Illustration: Matt Davidson.

Illustration: Matt Davidson.

A FRIEND of mine runs a club in Smith Street, comedians go there and, assuring me I'm hilarious, he invited me to do a gig last Christmas. I went along and lasted less than five seconds.

I put on my best black jacket and did my hair and turned into a genius. The bar was full of clinically depressed social observers trying to digest stale cashews, which were dreadfully salty. I had a few routines worked out but wasn't sure they'd go over. I got excited and ended up clapping one of the drinkers for an outstanding joke he made. He looked at me funny. I was on.

It was not late when I was introduced as cutting edge but the old friend forgot my name, which didn't help. I did, too, but that's normal for me. I looked at the small crowd, who seemed deceased. The friend made a big thing of adjusting the microphone, and my feet ached. The atmospherics were the spirit of Christmas and it occurred to me to vomit.

I thought rapidly of my favourite comedians, such as Stan Laurel and Ted Baillieu, but my mind was becoming blank for some reason.

I wanted to be funny, there was the willingness to make strangers laugh and point at me, even in an accusatory way.

Anything to entertain fascists. I swallowed my mint and the spotlight came up on me. I adjusted to the ugliness of the audience in no time - they resembled hitmen. Judging by their tough look, it was going to be a close thing to make them urinate with mirth.

I could see undertakers walking by on Smith Street - looking for me, no doubt. The main group of patrons were guzzling scotch and appeared to be cutting up stubborn steak with white plastic cutlery. One man shielded his eyes from the bright spotlight, looking put out somewhat. I said: ''Great to be here!'' and that was it. The spotlight went out and for a second I was in a black Christmas. The man who'd looked put out came up to me and said: ''Do you mind? You're casting a shadow on my schnitzel!''

I lasted only a second and nobody clapped except a fellow funny man chewing a cashew at the crowded bar.

The barmaid, who was a former guy and had toiled in the brick-crushing industry, poured me a drink but I didn't need a single thing.

The friend said it was a pity my shadow got on the guy's meal but that's showbiz at Christmas time in Melbourne.

The cleaner sat next to me and said I was bad and I honestly thanked him. I caught the tram home and meditated upon what had gone wrong. The truth was, I wasn't funny.

At home I wrote several Christmas cards and licked the terribly expensive stamps and hit them onto envelopes. I sent a nice one to Santa; I don't know if he got it but I hope he did.

I decided to buy small bottles of Scotch and sticky tape a packet of Panadol around each and that would cover my Christmas presents.

For some unknown reason, I laughed at the folly of things at this tricky time of year. Perhaps I could have been funnier, perhaps I actually was hilarious but what is that?

You hear a lot about stream-of-consciousness satire but maybe it's best to have something planned?

There was no way I could prophesy my shadow getting on a guy's schnitzel the way it did.

He was understandably cross but look, I didn't mean for it to happen.

And it will never happen again, since I've abandoned my vision of being a great stand-up.