This August I am going up to the Edinburgh Festival, the biggest arts festival in the world, to do my second show, Fool’s Paradise. The show is about many things, both my parents being trained psychotherapists, being the only white person in a gang of Bangladeshis, living above a brothel – but also it is about growing up in Bradford.
The idea for the show came to me a couple of months ago. I was sat in a café, minding my own business, when I saw a man steal a woman’s phone and failed to do anything about it. In my defence it did all happen very quickly and I am not too sure what I actually could have done, but the fact I did nothing to help still left me feeling incredibly bad – it’s rare to come face to face with your own total cowardice. I think we all, or at least some part of me, liked to think that the only thing stopping me being a hero was a lack of opportunity. I have never seen a cat stuck up a tree, nor have I ever seen a pram with a baby inside slowly roll towards a busy road, but I had up to that point been fairly certain that If I did see such a thing I would instantly spring into action and save the day. However, sitting in that coffee shop I realised I probably wouldn’t.
I was lucky enough to grow up in Bradford. I am aware it gets a very bad press and I am aware it has recently been voted the worst place to live in the UK, but looking back I really loved it. It such an interesting city and I had so many unique experiences. For instance I was the only white boy in my form class (hence the Bangladeshi gang), which clearly had a huge impact on who I am today, both in my appreciation of other cultures and in my ability call someone’s mum fat in Bangladeshi. Obviously there were a few negatives but my main memory of my school is just messing about and having fun. Comedy is such a universal thing that even though I went to school with people from all over the world we were united in our ability to take the piss out of one another and have a laugh. Maybe if I had fitted in more I wouldn’t have needed comedy and I wouldn’t have become a comedian, I’d probably be doing something more proper now like being a lawyer, and although that would make my parents far, far happier, I am very glad I grew up where I did.
I have been previewing the show all around the UK in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe, and an audience in Buxton aside, people seem to be enjoying it. I am really excited to go up, I am excited to talk about my childhood, I am excited to talk about Bradford in a more positive light and I am hopeful that at the end of it you will understand how I became the sort of person who just watches someone have their phone stolen.
Jonny Pelham – Fool’s Paradise is at the Edinburgh Fringe, Pleasance Courtyard, 8.30pm, 3-28 August