I’m British. I like comedies. I especially like British comedies. But I spent one night couchsurfing with a guy in San Antonio, Texas, who knew more about British comedies than I did. From Grandma’s House to Bread via some inexplicable and awful little-known one-season abomination with a title so unimaginative I’ve completely forgotten its name, he knew everything about British comedy in the last 30 years.
Regular readers will also expect me to say that he was gay. Well, he probably was, what with his two cats called Hercules and Princess and his earring, but he didn’t grab my arm and say, “Don’t I look fabulous, darling?”
His one-bedroom bachelor’s pad was in a seedy part of San Antonio where chain-link fences and packs of rats dominated the neighbourhood. We squeezed past a row of bushes into my host’s back yard and I was half-expecting to see some kind of drug deal taking place. It was rapidly approaching dusk after all and everyone knows that’s the best time to sell cocaine. Alas, the only commotion I heard was the squeaky-squeaky sexy-times coming from the next door apartment.
“Shall we get some beers?” My host asked.
“Sounds good, I’ll pay.”
So we got beers from the closest shop (there was definitely a drug deal happening there) and settled ourselves in front of his laptop. He took the armchair, I took the sofa, both of which were ripped and torn like they’d been mauled by a heroin junkie going cold turkey. He balanced his laptop on a pile of textbooks and we supped Guinness and giggled at Black Books for several hours.
“You mind if a take a shower?” I asked halfway through a Sean Lock stand-up DVD.
“Go ahead. You might want this though.” He handed me a jug.
“Err, okay,” I said, wondering what sort of third world contraption I was about to be confronting.
Imagine a toned, chiselled Mediterranean hunk standing under a scorching hot, Mach-10 power shower with a dozen knobs and switches. He’s staring at the camera lathering some kiwi-and-mango-flavoured body wash over a chest so firm he makes Tom Daley look like Johnny Vegas. He steps out of the shower, water glistening on his skin like precious gems, and steps into a fluffy white dressing gown emblazoned with his initials in gold.
Got that image? Right, now picture me standing in a cracked, brown bathtub rubbing a crusty bar of soap over my naked, skinny self before tipping a jug of cold water over my head and drying off with a towel used for giving the cats a bath.
It wasn’t great, put it that way.
Four hours later, at 4am, I phoned for a taxi to take me to the train station.
I left Texas having shared a slice of England with a Texan obsessed with my culture. I shared a Texan’s life for a day, in all its unclean, seedy glory. I also learnt something about my own country, namely that for every brilliant, hilariously depressing, ironic, dark comedy we’ve made, we’ve also made some godawful dreck. That’s an important lesson.