So what did I do on my weekend? Well, I warmed up a TV show. I've done this a fair bit over the years but normally it's for panel game shows or quiz shows or pilots that no-one will ever see. This time it was different. This time I was doing warm-up for The News.
BBC World News has a monthly political programme called The Doha Debates which I'm not going to pretend that I've ever heard of but you can. Normally the host, Tim Sebastian, has four guest speakers who debate subjects such as Barack Obama's influence on peace in the Middle East and the treatment of Muslims in India. Obviously a show like that would definitely need me and my stories of loud vaginas and shit supermarkets to get the audience in the right mood to furiously argue with one another. The theme of the debate this time was "The house believes that women are superior to men". It was the last in the series so they decided to make it a bit more light-hearted and go for a Doha Debates Comedy special with guests Robin Ince, Caroline Quinlan, and Azhar Usman. For some insane reason, they decided they needed a warm-up man to warm-up an incredibly lovely and funny audience for 15 minutes so they flew me out to Doha business class and put me up in the Four Seasons Hotel and even paid me. It was a good gig.
The show was great fun. Robin and Caroline were funny, as usual, while taking the stance of opposing the debate (hearing Robin Ince complain about how stupid and useless women are was worth it just to see the look of 'I'm sure I don't believe what I'm saying' on his face) and Azhar was agreeing with the house while being incredibly American about it. You know, he was going to win no matter what. That said, I thought Azhar was very funny.
But that was all last night, so much more happened before that. I don't know how you poor people travel Economy Class. It must be awful for you. I'm so glad there was a curtain separating me from the likes of you because I don't think I could bare to actually witness your squalor. Robin and I sat there with our delicious food, delicious wine and acres and acres of leg room and tried not to think about you while reclining on our flat beds and watching The Office (US) on a proper telly, not the tiny little thing they throw at the poor. I think what I liked about it most was the attention you get in Business Class. You won't know this but they just give you everything you want and constantly make sure that you are comfortable or if you need anything. Anything at all. One stewardess, who looked like a cross between a supermodel and an even superermodel, constantly refreshed my glass, plumped up my pillows, enquired about my well being and give me that smile that suggested I could definitely have sex with her if I wanted to easily. In fact, as the flight went on I realised that I was the only person she was giving this amount of attention to. At first I just assumed that's how it is when you're a Business Class person like what I am but that just wasn't the case. She was being nice to me. Only me. I was the best, greatest, most good looking passenger that she had ever seen and she had no problem in letting me know. After all, this could be her one chance to find the perfect man and, to her, I was the perfect man. She had just laid eyes on me but had instantly fallen in love. To her, psoriasis, asthma and piles are the kind of flaws that make the rest of me seem even better. They make me human and that is the part of me that she wants to tend to for the rest of her life. Yes, yes, yes, she's instantly fallen for my interesting hair, annoying laugh and out of context face but she sees more than that. Something to adore, yes, but also to care for. She looked at me and she saw the rest of her life and she was happy. About half an hour before we landed she came right over to me, NOT TO ANYONE ELSE, knelt beside me and looked deep into my eyes and said "Thank you so much for flying with us today. It was a pleasure having you on board. I look forward to seeing you again".
That poor girl. She had fallen so deeply in love and yet I could not commit to her. I had to turn my back and hope that she would get over me. There are plenty of other good men out there and I really hope that she finds that person. He's a lucky man whoever he is. I sat there thinking of how good the attention felt but how bitter-sweet our meeting had become.
Then Robin reminded me that I asked if I could swap seats with someone really important so that I could sit next to him. The stewardess saw only the seat number and assumed I was him.
The fucking bitch.
We arrived at our glamorous hotel, had a quick drink with Caroline and then all went to bed. Seperate beds. We're just the kind of important people that TV companies will splash out for seperate rooms on.
Next day was full of sunshine. 102 degree heat and doing very little. Doha didn't really exist 10 years ago so they're really only getting round to building it now. There's a lot to look at but very little to do so hanging round the hotel seemed the best bet. I walked around the small beach, the swimming pools and sat reading on the loungers for as long as I could in that heat (about half an hour) and it was just delightful. Relaxing and exotic and jammy. When I'm in a place like this I always like to listen to particularly British music and as Robin and I had been talking about The Cure and I was staring at the sea I decided to listen to Staring At The Sea by The Cure. Felt a bit odd listening to Killing An Arab while in the Middle East, mind you.
In the morning, we had a meeting with Tim Sebastian, Catherine Hart and other production crew from the show. It was me first (getting warm-up just right takes months of preparation for every show) but we were soon joined by Caroline and Robin and then someone else.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog has been edited from the original. Some people involved in The Doha Debates were unhappy with what I wrote and in respect to them I've edited out the most horrible parts. To be honest, what I wrote wasn't worth complaining about anyway but the real reason I've edited this is because the Doha Debates people were lovely and If I've offended any of them then writing a load of old moany crap would hardly be worth it. Basically, I was very much rubbed up the wrong way by another comedian and it doesn't really matter why. That said, it still really upsets me that I've met someone who thought it was OK to be so continually egotistical and horrible. That said, this blog is a big negative and everyone who reads it knows this, it's up to you to figure out whether I mean it or not. Also there is just one part of it that I feel I cannot edit. It's just too important (only to me, probably). I've left this, our only conversation together, here to give you an idea what I mean. It should be enough. The rest I've deleted because the other people I met there are a lot more worthy of thanks than this one person is worthy of extreme criticism. It might help you to know that the comedian is American but continually talked of her Palestinian background...
She started the conversation with this line: "I'm just so glad that I'm out drinking with an Englishman".
"I'm not English".
"Oh. Are you Australian?"
"What are you?"
"I LOVE IRISH PEOPLE! That is so cool. Hey, you guys trained us".
That's when the atmosphere got worse. I knew exactly what she meant but I wanted her to say it.
"Yeah, Palestinian fighters were trained by the IRA".
That's what the idiot said. She tried to make friends with me by saying that. Unbelievable.
"The IRA isn't "me". What made you think I'd be happy to hear that?"
"I don't support violence of any kind but...."
And I stopped listening. I'm a simple man. It only takes only incredibly stupid and offensive remark like that to make me hate you. She did very well. It goes without saying that she's not Palestinian either. She's American. And the most "American comedian" American comedian I have ever met. She's a walking CV with no geography skills.
But she couldn't ruin the trip. I just ignored her for the rest of my stay and enjoyed the company of genuinely lovely people. Robin, Caroline, Tim, Catherine, Paul, Patrick, Azhar and many others enjoying working and playing together. It was a great trip. And, hey, it's me. Obviously if I get sent to paradise I'll find something to complain about.
Sincere thanks to The Doha Debates for being so incredibly nice to me. You should watch the debate yourself. It's good. There's more on it here: http://www.thedohadebates.com/news/item.asp?n=9442
ANOTHER PLEASE NOTE: This was edited purely to respect the people that I worked with. They didn't ask me to edit or change it in anyway. They've been incredibly nice about everything. Apologies for offence to them.