End of March 2019 and I was waiting nervously in the reception area of P&O headquarters in Southampton, wondering if the others present were there for the same reason as me – auditioning to be a cruise ship lecturer with either them, or Cunard. It had taken quite a lot to arrive at this stage, form filling as well as having a tape made of me on stage. I was the only one not speaking about their favourite topic, themselves. I had a series of talks prepared about the best comedians the UK has ever known, my twenty minute segment was to be about Tommy Cooper.
There were ten of us in the first floor room, facing the podium, with two rows of tables and seats behind us for the bookers to come and go as they wanted without us being too closely aware. Some speakers were of more interest to Cunard, for example, they preferred doctors, specialists, famous people, or a topic that required a title of Professor. This was out of my league, I instinctively knew that P&O were would be more interested, which is how it transpired.
There were three photographers present, one who had published a glossy book about his time with the Beatles in London in the 1960s, another who specialised in celebrities, and a third who was wildlife, full of his ability, telling anyone who would listen that he earned so much he didn’t need to cruise for little reward. There was one ex-army man, he had been actively involved in the 1980s Iranian Embassy siege, but I couldn’t comprehend how he could get a series of talks out of his subject. Two, three at most, and his topic was exhausted. He would have been wiser to extend to other areas of army activities.
One interesting lady was a foodie, inheriting an 1850s recipe book from her Indian ancestor. She was building a nice little career on the back of this.
There were three ex-police officers, one with a provincial force’s child abuse unit. I couldn’t see how he could possibly appeal to a cruise ship audience. Another had been with Scotland Yard’s forensic department, lots of potential. The most interesting one to me was the lady who verified quiz answers for tv shows.
I had decided that I wasn’t going to talk about myself, but the greatest comedians the UK has ever known. As there were only twenty minutes, followed by ten for Q and A, it had to be an entertaining Tommy Cooper sketch. I spoke about his career, social background, very funny anecdotes, lots of slides, and ended up singing his greatest hit from 1960 which made number 40 in the charts ‘Don’t Jump Off the Roof, Dad, You’ll Make a Hole in the Yard.’ No-one else sang, there was a spontaneous round of applause (no, you cynics, not sympathy), and within three days I had received two contracts to speak on upcoming cruises.
It would be intriguing to know how successful the others had been, but you just don’t find these things out. Future articles will cover the cruises themselves, so watch out for my travel experiences.