty room at this event – since Michael McIntyre no less, had been collared and also agreed – and explains why seats in the first six rows of the stalls were priced at a princely, £150 each.
No pressure then (on me, anyway) and on with the show…
I am on first (‘bill fill’, remember) in the packed venue (600 people) – my opening line went as follows…
Thank you all for coming along tonight… to see Michael!
Which was greeted by a telling laugh. And who can blame them – Michael McIntyre fills arenas in every speaking city from New Zealand to LA and everywhere else in-between.
I hadn’t worked with him for years and not since he has moved his gigs in to aircraft hangars – and with good reason. He has funny bones and does what he does with aplomb.
And dare-I-say-it, the show was a hit. Even the ‘bill fill’ delivered. Many laughs were had and much needed funds raised to ensure a steady supply of ‘actors darling’ in leafy South West London. Thank goodness.
And speaking of such gigs, I recall a charity gig at The Comedy Store. Again, a Monday night and with a bill packed with big hitting comedy names. Again, I was on early.
Before showtime, I was trying to establish who the gig was for. It was all a little oblique.
The audience looked very well heeled. You know the types? Lots of floppy haired Hugo’s, and Milo’s and an equal accompaniment of Ophelia’s and Jocasta’s.
A bloke from the charity came in to the dressing room. He was more chap than bloke and looked as though he’d never been in a room as grubby as The Comedy Store dressing room.
‘Who’s the money going to?’ I asked, not unreasonably.
He flicked his thick mane – looked down at me (what is it with posh people being so tall?) and began…
I usually bristle whenever an answer begins with so…
“…we are a series of City firms, right. You know, financial outfits: hedge funds, asset managers, you know…”
No, not really, I wanted to say.
“…and basically we’re raising money for people who are less fortunate than ourselves.”
And thereby presenting me with the opening line of my forthcoming set…
“Good evening everybody. Here we are. A room full of City professionals – and you’re raising money for people less fortunate than yourselves?”
This was greeted by a murmur of virtuous agreement. I guess, a sort of collective, ‘yah.’
“But isn’t that everyone?” I add cheekily and with this flattering insult…
A massive release, a huge laugh and a fair degree of self-congratulation also.
And finally on charity gigs, rumour has it, Mrs H has plans for a Brothers Trust comedy show next year and in a proper theatre – which will need some big comedy hitters if she is hoping to fill the place.
And some ‘bill fill’ also of course. And not getting ahead of myself but I have my suspicions that I might be asked to take part – and whether I agree, really depends on my availability and how politely I am asked.
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