You sit waiting anxiously in the shadows of a comedy room as the MC warms up the crowd. Your name only moments away from being shared with a room full of complete strangers. Laughter rises and falls in time with your beating heart. Your legs automatically take charge as your name is called, and you find yourself walking slowly to the stage. It’s really happening. The stage seems a lot larger up close, and it takes you what seems like hours to walk across to the microphone. You shake the hand of the man now leaving the stage, and instantly become lonely. A spotlight from afar finds you, and zooms in highlighting every bead of sweat and every twitch upon your face. Your eyes squint, adjusting to a cloud of light. You can’t see anyone, but you know they’re there. You lick your lips as you prepare your first word, hoping that your voice is brave enough to escape your throat. Silence sets in. It’s now time to be funny!
I once heard that you should never start a routine with a new joke. As this was my first routine however, my hands were tied. It was all going to be new.
I needed a script. A script full of hilarity, so funny in fact, excessive laughter would actually jeopardise the health of anyone listening. This hilarity, I’m told, is known as material. All I had to do was find some.
In the weeks leading up to the routine, I had been taking out a handy notebook and pen everywhere that I went. I scribbled down everything and anything that I thought I could turn into a joke. I left nothing untouched, including family.
One week out from performing however, I realised that I had nothing even nearly good enough to raise a giggle.
Throughout July 2008, World Youth Day attracted over a quarter of a million registered pilgrims to Sydney. It was an incredible spectacle, impacting Sydney in many ways. It injected the economy with millions of dollars through tourism, whilst creating a fun and vibrant atmosphere on the city streets, and beyond. Luckily for me, it came one week prior to my routine.
Towards the end of World Youth Week, I found myself in town one night, queuing, as it happened to see the stand-up comedian, Steven K Amos, perform at the Enmore Theatre. As was common during World Youth Week, the streets were jam-packed with people from every corner of the globe.
Amongst the mass of people, I grabbed my notebook, hoping to seduce some material from the surrounds. The length of the queue combined with the shortness of the door host would surely offer something? With that, I received a large bump from behind. I spun around to see what I thought must be an impatient queuer. Instead, it was a Pilgrim, adorned in the official Pilgrim garb that had at this stage become synonymous with our catholic friends. A bright orange poncho coupled with a bandana was standard issue. Each item emblazoned with the World Youth Day ’08 logo. A small orange backpack completed the unfashionable ensemble (a guitar, flag, or map were optional extras). Needless to say, a full kit acted rather conspicuously in any environment.
As this pilgrim glided through the crowd, most people were knocked, shoved or bumped, but strangely no one said a word. Instead, people just watched, somehow transfixed by the notion of a pushy pilgrim. This pilgrim was getting away with it!
I put my notebook away. It was clear what I had to do; I needed to become a Pilgrim.
The next morning I rang the local church, seeking information on how to obtain a Pilgrim Pack, as it were.
“We’ve got some down here if you’ve lost yours” came the reply.
Ten minutes later, having lied to two nuns and a pastor, I was issued with my complete Pilgrim Pack.
Ten minutes after that, having emptied the contents of the Pilgrim Pack across my bedroom floor, I had all but written my script. World Youth Day Ponchos, songbooks, guides and stickers were all but a few items of paraphernalia laying in front of me- enough material to sink an ark.
It was time to become a Pilgrim.
I rang my friend Dave immediately, and organised to meet for a beer later that night.
“Cool, shall I come to your place first?” replied Dave,
“No mate, I’ll just meet you at the Ivanhoe at seven”
Hours later, I left my house, dressed head to toe as a Pilgrim. My field study had begun. Sporting every orange item from my newly acquired Pilgrim Pack, I was a literal shining beacon of religious fortitude. I’ll admit that I was nervous.
The walk was only short, but the results, astonishing. I have never received so much attention in my life.
My first act of withdrawing money from a cash-point was met with a hundred eyes watching me from a far. Two attractive girls approached soon after. Stopping me, they blatantly began to flirt. They were testing my catholic resolve. To them it was a challenge, to me it was bad timing. Tonight, I was a pilgrim.
The look on Dave’s face as I entered the busy Ivanhoe Bar was priceless. It was as if he had never drunk with a Pilgrim before. I bought us a beer and sat down at the table with him and another friend, Todd.
“You’re an idiot!” he said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about” I replied.
The sight of a highly religious being indulging in copious mounts of draught beer must be somewhat of rarity. As one beer followed another, so to did the confused glances from patrons, all anxiously waiting for something to give. Eventually something did; my bladder. I left the table and headed for the bathroom. Swaying like a Palm Tree in a tropical storm, I placed a hand on the wall above the urinal to steady myself. The beers were adding up. A man, stood next to me at the trough, kept glancing over, eager to make contact.
“How’s World Youth Day going?” he eventually asked
“Fucking brilliant mate!” I slurred.
Not another word was spoken.
By the time I returned to the table, two pretty girls had joined our group. Dave looked at me awkwardly as I approached.
“They don’t think you’re a real Pilgrim” he began,
“He’s not!” snapped one girl,
Prove it!” jabbed the other. I could feel their eyes scouring my outfit. They were aggressive.
Instantly, I had been put on the spot. I needed to produce immediate and indisputable evidence that I was indeed the religious being I claimed to be.
There was only one thing to do. I placed my beer down, took a deep breath, and began to recite the Lords Prayer. It was brilliant. Brilliant that is, until I hit the line about receiving delivered bread on a daily basis (or something like that). I had forgotten the words.
The girls stood there smugly. I was clearly no Pilgrim. They had been proven correct, but still seemed agitated. In fact, based on their stance alone, they looked ready to fight. It was priceless! Having conceded that my cover had been blown, I thought I’d at least try and entertain Dave and Todd,
“Would either of you consider sleeping with a Pilgrim?” I enquired
The girls looked at each other and left. As they did so, one found the time to grab my notebook that had been lying on the table. She picked up the near-by pen and scribbled something on the open page.
Once finished, she slammed both items back down on the table, and stormed off to the bar.
Left smirking at each other across the table, we all leaned over the notebook, and read the inscription;
“Try hard Pilgrim = Trilgrim. Put your back pack away please- we know you are a fake”
And just like that, a new religious term had been coined; Trilgrim.
As politically incorrect as it was original- I had my material. I was ready for my stand-up routine.
What’s on your list?