At approximately 11.30pm on Sunday the 29th of August I took to the stage with my amazing sign interpreter Catherine King for what was meant to be an hour long auction for the Sick Kids.
At approximately 1.40am we left the stage, along with Jason Byrne, John Bishop, Kevin Bridges and Mark Watson, after one of the most fun gigs I have ever experienced.
If you recall, a stuffed toy called Honker was given to me on opening night by an audience member as a gift for my baby daughter. I instead used Honker as the mascot of my show as he raised money for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s support charity The Sick Kids Foundation.
A Just Giving page had been set up, as well as a facebook page and a twitter site, and Irn Bru had donated five taxis to be auctioned off. I had done my best to get some famous Scots to sign the taxis, and organised an extra show with all ticket sales going to The Sick Kids. I asked Jason Byrne to co-host the show with me, and asked a few comedic friends to act as auctioneers. All we had to do was auction off five miniature taxis. It seemed so simple.
Then the show started.
Within the first five minutes Jason had made Catherine sign the phrase “out of their bananas”, then accidentally signed the c-word back to her. Kevin Bridges came to the stage and auctioned off his own signed taxi, raising 105 pounds in the process. It was at this point I realised it was already 12.10am and we still had four more taxis to go.
Jason spotted our very good mate John Bishop in the hallway who came to the stage and helped us auction off a taxi signed by Steven Moffat – the writer of the current series of Dr Who – which raised another 140 quid.
Mark Watson dropped in and attempted to surpass Bishop’s total by auctioning off the taxis signed by Ian Rankin, and did so by five pounds.
In order to hurry things up a little I took the reins for the Biffy Clyro taxi which bumped the total up by another 130 quid. Although Jason did slow things down a little with his interpretive dance to Biffy Clyro’s “Mountains”.
And then there was one. A single taxi left, for which I had garnered no signatures. I suggested that perhaps the last taxi should be signed by John Bishop, Jason Byrne and myself (which we did) and the bidding began.
As the bids reached 200 pounds Jason put Honker down his pants, only to reveal that he was in fact wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear. Jason, not Honker.
A bid was then made for 250 pounds for both Honker and Jason’s underwear. To the strains of The Stripper, Jason half hid himself behind a curtain and removed the undies.
As Jason returned to the stage with his underwear on a stick a woman yelled “I’ll pay 300 if Jason doesn’t throw in the underwear”. Brilliant.
With the bid sitting at 300 pounds, John Bishop leant forward and whispered “I’ll pay a thousand”
When I asked if he was serious he replied “I want to put it in me office. I wanna remember this night”
Going once. Going twice. Sold for a thousand pounds to the supremely talented and genuinely lovely Scouser.
Jason’s underpants were then auctioned off for a further 40 quid.
A quick estimate revealed that the ticket sales, auction bids and Just Giving donations meant we had reached around 6800 pounds. I offered to take it up to 7000 myself, and Jason chipped in with the offer that between us we would take it to 7500.
And so the audience, venue staff and assorted performers danced our way out of the venue, more than two hours after we began.
Enormous thanks go to my mate Jason Byrne for joining me on stage in a state of exhaustion having already performed in Leeds and Reading this weekend. Also to the amazing John Bishop who not only dropped in unannounced, but made a generous and touching bid.
Big ups to the awesome and lovely Catherine King who not only signed for two hours, but also interpreted for every person on stage – a task that is not only arduous but possibly illegal.
Mark Watson not only auctioned, but donated all proceeds of his post-show book sales, and Kevin Bridges was a champ for fitting us in between countless gigs.
Huge thanks go to the peeps that signed the taxis – Ian Rankin, Biffy Clyro, Steven Moffat and of course Kevin – between them all we raised around 500 pounds.
I must give out massive props to the staff of Assembly Hall for letting us bang on for so long, especially Rockey and Pete, as well as Verity and Rick from Off The Kerb who facilitated the whole thing.
Finally to those involved in Honker’s life – Polli the official photographer, Tom who set up the Just Giving site, Daniel who set up the facebook page, Lenny who took Honker out for photos, the peeps that took Honker to the Irn Bru factory, and of course Irn Bru for donating the taxis.
Thanks to all those that donated, and for those of you that still want to donate – we are going to keep the Just Giving page operating for another month. You can donate by clicking here donate
Finally a big thank you to the lady that brought Honker to me in the first place. Without you, none of this would have happened.
I tossed and turned deciding what should happen to Honker at the end of all this. Should I use him for further campaigns? Should I take him home to my baby daughter? Should I donate him to the Sick Kids?
These questions were running through my head the following day as I arrived at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children the next day to hand over the cheque for a photo shoot.
The lovely Maureen from the Sick Kids was there, as was a journo, a photographer and a young man by the name of Alex. Alex was thirteen, in a wheelchair, had scars across his head from what I assume was some sort of brain surgery, and shook my hand with his left hand as his right was out of use.
As the photographer asked us to pose for a shot in which I pushed Alex along the road in the chair, Alex told me that a few days earlier the nurses had been pushing him along the Royal Mile when one of the wheels of the chair fell off and he was left stranded in the street.
“Yeah, it’s funny now” he added.
We took a few photos of me behind the chair leaping into the air, while Alex held Honker on his lap. As we kept chatting afterwards I noticed how fondly Alex held Honker, gently and almost absentmindedly stroking him as they both gazed off into the distance.
The nurses reminded Alex that Honker was mine and he dutifully returned him, but as he was wheeled off down the street I asked Maureen if she thought Alex might like to take care of Honker for me. She suggested that Alex would probably love that.
I chased Alex down the street and asked if he would like to keep Honker. The look on his face told me it was the right thing to do, and the perfect way for Honker’s journey to end. I squeezed Honker’s little hand, shook Alex’s left hand, and tried very hard not to cry whilst saying goodbye to a stuffed toy.
So not only did Honker raise over 7500 pounds for the Sick Kids (which will go to funding brain scan equipment from which Alex will benefit) but he also managed to bring a smile to a thirteen year old boy’s face.
Later that night it was suggested to me that perhaps Honker’s Auction should become an annual event, hosted every year by Jason and myself. It’s too early to confirm that just yet, but I quite like the idea. A lot.
For now though, I will leave you with the last image I have of Honker, sitting in Alex’s lap, and moving on to a better life.
Thanks for reading these blogs, for supporting the Sick Kids, and for joining in the fun.
As Honker himself would say; “Honk”