Every now and again, when bored, I post Stories on Instagram inviting questions from people who follow me. This usually elicits a mix of everything from, “Will there be another series of The Reluctant Landlord?” to, “How does somebody as desperately untalented as you make a living from comedy? (Please die.)” I was puzzled by the latter type of question as the only people seeing my Stories are those who follow me, which suggests that some people do so purely on the off-chance that I will invite questions so they can then strike.
The other day, I started replying to the abusive ones with similarly abusive responses, which hasn’t helped. Rather, I seem to have made it clear that the best way to get a response is by sending me something horrible. Now, whenever I start a Q&A, I open myself up to horrific trolling. I completely and utterly deserve this.
The last time I did a Q&A, somebody asked: “Have you made enough money to move out of Crawley and live in Horsham?” (Horsham is Crawley’s neighbouring town and they really look down on us, which is completely invalid now that we’ve got a Wagamama and a Five Guys.) In what I would describe as one of my less witty responses, I simply replied, “Fuck Horsham.” Job done.
The next day, I was sent a link to an article in the local newspaper detailing the incident under the headline: “Comedian stokes fiery rivalry between towns”. Before you accuse me of bragging, elsewhere in the local paper was a story about a man who was annoyed about a lot of rubbish he’d found in a subway.
The link was shared on the paper’s Facebook page and I made the mistake of looking at the comments underneath. Among the usual mix of “How is this news?”, “I don’t like Horsham either” and, “Why can’t this overexposed twat go and kill himself?” was a comment that really got to me. I can accept people not liking me, or not finding me funny, but this was different. A parent had posted: “Love the way he seems all jokey and a laugh, but is absolutely miserable and rude on the school run.” I couldn’t believe it; somebody had formed an opinion of me based on my conduct on the bloody school run (when there was such a thing as a school run)! This felt unfair. Everyone is miserable on the school run, aren’t they? In fact, a stranger had made that exact point to the parent, and her response was that people say hello to me and I ignore them – but that my wife is nice.
I don’t expect you to believe me, because this is exactly what I would say, but there is absolutely no way I would have the courage to walk around a school ignoring anyone who said hello to me. In fact, I am so paranoid about looking antisocial in front of my kids, in case they model my behaviour, that I look around for people to say hello to.
I have to admit that the fact this commenter differentiated my behaviour from that of my wife was infuriating. It meant that I couldn’t expect any sympathy from her because a) she would find it hilarious and b) she would be delighted she was so highly thought of.
Nevertheless, I risked it. I told her the whole story, and she listened intently, resisting the urge to smile when she was mentioned. She was incredulous. “Who the hell thinks you seem jokey and a laugh?” I had not anticipated her finding an option “c”.