Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Dubious Claims To Fame – 17

I wrote a piece that I used in my stand-up sets last year, and it centred around phrases that I find overused, misused, abused, and otherwise thrown around abundantly, carelessly, and often inaccurately. One of my pet hates is the inappropriate description of things under the catch-all banner “that awkward moment.” The thrust of my argument is that, almost always, the situation or moment described is not particularly awkward, and a more appropriate adjective can be found. I would like to imagine that, on stage, I relayed that idea with a little more humour than it reads here.

While this was the bulk of my five-minute set, with examples and similar instances, I did witness a genuinely awkward moment just prior to one gig. We were in Edinburgh for the festival, and I was on the bill with my friend Ed. Ed is known for his boisterous enthusiasm and boundless energy, which he combines with a fantastic ear for music and his ever-present trombone to great comic effect. As we had arrived at the venue early, we began trying to hand fliers to passers by, in a bid to coerce people into being our audience. The vast majority of them bodyswerved us, with all the warmth you would expect from the inhabitants of Little England – God’s Frozen People – and I quickly gauged that most of them were natives of the city rather than casual tourists. We had almost no luck in handing anyone the show info, and anyone who graced us by taking a leaflet would, without exception, keep walking.

While Ed leapt around on the pavement outside the venue, varying between shouting about how great the show would be and playing recognisable tunes and themes on the trombone, I stepped forward and tried to hand a flier to a woman who was passing us. She was wearing a shawl or scarf, or possibly a hat, her face half hidden behind sunglasses, and as I offered her the brief she politely thanked me but said she had a show of her own to do. That was the point when I suddenly recognised her as the actress Kristen Schaal, from Flight Of The Conchords.

I wanted to say something cool but definite, to calmly acknowledge that I knew who she was but without fawning over her or drawing attention to her. I was immediately thwarted in this endeavour by Ed, who had turned round and whose jaw dropped when he saw her. “Oh my god!” he cried, “Kirsten Schaal! It’s Kirsten Schaal! I love you, Kirsten Schaal!” He proceeded to half follow her up the street, and half run around on the spot while singularly failing to hide his excitement. “Kirsten!” he shouted, “I love you Kirsten! Oh my god, it’s Kirsten Schaal!” Not knowing what to do with himself, he played a few more notes, and then resumed shouting.

I waited for him to come back down to earth, and asked him – deadpan – “Is her name not Kristen?”

It is. Ed’s face fell. How I laughed.

So, that was the day my friend decided to humiliate himself in public by declaring his love and admiration for an international actress whose first name he repeatedly mispronounced as he shouted it after her. As moments go, it was funnier (for me, at least) than it was awkward – it would have been a lot more awkward had she come back to correct him…

This happened just over a year ago now, and to his chagrin I don’t think I’ll let Ed forget it any time soon. It was just too funny to watch, haha!




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