I am comedian Kai Humphries. Each autumn I tour throughout the UK with my fellow stand-up and flatmate Daniel Sloss. This year we also roll out the tour to Europe for the first time, visiting 18 major cities over 21 dates. To amuse myself whilst we travel between cities (and whilst Daniel snores) I am keeping a journal of our adventures in the style of a scientific journal where my study subject is Daniel and my role as his support act is merely a disguise to cover up my true objective which is to psycho-analyse his behaviour.
Date: 14th November 2014
Subject: Daniel Sloss
I am up ahead of my subject as I have come to expect and picking at breakfast alone. We spent some time with a choice selection of Serbians last night, first we rubbed shoulders with audience members, then assembled with some charismatic individuals from Belgrade's branch of the comedy industry's global fraternity, who all instantly dispelled our unwarranted fears that every resident of the Balkans was a cold blooded psychopath that would garrotte you from behind with a length of piano wire for no other reason than because. Quite the contrary, humble and charming are my choice of many complimentary adjectives I could use to describe their manner. Oh and alcoholic. But that, as I've learnt, is the common denominator across the entirety of Europe. I think, as a continent, we simply consider getting obliterated as a pleasurable way of paying our taxes.
My subject dragged his heels and his luggage into the lobby, loaded both his luggage and his heels into the car and continued his sleep as our happy chaperone, Mario, put the car into gear. The scheduled five hour journey across two boarders to Slovenia got off to an exciting start as a police car overtook us and skidded sideways to block the road that we were next in line to turn onto. An officer abruptly exited the vehicle blowing his whistle like he was trying to get the pea out of the thing, while flailing wild windmilling circles with his upper limbs, seemingly to indicate that we were going any way except that way. Mario kept smiling and puttered on, Daniel has no idea it happened. I watched in the rear view mirror as the authority figure sent all the blood in his body towards his hands in a ridiculously unnecessary centrifuge, simply pointing would have had the same desired effect on the flow of traffic.
Mario cheerfully points out some derelict farms either side of the road that haven't yet been declared secure from explosives set to control territory during the war. Daniel sleeps peacefully as we pass through the mine fields.
I have just received a translation from Mario of a recent radio transmission that made the public announcement about police sealing off a road in Belgrade city centre because an elderly male ex-military with a political agenda was stood outside a government building with an explosive device and a projectile weapon. Mario informed me that the particular road was the one we were about to utilise before the flamboyant limb slinger refused us admission for a front row seat at the terrorist's tea party. Daniel sleeps through the explanation of the event he slept through.
I've made two solid observations about Daniel in my time in the field, and that is he sleeps an awful lot and seldom eats food. I think there is a direct correlation between these two operational traits. I suppose if you don't fuel your car it will inevitably spend the majority of its time without the engine running.
We have arrived in Ljubljana, a title that reads more like a WiFi password than a place name, after an eight hour sleep in the Belgrade hotel and a five hour sleep in the car Daniel has found it necessary to retire to his quarters for a nap and recharge for the gig. After opening his eyes briefly to assess the unsightly buildings wearing their ugly vandalism with no shame, my subject has concluded he is only willing to leave the hotel to uphold his contractual obligation.
The graffiti in these eastern countries is appalling, it's uninspired, uncreative... In fact, put an 'un' at the beginning of any word you might use to describe art and save me continuing the list. There is no artistic expression present at all, just inconsistent hurried fonts without any respect for colouring within the lines. These lethartists (I've had to create my own antonym for artist) are too lazy to even find something to stand on so only the first six feet of every building is tarnished with dross like a harbour wall on low tide.
Our prematurely conceived appraisal of Ljubljana has been swept ashamedly aside, we owe Slovenia an apology. Even Daniel, who once his opinion is made, sticks with that opinion like it's his religion and he's devoutly pious, he wears his opinions exceedingly outwardly expecting the world to conform to his views, yet even still, admitted for the first time in his 24 year devotion to his own immovable views, that he was wrong.
And how could you not? As we stepped out of the 200 meter side street from our accommodation into the secluded, uncontaminated, dimly lit, symmetrical central hub of the city, I've never seen a more poignantly beautiful sight. With the back drop of a medieval fortress casting it's spell from afar, the eerie ambiance of an accordion player who has been haunting the district with his perpetual melody for thousands of years amplified the quiet. As an elegantly dressed lady walked with a purpose, the laughter of a child echoed from a far away place, the wind whispered silently in tongues and a ball bounced independently, seemingly out of nowhere... The ghostly charm of the atmosphere was so evocative that Daniel put his iPhone in his pocket and asked "Are we dead?"
Daniel is responding to the flattery of selling out a venue in a town he hasn't heard of and can't pronounce, by putting his heart into this performance. He seems to spend all of the hours he should have been awake in one condensed waking hour while he is on stage.
We walked down a trendy and affluent riverside that was reminiscent of the hipster coffee culture in Melbourne with additional art installations of stone dragons and a beheaded, disembowelled granite ghoul that gave the area it's own fictitious flavour.
Outside one bar the mystique was shattered by a fracas breaking out between a group of youths as we passed by them, the fight was short lived and nobody got hurt as the situation resolved itself and returned to order, an incident I believe is a misrepresentation of Ljubljana's class that I won't allow to cloud my judgement in the same way the woeful graffiti in the suburbs did.