On Ricky Gervais’s Humanity

Dashing to the tube station. Need to get across town. It’s peak hour. It’s going to take forever. Hands are too shaky, Oyster card fumbles to the ground. Bending to pick it up and almost collected by the post-work crush. Finally through the tube barrier. Racing down the stairs. Eyes darting to the list of stations. Need to make sure I’m headed the right way. Stomach filled with butterflies. Blind butterflies smashing into each other rather than calmly flitting through the air. Breathe. Need.to.breathe.

Platform. Not as crowded as expected. Small mercies. Check the next train. That’s the one. Stand in the space next to where, hopefully, the doors will open. Train approaching. Stand back from the line. Mind the gap. Train car almost empty. Get a seat! Fumble in my bag for, what? Music? A book? Too distracted. Stare out the window instead. Will I make it in time? Will I?

Pulling into Hammersmith. Last stop. People sauntering this way and that. Why aren’t they moving quicker? Move quicker! Out of my way! A date with destiny! A date fifteen years in the making! Move. MOVE!

In the distance. The Apollo. Lights glowing. His name. Right there. Check my watch. Oh…

!!!!!!

Because of course I had plenty of time. Forty minutes of it to be exact. But if there was ever a time I was going to pull out all the stops to arrive at my destination early, this was it. This was Ricky Gervais. Live. His first stand up in seven years and I had managed to score myself a ticket despite the speed in which his shows sold out all over the globe. Just the one ticket, though. So, for this one night, it was just me and Ricky (okay, yes, and a whole bunch of others but they’re just background noise for the sake of this post).

A quick bathroom stop later (had to refresh my makeup after all), I headed to the stalls to find my seat. My EXCELLENT seat that was twelve rows from the front with so much leg room I almost felt embarrassed having a seat in such a wide row, being so short. But then I realised I was seated in the thoroughfare between the two seating sections. A thoroughfare that also lead to the toilets. And, as luck would not have it, I was seated at the side leading to the men’s. You never fully appreciate how much beer guys drink at gigs until you’re seated right near where they go to pee. I swear I saw every guy there pass me at least twice before the lights start to dim.
Look how close my seat was! That's my grey-booted foot!

But dim they did and all thoughts of beer and leg room and pee, evaporated.

The darkness heralded the warm-up act. The delightful Doc Brown. An unenviable position, he had to content with people arriving, chatting, shuffling down the aisles, racing out for their third pee. But he gallantly soldiered on, ending with the most hilarious rap about putting a duvet cover on a duvet that I’ve ever heard. It spoke to me. I understood his pain, his frustration. Putting on a duvet cover IS the hardest thing ever.

As delightful as Doc Brown was, I’m not going to lie, seeing him exit the stage made a smile break out across my face in which I’m sure I pulled a muscle.
Not long now.

They say you should never meet your heroes. I knew I wasn’t meeting Gervais, but seeing his stand up live was probably the closest I was ever going to come to seeing him in.the.flesh. As the minutes counted down, I felt those damn blind butterflies crashing around in my stomach again. The shaky hands were back, too, as I quickly stowed away my mobile phone. (You did NOT want to get caught taking a photo in this place.) What I had thought was anxiety about arriving at the Apollo in time was now, I realised, anxiety about what I was about to see.

My expectations couldn’t help but be ridiculously high, try as I might to splash cold water on them. Would fifteen years of adoration be dashed by ninety minutes of crap? Would I never be able to watch The Office again without thinking back to that miserable night at the Apollo?

And then, the lights dimmed again. My breath caught. My thoughts stilled.

And it was Ricky. Within the first minute he was already calling himself God and I knew, I just knew, it was going to be brilliant.

And of course it was.

I’m not going to review the content – I can only hope it was filmed at some point so you can all experience the hilarity, the crudeness, the brilliance, the shockingness, the heartfelt-ness of it all – because the only way to appreciate stand up is seeing it for yourself.

But there was, inevitably, a moment that stayed with me.

Right after calling out Hollywood celebs for getting away with manslaughter, but right before joking about the local paedo from the estate in which he grew up, Ricky touched on his annoyance at being constantly asked why he doesn’t have children. And how, surely, it was different asking people why they don’t have kids as opposed to asking people why they do have kids. It was a brief but serious moment. (Followed inevitably by his hilarious answers that used the word c*nt so often, and so accurately that I think I nearly passed out from laughing too much).

It was interesting hearing a man justifying his life choices in ways women have had to do for so, so long. What was even more interesting was that his reasons for not having kids, almost exactly mirror my own (save for the whole bringing kids into unimaginable wealth – that reason, not so much relevant to my life).

So there you have it. On a night when anxiety and expectation threatened to take over, it turns out it was one of the better dates I’ve ever been on. There was laughter, there were discussions about our pets and there was common ground. Because, ladies and gentlemen, Ricky Gervais is God (if you believe that sorta thing).

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