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LAURENCE INMAN DIES AT WEDDING

23-08-2007

Some years ago The Stirrer's favourite droll comic Laurence Inman was actually booked to play for a "happy couple" and their guests. Needless to say, they weren't happy for long. And that wasn't just because they'd hired "the Bill Hicks of Kings Heath" for the reception.

Some years ago I was asked to do some comedy at a wedding. If that sounds a bit vague, well I thought so too.

I invited the bride-to-be, who was organising the whole thing, to think it through in a little more detail.

Did she really want me, a comedian who deals with human frailty, desperation and disappointment, and who will be unknown to everybody who hasn't seen Sex Lives Of The Potato Men, to interrupt what might otherwise be a happy family event, with my acidic view of life and relationships?

'I think of myself as the Bill Hicks of Kings Heath!' I added, to press the point.

She was having none of it.

'I saw you the Glee Club. You stormed it.'

'Yes, I know, but....'

'It's four hundred pounds plus expenses.'

So off I went.

This wedding was in a castle somewhere in Yorkshire and was, without any doubt, the poshest event I have ever heard of, let alone seen or been involved with. I doubt very much that even royal events are much posher.

You should have seen the food! I can't describe it to you because I don't know what it was. I'll just say this: there wasn't a prawn in sight!

So, there was the ceremony in the ancient chapel, a professional harpist played snatches from The Deer Hunter, a proper photographer did his job, they ate this eight-star meal, had the speeches from relatives and drunk friends....and then there was me.

You see (just to go back) this woman was doing what we all do when we're planning something. She was indulging herself in magical thinking. In her wedding-mind I would be a jolly, roly-poly, Peter Kay-type-figure, circulating, lubricating, keeping everybody in a continual paroxysm of hilarity and then bringing it all to a climax with a performance of comedy genius. The tears of laughter would make puddles under the tables.

For years afterwards, their guests would talk of this wedding and end their reminiscences with: 'Oh, and that comedian!'

All this, despite the fact that she had actually seen me on stage.

Anyway, I'm fairly thick-skinned about these things, having died many times. And she didn't actually walk out of her own wedding reception, the groom didn't actually make cut-throat gestures at me and I didn't really break into a run across the car-park.

I was just a few quid heavier.

What people fail to realise is that a comedy gig is a very fragile event. Conditions have to be just right for it to work. No one would hire a nude unicyclist and expect him (or her) to merge into the background. I tried to tell her!

The whole event must have cost 100,000, easily. And now, less than five years later, they're divorced.

Marriage can be, of course, the best warning against taking magical thinking seriously. As Anthony Powell observed, it takes twenty to thirty years to test the implications of any partner. That's if you're lucky.

Because it's all a matter of luck.

When you sign up for a lifetime with someone you've been out with a few times, who makes you laugh occasionally and who seems reasonably sane at the time - well, that's quite a punt. You'd be pushing it to find a bookie who would offer odds at all.

There's a wonderful ad on the telly at the moment.

A bloke picks up a girl on their first date. She admires his car. As they arrive (wherever) he turns to her and says: 'You know what ? We should get married. Have kids, a house, everything.' And she says: 'Okay.'

That could well be the basis of more marriages than we would like to think. And the consequences can be an unimaginable nightmare. As the great Hermit of Hull observed:

He married a woman to stop her getting away.

Now she's there all day.

My marriage is still going after nearly thirty years. I'm sure part of the reason for its survival (notice I don't say 'success') is that we didn't load ourselves down at the beginning with inflated expectations of what we were getting into.

We also limited the wedding-budget to a pony.

That way, no matter how it turned out, we wouldn't be too heavily down on the bet.

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