Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Dying in Public Is Bad-But at Least It's Better Than Being Shot for Being a Brazilian

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Dying in Public Is Bad-But at Least It's Better Than Being Shot for Being a Brazilian

Article excerpt

I'd like to talk to you about failure. More specifically, I'd like to tell you about one high-profile failure I've suffered this week. I'm no stranger to failure--in fact, we're quite good friends. It all started in the egg-and-spoon race at infant school; I was beaten by an Indian girl and my mother hasn't spoken to me since.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I was asked to perform at a corporate event for the distinguished members of our community who are respected and admired by the public--when they aren't shooting innocent Brazilians on the Underground.

I was quite excited about going to perform for them: I had heard in advance that they had a really good sense of humour. Their behaviour in public may be incredibly PC, but behind closed doors they repeat my jokes to each other, as if they were me telling them.

I was meant to do a 15-minute set, but I only managed to reach ten minutes. The situation was so excruciatingly painful that if I hadn't left the stage, someone would have had to come along with a shovel and lift me off it.

It all seemed to be going well to begin with. Everyone was laughing. Then, after about five minutes, they looked at each other all of a sudden and stopped. It was as if they'd all agreed, "We can't allow people to see us laughing at bombs, burqas and anal sex--it's not right and it's certainly not politically correct." So the laughter stopped and I started a slow death on stage. Men on the front tables began burying their heads in their hands, there were cries of sympathy, and women took hold of their husbands' arms as if to reassure them the agony would soon be over.

I felt nothing but pain, humiliation and shame. The reason they call it "dying" is that people smile sympathetically and come to offer their commiserations after the show. It was like standing naked at the top of the Eiffel Tower and having the whole world point and laugh at you. …

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