May 23rd 2008, the O2 arena - formerly the Millennium Dome. I never go out that far east. Truth be told, I never really go out to events at all; not to concerts (last one I can remember was Kids From Fame in 1983), not to festivals (I went to the first Creamfields and lost my friends almost instantly, for 11 hours), not to anything remotely big, exciting, eventful.
Because I hate the hassle, the waiting, and the general public. (I do actually care for all humanity. I just don't want to queue for hours with a gang of chavs just so I can go to the toilet.)
But this was Chris Rock's first tour of the UK, and my mate Ed got me a ticket.
Ed used to do stand-up. Ed was also the last (and only) stand-up I ever saw live. The experience petrified me, more so than I think it did Ed. He was in an open mic competition that was also being televised, and when it was his turn to approach the stage, my heart was pounding. He was great. In fact, he won that evening's slot (but we missed his winning at the end as Large Northern Flatmate's feet were hurting so we had to leave for a nearby pub immediately after Ed finished his bit.)
I have a lot of admiration for anyone who can a) Write their own material and then b) Perform it verbatim to a large group of people. After all, following my Best Man's speech, I know how exhilarating and terrifying the experience can be.
And, following a one-and-a-half hour monologue from Rock to a sell-out 15,000 capacity auditorium, I was overawed. It's one thing to admire him on television, and another to see him in his actual environment, live, in front of an audience. And make that a huge audience. And enormous audience. A vast swathe of humanity audience.
As far as his performance went, it was flawless, apart from when he stumbled early on - beginning a piece on Hilary Clinton then suddenly going 'Ah, sorry.. sorry,' then correcting himself and continuing where he left of - unsurprisingly, they cut out these sparse errors from the DVDs - but after that, he didn't shut up; one continual, booming 90 minute monologue entirely from memory with absolutely no pauses, no drink of water, not even a quick mop of his brow.
As far as his set went, he covered his usual themes of politics, relationships, sex et al, with some beautifully observed pieces, to paraphrase;
'People are complaining about Barack Obama's former pastor, a 75-year-old black man, for being racist. How many 75-year-old black men do you know who don't hate white people? They lynched all his friends in 3rd grade.'
'There are only four black people where I live in Alpine, New Jersey. There's me. Another is Mary J. Blige, one of the greatest R&B singers of our generation. Then there's Jay Z, one of the greatest rappers of our time. And finally, there's Denzel Washington, one of the finest actors we've ever had. All of us are at the very top of our game. Do you know what my white neighbour does? He's a fucking dentist. Do you know what a black man has to do to become a succesful dentist? He has to invent teeth.'
There was so much more, of course, but I'm at pains to remember it all. I'm still not sure how he does it. But then again, as Chris Rock said, he has a career he loves. And people with careers should shut the fuck up, as most people have jobs. With careers, there's never enough time. '5.30? Dammit.' In a job, there's too much time. '9.15?? FUCK!'
All of which served to remind me that if anyone wants to be a success at anything, they have to stick at it ruthlessly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever.
And in other news, I texted my friend to see how the number gathering was going. That was two days ago. No reply.