Joel in One

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April 10th, 2009

A few minutes ago, I started to write this column. It was going to be about one of my favourite comedians, Adam Bloom, who will headline The Comedy Bunker this Thursday night. I was about fifty words in when the phone rang.

“Hello Mr Sanders,” said the voice, “I was calling to ask if anyone has ever had a shortfall on an endowment mortgage.”
“Millions of people,” I replied, “Don’t you watch the news.”

I hate telemarketers. Last year, I registered my telephone number to be removed from all telemarketing databases. It didn’t work.

Usually, I interrupt and say, “Can I have your home number? I’ll call you back later.”
After an awkward pause, I’m generally told, “My home number is private.”
“This number is private too,” I say, “It hasn’t stopped you from calling me though, has it?”

It’s at this point that the phone goes dead and I’m left to wallow in regret over another lost opportunity to replace my windows.

It’s a shame those calls don’t start with, “This call may be recorded for training purposes.” They could release the highlights on CD, albeit with a ‘Parental Guidance – Explicit Lyrics’ sticker. Telemarketing could become the new rap.

The worst telemarketing moments occur when picking up the receiver triggers a recorded message. How can anyone be expected to vent their frustration at a recording? The telemarketers are cheating. It was the same when speed cameras replaced real police officers.

I called Adam Bloom to seek his opinion. He was on another call… buying some new windows.

Adam Bloom will be appearing at The Comedy Bunker on Thursday, November 24th. Chris Lynam – well known for inserting a firework into his posterior and lighting it – will also be on the show. No-one will be phoning to persuade you to buy a ticket. If you’d like to come along though, the doors open at 8.15 pm.

Customer Feedback

April 10th, 2009

This month, my local branch of Barclays placed a ‘customer feedback’ book on the shelf beside the queue. Whilst standing in line this morning, I glanced through them for the first time. Within seconds, I was hooked. I thought about taking the book home but, technically, that would have been bank robbery. Instead, I sat down at the ‘personal banker’ desk and, under the pretence of writing my own lengthy comment, I copied down my favourites.

Many of the comments were sarcastic. Sentences like, ‘This is the best bank I have ever seen in my life,’ and ‘How does Barclays manage to recruit and retain such gifted staff?’ were common place.

As I turned through the pages, the occasional corker jumped from the page:

‘When I opened my account, I was given a £15 HMV voucher. I would have preferred a large sack and a balaclava. I would also like to see the cash point machine lowered by 3 feet. It’s currently too high for ram raiding.’

Others bordered on the surreal:
‘The chain attached to this pen is too sh …..’

Underneath it read, ‘The pen attached to this chain is too sh…. arp. I’m bleeding!’

One customer had written, ‘There’s 12 of us standing here. You need more staff or – more customer feedback books.’

These comments illustrate one of my favourite things about the British public – the contempt that many of us share for the patronising techniques used by large corporations to keep their staff in check.

The final comment read as follows:
‘Attach a pair of pink ears and a curly tail on the roof. Then you’ll be the world’s largest piggy bank.’

Odd Couples

April 10th, 2009

A few local high street buildings house two separate shops behind one front door. Sketchleys and Super Snaps is the most obvious example that springs to mind.

This is common practice in America. Several years ago, I went into a shop in Florida called ‘Super Jewels.’ They sold jewellery …. and soup. The soups were freshly made and were located in the back of the shop. At the front, was the jewellery. This arrangement probably made for a more attractive window display. The owners correctly summised that no-one would be lured in for diamonds on account of a Scotch Broth display.

Shoppers are often manipulated into making impulse purchases. That’s why supermarkets place confectionary beside the checkout. Presumably, the manager of Super Jewels had a similar idea – the customer arrives for a bowl of Minestrone but – on the way out – can’t resist picking up a ten grand Rolex.

‘Super Jewels’ is the most unlikely pairing of shopping concepts I have ever seen. In fact it’s hard to imagine a less likely business partnership – a pet cemetery and a kebab shop; a blood test clinic and Jehovah’s Witness Church; an off licence and petrol station; cigars and health food; Barclays Bank and ‘Barry’s Balaclavas.’ Actually, that wasn’t so hard.

This is my last column for a while. I’m being flown to South America this Saturday to perform on a cruise ship and I’m not yet sure when I’ll be back. I’ve just found out that 90% of the passengers will be Spanish-speakers. This doesn’t bode well for the longevity of my trip. I could be back by Monday.

I’ve enjoyed writing these columns for the past year. If you’ve enjoyed reading them, they’re all online at

As for the Comedy Bunker, despite my fears that I would have to close it, a couple of friends have offered to keep it alive whilst I’m away (I’ll be watering their plants next time they go on holiday). I’ve booked some top notch Wednesday night shows starting from January 11th. Initially, the shows will take place every fortnight. Full information at

Oil Refinery

April 10th, 2009

At 6.00 am on Saturday, I was woken up by a loud bang inside my flat. Initially, I thought it was a thunder bolt but when I realised that (a) It wasn’t raining and (b) If there had been a thunder storm, it would be taking place outside, I guessed a shelf had fallen down. I checked though my property.

I froze when I entered the bathroom. The wooden lid leading to the loft was dislodged. For this to happen naturally, would defy the laws of gravity. I must have an intruder, I thought.

The loft entrance is directly above my toilet so I lowered the seat, stood on it and armed myself with a can of fake-mace (Gillette ‘Arctic Ice’ antiperspirant deodorant). I took a deep breath, pushed up the wooden lid and, unaware that it was facing the wrong way, activated the nozzle. The shock of spraying myself in the face at short range nearly knocked me off the toilet. I composed myself, took another deep breath, stuck my head through the opening and switched on the light. Nothing! I was pumped though. If there had been a burglar, no matter how sweaty he was under his hooded cat suit, I’d have turned him into the most distinctive smelling criminal since Jack the Kipper.

It then occurred to me that the intruder might already be inside. The noise could easily have been caused when the lid slammed down as he lowered himself out of the loft.

I climbed off the toilet, closed the loft properly, upgraded my weapon to a loofa with a wooden handle and checked all my rooms and cupboards. A face full of deodorant was was too good for this scumbag. If he was in my flat, I was definitely going to exfoliate him. I looked out of each window, expecting to see a ladder against the wall. There wasn’t one. However, all was not calm. The alarm at the shop across the street had been activated. Further up the street, a car alarm was also screaming for attention.

Obviously, whoever had tried to break into my flat had tried his luck elsewhere too.

I called the police.

After forty minutes, they answered and – having had plenty of time to let my imagination run riot – I said, ‘I’m not sure whether I need you or an exorcist.’

‘Before I’d qualified my statement, she said, ‘There’s been an explosion at an oil refinery in Hemel Hempstead.’

My response didn’t come out as I’d intended.

“Thank God for that,” I said, “I thought I was being burgled.”

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