I’m currently somewhere on the outskirts of Brussels, upstairs in a house owned by Xavier’s mum. Xavier is a promoter I’ve only just met, and seems very nice. I haven’t met his mum yet, but I’m in her house and soon I’ll be sharing a room with someone else I’ve not met before. In two hours I’ll be on stage performing to about 200 people in Brussels. I’m not sure if they’ve been to Xavier’s mum’s house too. I really hope so, as otherwise I don’t have too much I can relate to them on as yet. This is my first visit to Brussels, much like last night was my first visit to Utrecht. Also much like last night, I have a feeling all I will end up knowing about Brussels is what one room looks like and how the beer is. I will probably know a few things about a few of the people in the audience and after the show I’ll probably speak to a few more about a few more things before going back to the place I’m staying, sleeping, and then heading to a train station first thing in the morning to go to Antwerp where the pattern shall repeat.
‘Oh woe is the poor comedian moaning about his rather privileged life’, I hear you all cry. Well don’t cry. It’s not sad. Save those tears buddy. I am fully aware that what I am getting to do is a) always exciting and b) not many get to travel to 5 cities in 5 nights whilst getting put up and paid for the experience. I am, overall, very much loving it and getting to do shows in other countries to lovely people is reason #8765 of why I love comedy. But – and yes there is a but – it is a strange realisation that despite how much travelling I have done as a comedian, most of my images of places I’ve been are, as they have been this week, a room with people in it, a few beers, then looking out of the window in the train or car out of there. I could provide a very definitive guide of performance rooms in places. I could tell you places where the staff are nice or the lighting is shit or the backstage room is a cupboard or the stage is a table you have to stand on. I could could marvel you with ruminations on how the beer with a tiny gnome picture on the pump tasted or the odd apple shot someone bought me after the gig, and which trains in which countries have the best windows to stare out from. It’s a niche guide, I’ll give you that. It’ll probably only apply to comedians and extreme comedy fans (I’ve never met any that are that extreme).
Which in a way, is really seeing somewhere I suppose. You can look at landmarks all you like but only doing a gig in a place will leave you having a conversation with a Dutch school teacher about the traditions of British pantomime or the social lives of the Brussels European Commission workers. I know I am not a tourist. I am someone who is working, and doing a job and so rather than idly walk around gawping at things, I am instead absorbing the culture as I entertain others and while you can’t create a slideshow to bore relatives with that information, you can walk away having a feel of what it might be like to actually live somewhere. It means I actually get to work out how to perform in places where English is the second or third language preference, what humour people enjoy and all in all I feel that it makes me not only a better comedian but a better human who will never understand why xenophobia is a thing. So it is great. It is. I promise that that’s how I feel and yes, I will shut up with my first world problems. It’s just that sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to say I’ve visited that place, or had my picture taken there or, as in the case of today, eaten that Belgium waffle rather than just waffle at Belgians.
———————————————————————————————————————————— I’m doing a tour of my new comedy show, all over the UK. Next stop is Brighton at Upstairs At The Three And Ten on February 22nd. Please come. All details at www.tiernandouieb.co.uk.