Imagine if you knew the exact moment of your death. Down to your final day or even, perhaps, hour. How would that affect how you live your life? Would you compile a bucket list and get round to doing all those things you've always put off? Or would you sit around in your pants crying and eating jumbo packets of crisps?
Gregory Akerman has always worked better with a deadline hanging over him. So he wondered if life could replicate work and sought to find out when he would die. He accepted that initially he'd be shocked but thought, if the date wasn't too soon, he'd get over that and start to work both better and smarter.
It was another evening for me in the company of the London Fortean Society. In the past I'd attended, and enjoyed, talks about the concept of life after death and the architecture and myths surrounding Nicholas Hawksmoor in Conway Hall on Red Lion Square. This time, however, both the venue and the nature of the event had altered.
The more 'intimate' setting was upstairs in The Bell pub in Whitechapel and the event was to be of a comedic nature. When I found this out I nearly dropped out. It's really not a very edifying experience to watch a comedian die on their arse. It's painful for everyone there. But I trusted the Forteans and perusal of Akerman's website in which he described himself as "amateurish, tedious, pretentious' suggested he may have enough self-awareness to make the evening worthwhile.
He certainly did. It became clear early on he was going to talk for quite a long time which, initially, made me apprehensive. His school of documentary comedy doesn't rely on laughs every couple of seconds but, instead, slow builds and has to retain your interest during the less amusing anecdotes. You have to be good to pull it off and luckily Gregory was.
His comic timing was excellent and he came equipped with neat turns of phrase that would often wrongfoot you if you tried to second guess him. In his (SPOILER ALERT) ultimately doomed attempt to find out the date of his death he contacted about 75 psychics as, clearly, they're the ones who'd know.
Roughly half of them admitted they didn't know. The others claimed they did indeed know when he was going to die but it would be a moral dereliction of duty for them to divulge that information. How they decide that that's where you draw the line in the sand is clearly up for debate as it seems rather arbitrary.
He came into the orbit of psychics who claimed they could guarantee 100% to cure ALL illnesses. As an aside if you ever receive one of these leaflets do pass them over to the Advertising Standards Authority. These people are preying on the weak and vulnerable. They're criminals and should be treated as such.
A lot of the psychics didn't seem to like each other very much and even though a huge number of them signed off their correspondence 'love and sparkles' there clearly seems to be something a dark empty void where a heart should beat in the emotional centre of these people.
Gregory didn't really let rip into them. He was, obviously, playing it for laughs - of which he got plenty. Humorous asides included anecdotes, either true or not, about utilising his brother's depression for his own benefit in affairs of the heart, public defecation, and the history of cave paintings. Religion received a coruscating critique which, despite playing to a crowd who were already largely on message, he managed to keep on the right side of ranting.
Like the rest of the evening it was funny, thought-provoking, informed, and well structured. During a Q&A session after his set Gregory gave every impression that he'd happily chat all night. He'd probably be an interesting guy to do this with but, firstly, try to get to one of his shows. You won't regret it.