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April 17, 2011 / tietze

Edgar Walters Stands Up, an Introduction

Coarse (and peculiar) language warning, probably.

Walk on to stage masked by a life-size cardboard cut-out of a vague human shape. On it is drawn – crudely, in black marker pen – little more than a stick figure with a bulbous head and a smiley face. When it’s at the mic stand, crouch behind it. Stay there for as long as an awkward laugh can be milked, then peer cautiously round the side.

Hullo!

Hide again. Allow another nervous chuckle to ripple through the audience space. Peer once more, studying the punters.

I suppose you look a trustworthy lot.

Inspect the lighting grid.

(playful) And the lights are way down low. (serious) Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to, umm… How shall I put it? To interfere with any of you. Sexually. Not unless you want me to. I wouldn’t mind, you know, I’ve held down stranger jobs. And stranger body parts. No, what I mean is, well…

Emerge from behind the cut-out.

You see, I’m not used to being seen. Not lately. But as the lighting seems to be at that special level that’s halfway between moody and date rape, I think we can talk. By which I mean that I’m going to talk and you’re going to be good enough not to throw rotten tomatoes at me and I’m going to get paid and then I’m going to leave and you’re going to go home tonight feeling startlingly bewildered and we’ll all forget this ever happened. Which will be awkward come tax time because I tend to forget all about these “I get paid” moments rather a lot.

Rest a hand on the cut-out. Let it collapse. Feign shock. Dust self off awkwardly. Fix cut-out so it’s standing again.

This fellow here, he’s my public face. Used to be my actual face too, until I underwent some phenomenally good plastic surgery. It was also phenomenally expensive, which probably explains why I never have anything to declare come tax time. I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve had the plastic surgery. I mean, incredibly handsome man that I was, and not at all resembling the artistic endeavours of a four-year-old, there would seem to be no conceivable reason why I should wish to stop looking like that. But there is, you know. A reason. A terrific one, so mindbogglingly spellbinding that you’ll wet yourselves both literally and figuratively at the brilliance of it.

(pregnant pause) Wish I could remember what it was. Anyway, it’s a very good likeness, don’t you think? The photographer really captured every ounce of detail. Just look at the torso – look at that musculature, the sinew, the tautness of the flesh. I bet I know what you’re saying – you’re saying, “There’s no way you ever had a six-pack that rock hard.” Well, the proof’s in the exact photographic reproduction before you tonight. Study it, ladies, and weep.

So I reached this point in my life where I realised I had to completely change my appearance. It wasn’t that I’d convinced myself I was just too handsome for any mortal woman to bear – no, I’d known that since I was six and a half. You might remember that day – it was the day all three Charlie’s Angels (plus the two backup ones) vowed eternal celibacy because they knew I’d be too much man for the five of them. It was the day ex-supermodel Christie Brinkley took one look at Billy Joel and said to herself, “I suppose he’ll have to do.” Because they knew I was off the cards. Because they knew that I knew that to fall in love with me meant…

No, wait a minute. I’m getting to the good bit now. And I’m not allowed to tell you the good bit. Top Secret Ultra Classified and all that, you see. And I don’t divulge classified secrets. Not allowed to. Last time I did that, I ended up looking like this. (Run hand past self.) And I’m sure you’ll agree, the world’s a much worse place now I’ve stopped looking like that. (Slap cut-out.)

This is the first time I’ve shown my new face in public, as it happens. Hmm… Actually, I should clarify. You see, when I say this is the first time I’ve shown my new face in public, that’s not entirely true. Some of it’s a lie. I won’t tell you which bit’s a lie, but I’ll tell you which bit’s true. The full stop at the end. But this face is not known for the frequency of its public appearances – it’s actually known for being an expert jet pilot – which is why I’ve been making an effort to hide it. But you seem to be nice people – except you three at the back. So that’s why you’re not all sitting there wondering why you’re being spoken to by a piece of cardboard.

Mind you, it’s pretty easy to go incognito when you’re standing under stage lights so weak you wonder if anyone’s bothered to pay the power bill. But I like that. It lends this little encounter of ours a delicate atmosphere, and it means that if you boo me off the stage I can leave the cardboard cut-out here and you probably won’t know the difference.

I did this whole plastic surgery thing because of my work. Before I walked up on this stage, before I took on the mantle of friendly storyteller, I did many and varied things with my life. I entered the building, said hello to a few people, shitted my guts out from nerves, got told by a very irate person to use the toilet next time instead of the bar, had myself escorted away by several very large police officers, persuaded a nearby taxi driver to pay my bail, rode back here on a stolen bicycle, got into a fight with the former owner of said bicycle – twelve years old and vicious, she was – then came on stage drunk. (Hiccup.)

Even prior to all that, I held down some very interesting jobs, at least one of which necessitated my change in appearance. I won’t say too much, except to mention the NATO invasion of Libya. Well, I say NATO, when really I should say (finger quotes) “NATO”. (Wink.) Hence the less than awe-inspiring “regular guy who couldn’t possibly topple a dictatorship single-handed before breakfast” look. (Sigh.)

I think a good way to cheer myself up would be to… hire a prostitute. I’m sure none of you would mind. I could bring her on stage and call it performance art. No? All right, then I suppose I can share some anecdotes about my past life.

Oh, before I do that, I should introduce myself properly. As you may have noticed if the show’s organisers have felt like actually writing it down anywhere, my name is General Sir Edgar Walters Jr., Esq., PhD. At least, that’s what it has been since the Kate Middleton unpleasantness. Now, there’s a funny story behind all the titles and other assorted bits that resemble neither a first name nor a last name. Yes, it’s a very funny story indeed.

Chuckle, then let it build to hysterics. Eventually double over. Then finally settle down.

Mm. Extremely funny. Extremely, extremely funny. And a bit upsetting. But you’ll have to read the tie-in paperback to learn the details. I’m not supposed to tell you myself, you see. It’ll be my penis or my third rib if I divulge. And Kate Middleton’s, probably.

I worked in Edinburgh when I first left the… No, let’s save that story for next time.

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