Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Class Act

I can imagine the conversation that took place later that night or early the next day: "There I was, at the beginning of my act, ready to talk about the prostitute who enjoyed sex so much that in her orgasm, she falls out the high-rise window and lands on the unsuspecting wedding party, upsetting the salad table, when I see two young girls—children, about 10 years old—sitting front row, centre. And I thought, 'Bloody Hell. There goes the show.'"

But Paul Foot is a class act.

My wife and I have seen the comic on television before. We saw him on the American show, Last Comic Standing. We've seen him on comedy shows, where we've seen him talk for a few minutes before another comic is brought on stage or appears at a different venue. From what we had seen, Paul Foot had a hilarious, clean show.

You can see his comedy here, on YouTube.

As parents, we have ourselves to blame. We are responsible for ensuring that our children aren't exposed to subject matter to which they are not ready. We should have experienced Paul's comic routine first-hand, should have spent more time checking out his Web site. Maybe, we would have left them behind.

We have similar experience. For years, we have been fans of CBC Radio's The Debaters. We have enjoyed the comic antics of many well-known comics, such as Sean Cullen and Nikki Payne. I have seen these comics on television, on radio, and live. I would take my children to Sean Cullen's show; I wouldn't do the same for a Nikki Payne show.

As brilliant as she is, I don't think I'm mature enough for her live show.

But Paul Foot is a class act.

The show last Friday was intimate. It took place in a small auditorium in the Gesu concert hall in Montreal for the Just For Laughs comedy festival. In this auditorium, there were seats for 50 to 100 patrons. The room was at most 75 percent full.

When we arrived, we sat in the second row, at the far left (stage right). Because there was no age restriction and we had seen Paul's televised act, we felt our kids, aged nine and 11, could handle it. The girls, when they took their seats, asked us why no one was sitting in the first row, in the centre.

"That's heckler's row," I explained. "If you sit there, there's a good chance that the comic will engage you."

The girls immediately darted for the vacant seats: front row, centre.

As Paul Foot started his act, he spoke to his audience from outside the concert hall. We couldn't see him; he couldn't see us. For about five minutes or so, he addressed us from afar. Introducing himself and then explaining that he enjoyed the audience response so much that he stretched the introduction. So, by the time he was ready to come out and greet his audience, everybody was warmed up and ready to go.

And then he saw the kids.

"Are you on your own or are your parents hiding somewhere?" he asked. My youngest turned in her chair and pointed us out.

It was, as I said, an intimate audience, and Paul took full advantage, climbing over seats and getting up close and personal to the crowd. He would get face-to-face with many, including Lori and me, but especially the kids. His face would be mere centimetres from theirs. But—God love them—the kids didn't flinch.

Their eyes would bug out of their heads and they'd look like deer caught in the headlights, but they held firm and looked Paul in the eyes.

"Do you know what a woman of ill repute is?" he asked my girls. When he was answered by shakes of the head, he explained: "A woman of ill repute is a lady who doesn't tend her garden, who doesn't water her plants or pull the weeds, and her neighbours are extremely cross with her."

Then came the story of the prostitute.

As Paul explained how the prostitute enjoyed her chosen profession so much and would get caught up in the sexual act, demonstrating positions, rocking back and fourth, and bringing up the Kama Sutra, he turned to Lori and me and said, "I promise, this is as rude as it gets."

It was pretty much as rude as it got, and thankfully it went right over the heads of the girls.

"Everyone is aware of the elephant in the room," Paul added as his routine went on. He must have been thinking quickly to himself, wondering how to mellow out his routine.

"I said, 'shove off'," he explained to the girls. "Normally, I would say 'piss off'," he concluded.

Towards the end of his routine, Paul gave one member of the audience a hobby horse (broom stick with a horse's head on one end) and explained that when the horse head pointed to the floor, he spoke in plain English and everyone would understand the English; when the horse was right-side up, he would speak in utter gibberish and everyone would understand the gibberish (if someone were to speak at this time, he or she would also speak gibberish).

If the broom stick was held horizontally, all speech would be half-English, half-gibberish.

Clearly, the woman holding the horse didn't understand the concept: she constantly had to be prompted to swing the horse in the appropriate direction. A couple of times, when it was clear that Paul should be speaking English or gibberish, the horse was in the wrong position.

Cues were ignored. And so punchlines were clearly missed.

But Paul Foot is a class act. He let it go. He moved on with the act.

Clearly, he should have given the horse to one of my kids. They understood what needed to be done.

The next day, I tweeted Paul Foot and told him that I hoped that our kids hadn't put a crimp in his act. That we enjoyed it. That the kids had fun, even when the subject matter flew over their heads.

He responded: "I am glad they (and ye) enjoyed it and did/didn't understand it, as applicable."

Class act.

To Paul: I hope that sometime, soon, you make it to Canada's capital.

To many of my American readers: Canada's capital is Ottawa, not Toronto!

Back to Paul: If you come to Ottawa, my wife and I will definitely come to see you again. We'll bring friends. I'll call upon my readers and Twitter followers to come out.

But I'll leave the kids at home.

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