by Paul McDonald
I can’t recall how it became so competitive, but it did, and, as always, it ended in tears. We were at a barbeque in a mate’s back garden and his daughter and mine began performing for us. I felt a bit sorry for his because she was out of her depth from the start, but they‘re both only six so it’s not that mine had an unfair advantage.
It began with gymnastics, his daughter turning some showy-offy cartwheels which were rather than less than mediocre. My daughter countered with a superbly executed forward somersault, incorporating two and a half twists, and landing in the splits. Then it was singing: his did a faltering and tuneless rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star;’ mine performed an aria from La traviata, followed by an agonisingly heartfelt ‘La Vie En Rose.’ In an effort not to alienate those who spoke neither Italian nor French, mine also offered a chirpy rearrangement of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi.’
Then it was stand-up comedy, and this is where my daughter really excels. His told a joke about a one-legged bunny rabbit, but her timing was lamentable, and her imagery lacklustre; mine offered an astute, contemporary reworking of Lenny Bruce’s ‘To Come is a Verb’ routine, punctuated with improvised audience interaction. She took it to the level of meta-comedy, offering self-reflexive commentary on the various strata of irony, generating hilarity among the comedy aficionados present. Then, in an ending that was positively postmodern, she deconstructed the whole concept of performance by wetting herself, and insisting on being carried in my arms for the rest of the evening whilst sobbing on my shoulder. Her finale was way too subtle for him and his daughter, of course, who interpreted it as victory, rather than as a joke, the multi-layered complexity of which even I don’t understand.
Paul McDonald is an academic, novelist and poet. He lives in Walsall.