I was clearing out my computer room today and among the bits and pieces I found was a piece of breast padding. I don’t know the proper technical term, because I’m a bloke, but the sort of thing that women shove inside their bra in order to give themselves a bit of an uplift.
The thing about this one is, it belonged to – and I am 100%, totally, completely genuine about this – ex-Wheel of Fortune hostess, and all round TV presenter Jenny Powell. Her, on the right. Now I fully admit to having a bit of a crush on her when she presented a show called No Limits on BBC2 in the mid-80s, just as I was 14 years old, getting into music.
Anyway, fast forward a number of years and I’m doing stand-up around Manchester. The Comedy Store had a monthly Gong Show called King Gong – standard Gong Show format, get up, try to last five minutes against the audience who could vote you off at any second. It was sometimes a bearpit, sometimes a car crash. I won once, got kicked off a few times, sometimes unfairly. It wasn’t much in the way of fun but anyway that is by the by.
Powell was filming a TV show called “Stand Up Jenny”, where she would attempt to – with the help of professional standups – become a standup and do five minutes at the Comedy Store King Gong. Normally I would have had great respect for someone having a crack at standup, especially at something like King Gong and it seemed an interesting idea. However, Powell or the producers, I don’t care who, began to rile the various comics with some of the pre-publicity. Quotes like “I was on a beach on holiday and I thought “I know, I can try being a standup comedian.’ So I rang up the producers at Granada and they agreed it would be a great thing to film.”
If only it were so fucking easy for the rest of us to get a telly gig.
Anyway with sufficient publicity from the TV show the crowd was going to be quite large at the Store, swelled by a number of comics who were there to see the potential car crash. (By the way, any comedian who says they aren’t interested in watching another comic die is a liar. I’m not saying that comics want other comics to die and are completely unsupportive but there is a certain “there but for the grace of God go I” interest in proceedings.)
Aside: I never died much, but one night I had an horrific time. It was the Circle Club and at the time my material consisted of 20 minutes of taking the piss out of Z-list celebrities. Problem A was the crowd largely consisted of Z-list celebrities and their mates. Problem B was that when I realised this, I also realised I had no backup material to switch to. I struggled in front of the lights and felt the loathing and walked off stage early, just wanting to curl up in a ball. I got back to the Green Room where the great Justin Moorhouse who was MCing the night and I had a brief exchange.
Me: Sorry about that Justin. I was supposed to do 20, but I came off early.
Justin: No worries mate, it happens to us all
Justin: Besides… it felt like 20
Still makes me laugh now.
Back to the story. Normally at a Gong Show the participants sit in the audience, as befitting the idea where anyone can get up and have a go. However, being a TV star, Miss Powell was in the dressing room with the pro acts. Powell had brought a sparkly dress with her. Seymour Mace was one of the warmup acts and bet Powell £20 that he should do his set wearing the dress. So the crowd were treated to the sight of an unkempt Geordie in a sparkly dress who shuffled up to the microphone and said “Helloooo…. my name is Beyonce.”
Local legend Neil “Spider” Smith was on – I seem to recall him deliberately trying to get Gonged off as fast as possible. I went on, lasted about three minutes. Normally the running order was fairly random, but it was arranged that Powell would get a sort of warm-up, as the reliably funny Dave Ingram was to go on before her – he was a very good comic and could easily win a crowd over. Ingram did his bit – don’t think he lasted the five and then from backstage came Ms Powell.
Her opening gag wasn’t actually all that bad. Some telly personality had been in the news for some sex scandal. Powell had been this blokes ex, so her opening line was “I know what you are thinking – I bet [TV Personality X] has ripped the fucking arse off of that” which I thought was nicely self deprecating. Then she had a couple of gags and then a terribly pre-planned moment. She pretended to respond to a heckle from the crowd “You what? Get your tits out? OK then.” At which point she put her hand down her top, pulled out the breast pads and threw then into the crowd.
They landed right next to where Spider and I were sitting. We immediately grabbed them and two thoughts went through my head – 1. “Fuckin’ EBay!” 2. “Still warm…” Spider offered to take my one and make the pair but I refused. Powell continued, I seem to remember her doing some material about working in telly which was supposed to sound like just a chat down the pub, but the problem is the crowd don’t all work in telly so they couldn’t relate. The heckling grew louder and eventually she was Gonged off.
The rest of the show happened, we did the usual post-match pint and a laugh and then home with my prize. For some reason, my better half wasn’t impressed. I put it on a shelf and there it has stayed for eight and a bit years. The opportunity for EBaying is long past, besides I can’t prove its provenance as I can’t even find the clip on YouTube. And yet I still can’t decide whether to chuck it away.
After all, most people would have to settle for a photo on a mobile phone.