View from the Whitehouse

Maggy Whitehouse
Maggy Whitehouse

One of the oddest things about being a professional comedian is not that you live in a twilight world of madness and stupidity; you get used to that. I’m also dyslexic and frequently wonder why life keeps giving me melons…

The strangest thing is that folk will keep asking you to perform for free. In my case, being a vicar as well, they probably assume that God will pay but while God may be love and compassion, He’s a bit like the Queen in that He doesn’t carry a lot of spare change.

My bishop says ‘the angel of mirth stands closest to the throne of God’ — that was, of course, until the invention of the whoopee cushion — but angels too are a bit lacking in the pockets department.
I’m only calling God ‘He’ by the way because that’s the cultural norm. As part of my particular brand of crazy also includes being a Bible historian, it’s quite clear to me that even the Hebrews weren’t sure on the gender of God – or even if God had a gender at all.

The first sentence of Genesis, for example has the word ‘Elohim’ which is a female noun with a masculine plural ending. And El Hai Shaddai, the God of Abraham, means ‘the multi-breasted one’ so unless God has moobs, there’s definitely room for the concept of the feminine in there somewhere.

Yahweh (or Jehovah), the most popular name for God, is certainly male but Genesis is emphatic that He didn’t create the universe – if he had, it would probably be held together by duct tape and only turn with a generous application of WD40.

But I digress. This “We can’t pay you; it’s for charity,” thing is generally only applied to us artistic types. The electricians, the room hire and the bar staff at the event are always paid. And have you ever tried asking your plumber to fix the loo for free?

One of you, at least, will get a good laugh and I’m betting it’s not going to be you.

‘It’s good publicity for you,’ they say.
Yes indeed it is — it’s excellent publicity
for somebody else to ask me to do something for free. Now, I love to help if I can, but if you do something for free every day, it’s a pretty short walk to the debt
management centre.
It’s even harder for me, as a vicar, to turn down performing for good causes. Jesus told the disciples not to carry purses or food but to rely on people’s hospitality. But I don’t think they were expected to drive to Swansea and back…

I expect most folk think that comedians ad-lib their sets and are just naturally funny but comedy is like sermon-writing and most vicars know what it’s like to stare at blank pieces of paper for days on end willing the Holy Spirit — or Michael McKintyre (depending on which day it is)— to share just a tad of his genius.

The comedian’s greatest fear is dying a terrible death on stage – though at least, as a vicar, I do get paid for burying them.