Dream Gig: Alasdair Beckett-King

Stellar stand-up and online sensation Alasdair Beckett-King takes us to England's Home of Mystery for this month's Dream Gig column

Feature by Alasdair Beckett-King | 10 May 2023
  • Dream Gig: Alasdair Beckett-King

My best-ever gig was my first-ever gig. Frankly, it has been downhill since then. 

OK, I’m exaggerating. I have got a lot better at comedy over the years. The audiences have got a bit bigger and I have more than four jokes now (I have five). Nevertheless, the experience of writing comedy for the first time and having people actually laugh at it was unbeatable. 

The gig was an open mic night in a pub, which is where most comedians start out. The world of comedy is so glamorous. Most gigs are one bad week away from being replaced with a meat raffle. I had written a five-minute set inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses

In retrospect, it doesn’t sound that funny.

I always wanted to do comedy. When I was 11, I told my dad I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. He implied, with his expression and demeanour, that he didn’t think I would be very funny. He also said that he didn’t think I would be very funny. And, to be fair, he was right. I was 11. Nothing funny had ever happened to me. I’d never eaten airline food. Self-service checkouts were yet to be invented.

So I forgot about my dream until many years later. It was Christmastime. I was staying in my parents’ house, lying awake in bed at night, unable to sleep. I had a sort of eureka moment. I realised I could take a series of short anecdotes about odd real-life encounters and string them together as if they all occurred to me on one long journey home. 

Yes, I hear you cry, a bit like James Joyce’s Ulysses

To my surprise – probably to your surprise – people genuinely laughed. It certainly wasn’t my most polished performance, but my first gig remains my favourite.

My dream gig would be a different matter altogether. Come with me, dear reader, to the Egyptian Hall: England’s Home of Mystery. 

The Egyptian Hall could hardly have been less Egyptian. It was built in London’s Piccadilly in 1812. It hosted the arcane mysteries of the magician Maskelyne, the talking automaton of the enigmatic Professor Faber, and all manner of artistic and scientific wonders. It was a place where spiritualists and anti-spiritualists battled it out to see who could be most annoying.

I’ve dreamed of visiting the Egyptian Hall since I was a kid, from the moment I saw an old drawing of its Egyptian revival façade. But I can’t, because they knocked it down for flats in 1905. Here’s the proof.

Naturally, the compère for my dream gig would be Kermit the Frog. Mr the Frog is a gifted host and impresario, and he’s very good at thinking on his feet. (Or whatever he has down there.)

For the opener, I would choose one of the funniest double-acts of all time: Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Screwball comedy movies like Bringing up Baby (1938) asked just one question: what if extremely beautiful people shouted at each other and climbed in and out of windows? The answer is: comedy gold.

I would go on in the middle, because there’s a lot less pressure there, and you can eat some chips in the second interval. But before that, I would have Margaret Thatcher doing an unpaid ten.

Back in 2013, the Telegraph theatre critic Dominic Cavendish revealed that he thought of Thatcher as “Britain’s first major female stand-up comedian”. Proof of that, too. The headline of the piece has since been changed to something marginally less embarrassing. Still, its craven, cringing stupidity has haunted me for a decade.

We will never know if Thatcher would have made a good comic. She very sadly died in 2013 instead of much earlier. But in my dream gig, I would get her on for the try-out spot and give her a chance to die one more time.

Finally: the headliner. This is an easy choice. It would have to be Roland the Farter, a 12th-century jester. Roland’s act was 'one jump, one whistle and one fart'. And he must have been something special. He farted during the reign of Henry II and we are still talking about it today. To me, that is talent. I’d like to see Thatcher try it.

Alasdair Beckett-King: The Interdimensional ABK, The Stand Edinburgh, 17 May and The Stand Glasgow, 18 May, 8.30pm, £15
Follow Alasdair on Twitter @MisterABK and on Instagram @itsmisterabk