Tats Entertainment

Stephen Grant explains how to embrace the younger generation without trying to be one

I’m a circuit comedian. If you’re not sure what that means, basically my living is made from going to comedy clubs where customers can see 3 or 4 acts on the same night. The next step up from that is being a touring comedian, where your fame/notoriety allows you to perform on your own (or with a support act) to ‘fans’ in larger venues doing an hour or more a night.

The jobs are surprisingly similar, but one of the biggest differences between being a circuit and a touring comedian (apart from the wild leap in income) is that in my world, our audiences don’t get older.

Obviously I don’t mean they literally don’t advance in years – I’m a jester, not a magician from Laboratoire Garnier – but that the demographic of those people who fancy a night out of drinks, food, and giggles, tends to be static.

We don’t have fans who age alongside us, and that means we have to make sure the jokes are still relevant from when I started (23, excitable, liked partying, dating, being an idiot) to now (41, sarcastic, hates partying, settled, still an idiot).

So for that reason I try to make sure I’m immersed in a culture now an entire generation before mine. I eat Wagamama (and try not to roll my eyes when they can’t bring the plates out simultaneously). I listen to Waze & Odyssey vs R. Kelly and realise it’s the Nightcrawlers with ‘Push The Feeling On’ (and not, as it appears, a lawsuit). And I watch Geordie Shore (and love it).

This, I believe, is acceptable behaviour. It’s about understanding; I’m not trying to be young. The grey area comes in how I dress. My wardrobe is still a maelstrom of T-shirts, jeans, and trainers, most of it coming from shops like Desigual who are way too brightly coloured for a man of my years.

If you’re over 35 and want to know if your clothes are too young for you, there’s a simple test. Pick up the catalogue. Are the models in mid-air, dancing, or smiling like a kids TV presenter? Yes? Then head to BHS for that emergency cardigan. And slap yourself en route.

But a gap has finally opened up that I can’t bridge; and that is the current fashion for tattoos. Body ink is no longer the exclusive territory of prisoners, bikers and sailors; it’s de-rigeur amongst hairdressers, careworkers, chefs and shopkeepers.

The Daily Mail recently screamed how a schoolteacher was covered in tattoos, asking, “do we want our teachers like this?” I’d argue I want my teachers to be good at teaching. In fact, if she had course notes tattooed to her face, you could almost consider her a study aid.

Here’s my position. I can only enjoy tattoos – on other people. I’d love to embrace this fashion for tattoos myself, but that’s the problem – it’s a fashion. And fashions, by nature, come and go. I cannot think of a single design that I’d tell you all, hand on heart, would still look good on me in 40 years.

[one_half]For the same reason I wouldn’t glue a tie to my neck or rivet a hat to my head, I’d have to say no. Imagine you could never move from a house you could only decorate in such a way that it could never be decorated again (like Artex, but worse). Be honest, you’d go plain. Which is why, if I was forced to have a tattoo, I’d insist on a small sentence at the foot of my back, carrying the words, “This Space Left Intentionally Blank”.