So Much Space with Greg Fleet
As best I can tell, I should be able to send two more messages back to earth before the ship drifts out beyond what you know as the universe and communication becomes impossible.
Here is the first...
Never, even as a child, had I desired to go into space. It just kind of happened... I’d answered an advertisement that I saw in the newspaper.
Comedians willing to travel
Well payed gigs for the adventurous funny person.
They had me at ‘Wanted’. Like any performer, I’m a sucker for being desired.
At my first meeting with Star 3000, a polite young woman called Sophie in serious business attire told me that the gigs would involve ‘quite a bit’ of travel and number 7 in total. I told her that I’d worked in Edinburgh, London, New York, Amsterdam etc. and I enjoyed travelling for shows.
“Yes, we have your CV here. It’s impressive. You seem to have been all over the country and the world, but lately things seem to have…..quietened down for you….” She was right. In the early years I'd been considered the enfant terrible of the comedy world, I'd been everyone’s favourite, but more recently some of my ‘hobbies’ had got out of hand. The smell of burning bridges was still fresh in my nostrils and I was hoping she hadn’t picked up on it’s scent.
“I’ve been writing a novel. It’s almost finished” I lied.
“Well you’ll have time to get it done on this trip!” She smiled.
“Great” I replied, wanting to change the subject before she asked me what my incredibly fictitious work of fiction was called. “As you can see, I’ve done comedy all over the world. The air miles never bother me..”
“Yes, well this trip is further away than anywhere you’ve been so far” I quickly tried to work out what lay on the exact opposite side of the globe to Melbourne. I took a geographically naive stab.
“What, are the gigs in Alaska?” I joked.
“No” she replied, deadpan. “Quite a bit further than that”
“Um…Mongolia?” I was terrible at general knowledge but I was going to keep guessing until I got it right.
“Think less about longitude and more about altitude. Think higher”
“Ah! Ok! I’ve got it. I’m going to the Himalayas! The gigs are at the base camp on Mt Everest!”
“Higher still”. Higher than base camp? The only thing higher than...
“Are you suggesting that I’ll be doing gigs on the summit of Everest? That sounds a bit dangerous….and who will the audience be? A couple of sherpas and some rich guy from New Zealand…?” She just looked at me. It was definitely time for a joke. I thought of a zinger. “Anyway, a gig on Everest would lack ‘atmosphere’?…..am I right?” If I’d been wearing a tie, I would have loosened it at that point.
"They had me at ‘Wanted’. Like any performer, I’m a sucker for being desired."
Sophie may have worked for Star 3000 but I was starting to think that she might not be a ‘comedy person’. She then put her cards on the table. (Not literally as there was no table and as far I could tell she wasn’t holding any cards).
“Let me put it like this, you would get a lot of frequent flyer points”
“How many points?” I asked...
“Roughly one billion….the gigs are all in outer space... look, if you don’t want to do them that’s fine. They pay more than you have ever earned, but we understand that money isn’t everything…..If you want the gigs, they are yours, but if not we have other comics coming in. Lawrence Mooney, Aaron Gocs, Judith Lucy…..”
“I’ll take them” I blurted out. One Billion Frequent Flyer points was enough to get to Sydney and back, but more importantly, I wasn’t about to let Mooney, Gocs, or Lucy take my sweet space gigs. I signed the contract there and then.
"She then put her cards on the table. (Not literally as there was no table and as far I could tell she wasn’t holding any cards)."
Sophie was clearly bright but she was starting to make no sense. Who the hell told her that money wasn’t everything? was she from outer space? Sophie told me that my first two gigs would be on the international space station, I would be performing to the crew of 12. As the crew was made up of Russian, American, Indian and French nationals a computer would translate my material so that everyone would understand it.
“Hang on” I said “A computer? Will it be able to handle the nuances of my gear? I do some ironic Pauline Hanson stuff, I wouldn’t want anyone to…..”
“Greg. You will be on a space station working to astronauts who have been stuck there for a year. They're so desperate for entertainment that you could do mime and still have a great gig”.
“No. Mime is never funny” She replied, revealing an until then hidden knowledge of the comedic arts. "And even if you managed to do the impossible by making mime funny, pretending to be trapped in a glass box would only serve to remind the crew of their situation and make them hyper aware of the isolation and existential malaise that one often experiences in the eternal dark that is deep space”.
“Right”, I joked “...Like working in Port Headland”
“Yes” she replied “But less shit.”
"I wasn’t about to let Mooney, Gocs, or Lucy take my sweet space gigs. I signed the contract there and then."
I assumed that there would be some training involved. I’d seen documentaries and dramas about space travel. I assumed I would be strapped into one of those gravity hoop things that I’d seen people riding at Movie World. (I’d never actually been on or in one because I was usually too busy buying Fairy Floss, but my friend Malcolm Hill assured me that Jimmy Rogers had ‘spewed’ after going on one at the Geelong Show). I also assumed that at some point I would be lowered into a swimming pool while wearing an overly elaborate space suit. From what I’d seen in “The Right Stuff”, the vastness of space and the deep end of a 25 metre pool were pretty much the same thing. ‘No Running. No Horseplay. No Heavy Petting’. Two days before I was to lift off from Earth (on the somewhat underwhelmingly named) space shuttle ‘The Horsham’, I asked Sophie when my training would commence.
“Look Greg, we're running very short on time, so we might skip the training…..” Skip the training? This didn’t sound good. I became the spokesman for common sense.
“Listen, Sophie, I’m not trying to get all Neil Armstrong on you, but isn’t some kind of…simulator… sort of…. important?”
She smiled and said; “Have you ever been to the Melbourne show?”
“Yes” I replied.
“Have you ever jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool?”
“Well then, you should be fine” She actually used the word ‘should’.
Two days later, wearing a white space suit (that Sophie assured me did not make me look fat) I was strapped into a seat on top of 40,000 litres of high octane jet fuel next to a Texan named Wayne ‘Smokestacks’ Jackson, my pilot. He was about my age with an easy demeanour that implied “Relax, I've done this a whole bunch of times”. It also helped that he actually said to me; “Relax, I’ve done this a whole bunch of times”.
As the ignition began and a low rumble started behind and underneath us, ‘Smokestacks lifted the visor on his helmet, which seemed a trifle cavalier, and gestured for me to do the same and I did. He then produced a half bottle of Jack Daniels from next to his seat, took a hefty swig and passed it to me. I took a big gulp and handed it back.
As we lowered our visors and the low rumble grew louder I shouted; “Is that wise? Belting back bourbon on the launch pad?” Smokestacks gave a reassuring chuckle.
“Well buddy, I’m pretty sure there are no booze busses where we’re going….anyway, like the man said, it ain’t rocket science”.
Just then the loudest noise I’d ever heard went off all around us, and like that, we went hurtling into space…..
Thats all that the satellite can relay right now. My second, and last transmission will follow shortly.
Greg Fleet is a comedian, seek out his rambles here.
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