ED2014 Columns ED2014 Comedy

Nick Hall: An anti-literacy campaign

By | Published on Friday 22 August 2014

After three weeks performing in a former children’s library, Nick Hall is launching an anti-literacy campaign.

Nick Hall

Ahead of his final show (go see it, 3.55pm on 23 Aug at George Next Door on George IV Bridge), Hall explains all in this here column. Though, alas, you’re going to have to do some reading to find out more.

I’m a simple man. If there’s a one thing I like in this world it’s making people laugh. But if there’s another thing I like in this world, it’s stopping children reading.

So when I heard that the venue for my 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show – at the George Next Door on George IV Bridge – was a former children’s library, I was over the moon. I punched the air in delight and screamed “That’s right – kick them out!”, to which a woman on the train shushed me.

I don’t know why I’ve always had such a problem with youngsters reading, but my psychologist suggests it might have something to do with the fact that I wet myself in a public library at the age of eight. Up until then I was a veracious reader and would absorb anything I could lay my hands on – Top Trumps, old copies of the Radio Times, even John Le Carre novels.

However, all that changed on 1st June 1990 (incidentally the day that ‘Dances With Wolves’ was released). I was absorbed in a particularly good Asterix book at my local library and failed to notice that the Ribena I had eagerly downed earlier was trying to Shawshank its way out of my bladder. An hour later I looked down at my shorts and only then discovered the escape.

The slow walk to the toilets that followed was the most embarrassing moment of my life. Everyone in the library stopped to point and laugh, even the old ladies who manned the VHS section. From that day on I’ve taken my frustrations out on books – knocking them out of people’s hands on the tube, setting fire to the British Library, and hurling online abuse at JK Rowling. Nowadays even going near a Waterstones can cause me to feel a warm patch in my trousers, even though there’s usually nothing there.

Besides, as we canter into the 21st Century, reading is becoming less and less important. What with MP3s, Mumford And Sons and Croatia entering the EU, no one really needs reading anymore. In fact I read an article recently that said reading would all be done by computers by the year 2025 and I very much believe that.

Now I know some of you are going to say, “Nick don’t we need to read in order to understand this article you’ve written?” Yes, I’m well aware of the irony, but just make this the last thing you ever read and you should be fine.

So if you like hilarious stand-up comedy for free come along to the George Next Door (Venue 430) at 3.55pm – you’ve one more chance to see it! But if you’re under the age of sixteen and want to boost your neurological ability, self-confidence, linguistic skills, oral communication, mental concentration, attention span, independence and social status I suggest you try a public library, because you won’t be getting that from me.

Just stay away from the Asterix books – they’re dangerously addictive.

‘Nick Hall: Helmet’ was performed at George Next Door at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

Photo: Ross Ferguson