Room for a Laugh: Perils of engagement parties

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The world of Tom Taylor of Harrogate’s Sitting Room comedy club and finalist in Nando’s New Comedian Of The Year 2014 at Edinburgh Fringe

I attended my first ever engagement party on Saturday. I did not know these things existed. Having now experienced one I have decided they are paradoxically born out of a patience to wait three years between enquiry and completion and an impatience at not receiving any presents.

I asked Yahoo Answers whether I should bring a gift to an engagement party but Yahoo Answers offered up conflicting advice as Yahoo Answers so often does. In truth, answers are secondary to more questions.

Sometimes the question is simply, how has this person been allowed access to the internet? Or, if I Google that word, will something abominable appear on my screen? Never Yahoo Answer ‘the word’ as you’ll just spiral deeper into the pit of confusion and end up through the looking glass.

One of the related questions to my query about engagement party gifts was:

Nobody even knows if cows actually exist?

Think about it, cows could just be like holograms that use nuclear energy to run and like milk is like the waste created using nuclear energy and that is why some people are lactose intolerant like their bodies are smart enough to realize that it is nuclear waste.

As someone who is lactose intolerant, I found his theory compelling.

Distractions aside, I read all the party-related comments and decided to bring along a (posh) box of chocolates which I would keep in the large, chocolate box sized inside pocket of my overcoat. From this concealed position of strength I could make a calculated decision upon entering the engagement party arena as to whether to offer the gift or not.

If there were no gifts on show, the box could remain hidden and the contents enthusiastically devoured on the train home. If there was a groaning Gift Table with accompanying signage such as ‘Gift Table’ or ‘Please leave your gifts here’ or ‘Include your bank details, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on the form provided’ then I would make a great show of adding my luxury chocolates (bought to my tastes) to the table whilst taking care to place them in a location that made them childishly easy to covertly slip back into my coat pocket as I took my leave.

I think the main thrust of engagement parties is for future wedding guests to mingle and get to know one another pre big day.

Predictably, I only talked to existing friends and acquaintances, occasionally breaking out to ask a waiter whether there were any hoisin duck canapés left and looking crestfallen when he said there were none. Instead I had to make do with cheese balls and a side order of radiation poisoning.

Whilst in the process of trying to dilute my nuclear cheese with some sparkling elderflower drink (and, in hindsight, who knows what sort of explosive reaction such a volatile liquid could cause when mixed with dairy products) the lights dimmed and the female engagee’s mother stood barefoot on a large footstool in front of the open fireplace and thanked us all for coming.

I recognised this thank you as a traditional speech opening. However, the “this is their decision, the decision to spend the rest of their lives together, the decision to sacrifice their lives unto one another in front of this roaring fire” seemed foreboding. I may have made up the sacrifice bit but the mood of the room – dark, fire, worn footstool that looked like an alter, 60 people holding wooden spears now free from pineapple chunks and tiny sausages – suggested sacrifice.

Indeed, the speech ended not with any hips, hoorays or raised glasses but with 60 monotone voices slowly chanting, after the example of our leader: “Karen and Dom, Dom and Karen.” Yahoo Answers prepared me for none of this.

Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, November 12 with the BAFTA award-winning Jim Tavaré plus Irish legend Ian Coppinger, BBC New Comedy Award finalist Tez Ilyas and English Comedian of the Year finalist Scott Bennett. Tickets are available at www.sittingroomcomedy.com.

Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.