How Tesco Turned my Bad Comedy Gig in Sutton Coldfield into a Triumph

On November 15th 2014 I died royally whilst attempting to do comedy in Sutton Coldfield - there’s no real way of glossing it up. That failure, whilst not quite akin with Germany’s decision to invade The Soviet Union in 1941 or any of the Sugababes trying to go it alone, was total.

Needless to say, when I got home from that 7-hour round trip I did what most people would have done. I fired up the internet and went straight to NUKEMAP. Nukemap is an excellent site. It enables you to pick a town, choose any nuclear weapon that has ever been invented and then detonate that weapon over your chosen town. In this instance I picked a small-yield device from The United States and detonated it over Sutton Coldfield. I then shared the screengrab on social media. It was my way of letting friends know that my gig hadn’t gone well.

Here's that message.

Well, it wasn’t long before one of the audience members from that very night took umbrage with my atomic dabbling and let me know.*

*As you can see, I have decided (despite her bitter barbs) not to share the name of this community champion. I have also replaced her picture with that of a very judgemental looking Pauline Quirk.

I, of course, replied, making sure I kept everything polite and light-hearted. Alas, she seemed to feel that thorny vegetable-based abuse was, ultimately, what was called for.

And this is where I laughed. I have NEVER been called a sprout before - not at school, not at university, not by my parents. But I did find it funny and also a fair riposte, seeing as I had metaphorically detonated the US ‘Davy Crockett’ bomb (yield 20t) over her home town.

I quickly made the quote my new Facebook Cover photo.

But the insults kept coming. ‘Disgusted of Sutton Coldfield’ was a woman on fire, a woman burning with that toxic mixture of civic pride and hate. Here’s a selection of her bile. I’ve not bothered to show you my polite and eloquent responses to this madness. I know you will trust me when I tell you that I handled it impeccably. When it comes to dealing with this sort of thing I’m like Henry Kissinger. If anyone could negotiate bringing a panda bear to England, it’s me.

Harsh stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. But this is now where Tesco (possibly unwittingly) enter the scene, courtesy of top comedian Darren Maskell. You can see how this happened below.

You see that last tweet – “Check your DMs Phil.” Well, I checked my DMs, and guess what lovely Tesco had done…......

Yes, TESCO HAD GIVEN ME FREE SPROUTS, and all because some grumpy-bucket near Birmingham had called me one. Now, I’m not suggesting for one moment that Tesco were taking sides or condoning me for metaphorically bombing Sutton Coldfield with an obsolete US nuclear device - they’re better than that. In fact, they have invested heavily in the area themselves and now have 4 shops supplying the town. They know more than anyone that condoning a nuclear attack on Sutton Coldfield (however small the device) would only damage their profits and, quite possibly, their reputation.

What Tesco were doing though was sensing the hurt from my bad gig and stepping in to calm the psychological barbarism of the vegetable-based abuse I had been on the receiving end of. We all know the old adage, “One sprout insult is a crime, 95,107 metaphorical deaths is a statistic.”

I don’t mind telling you that their gesture went a long way to banishing the memory of that fateful gig. I immediately wrote back to thank them and this is how that conversation went.

I read it all again, but I was not mistaken. THE UK’S LARGEST RETAILER DID NOT THINK I WAS A SPROUT. Well, I got very excited, gave them my address and then made a poster.

We can also see from that exchange that they were planning to send me something more. Would it be a Hudl, would it be 30% off Cathedral City, would it be a discounted water filter? I just didn’t know. But I waited with the excitement of a puppy seeing sand for the first time and rushed to check the post every day.

About a week later a package from Tesco arrived. It was a large white box and it looked like it contained something of wonder. And it did, oh it did. Tesco had very kindly sent me…………THESE!

HEADPHONES. Big, lovely, new, exciting headphones - and not cheap rubbish either - these are Beats headphones by Dr Legg. There's no denying this was a lovely gesture and I was chuffed to bits, and all because I had a bad gig and got a bit of abuse.

Now, as I sit here with my sprouts and my headphones, I've decided that Tesco are my new best friend. We're going to hang out together and go to gigs and stuff. There will be a warm glow next time I stride into one of their shops. I'll probably have the headphones on.

And that is the story of how Tesco turned my bad comedy gig into a triumph. If someone at my next engagement calls me a turkey, I could be well on the way to having Christmas dinner and all my presents sorted.

EPILOGUE

Let me make it clear here and now, I have nothing at all against Sutton Coldfield or most of its fine people. If I had failed in Guildford, Chelmsford, Harrogate or any other UK town, I would have happily nuked them too. Luckily for Matlock in Derbyshire I was not aware of NUKEMAP when I played there.