I left school in 2005 with a grand total of 3 GCSEs, my just desserts for a decade of messing about, trying to make others laugh.
We were always told, “As long as you get 5 A* - C grades, you’ll be able to get on any college course you like”. The thing was, I didn’t want to get on a college course. Education really wasn’t my cup of tea. I wasn’t one of those pupils you see on Channel 4 documentaries who hit teachers or anything like that, I was the one acting daft or just staring out of windows, easily distracted.
I began working full-time as a chef the day after my last exam and kept it up for a few years in various places. It was always a good laugh working in kitchens and I feel like I really put my GCSE in food technology to good use, but I couldn’t really see myself doing it forever. There was no long-term plan, I was just wandering from job to job, meeting new people, messing about and making lasagne.
I sat at home one night, watching a new comedy drama series called Sorted. It was about a group of postmen who seemed to go in work, have loads of banter, go and deliver a few letters and then go to the pub. Bingo, that was the job for me.
I applied for a job at Warrington Delivery Office and didn’t get it. I was absolutely gutted. The dream was over before it began. Then a week after the crushing news, I received a phone call offering me a permanent position at Farnworth Delivery Office. I accepted instantly, then asked my dad where Farnworth was (luckily it was a borough of Bolton about 25 minutes from my house, but it could have been literally anywhere. I was still taking it).
The job was brilliant, it was quite similar to the TV series. Lots of funny people and brilliant banter. I noticed the rounds are a lot smaller on TV shows. I went in expecting a bag of letters to be a day’s work, like in Sorted but instead it was eight massive bags and a 10 mile walk every day. But still, that’ll teach me for watching a sitcom as if it was a recruitment video.
I ended up delivering to the infamous “Phoenix Club” (it’s actually called St Gregory’s) from Peter Kay’s sitcom, Phoenix Nights. This was like a claim to fame. I loved Phoenix Nights and now I was delivering to the actual Phoenix Club. I dined out on that story for years, showing people pictures of it on my phone at every opportunity.
In 2012 whilst on holiday with my girlfriend, I found a book in the hotel reception. Frankie Boyle’s – My Shit Life So Far. I’m not much of a reader but I managed to finish it in three days. Absolutely brilliant. I had always loved all types of comedy but I had absolutely no idea how to be a comedian. I remember reading this book and thinking, “He is just a normal bloke who is funny. Anyone can have a crack at this!”
I googled open mic nights as I lay on my sun lounger, thinking about what I would say to an audience. I returned from holiday and did my first gig three weeks later. I was instantly hooked. This was the best thing in the world and for the next five years, I gigged as often and in as many places as I could, up and down the country, alongside my job as a postman. I used all my annual leave to take my first, hour-long show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017.
After the Fringe I was lucky enough to be offered representation. I couldn’t believe my luck. This was the real deal and felt like a big step towards being a full-time comedian. I went to the London office, the walls covered with all the things they’ve produced for screen and stage. I spotted a plaque from Phoenix Nights and it was a crazy reminder of how much I was living the dream. 10 years ago, I was chuffed at delivering to that place on my post round. Now I’m sat in the offices of the people who made it, talking about my comedy career. Unbelievable.
Every job I had ever done, my only prerequisite was “will I be able to have a laugh at work?” and in January 2018 I quit my job as a postie after 10 years to have a laugh for work. My just desserts for over two decades of messing about, trying to make people laugh.
Chris Washington is performing You Beauty! at Pleasance Courtyard (Upstairs) from 1st August – 26th August, 20:30, www.pleasance.co.uk