Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Aidan Goatley trained at Bournemouth University to work in Media. He has therefore spent most of his adult life working in retail. Here he regales us with the mind-numbing awfulness of corporate climbers.
Aidan has two shows at Edinburgh Fringe this year. His other piece, ‘Mr Blue Sky’, is the antithesis of this offering. It is an optimistic look at dealing with embarrassment. ‘Joys Of Retail’ is, on the other hand, the embarrassment of dealing with uncomfortable optimism.
The small performance space at Sweet Venues is full tonight. I heard one of the staff yell out ‘Can we get some more chairs into Aidan Goatley?’, which might have been better suited to a very late cabaret slot. There’s just a low table, a microphone, and a libation. Goatley bounds out full of happiness and enthusiasm. It seems to be his trademark. If you hit the ground running and get the audience to like you right away, you really have done most of the job.
Unlike ‘Mr Blue Sky’ this material is much more akin to regular stand-up and so using the microphone in such an enclosed space seems totally suitable. However, don’t take this as an indication that what he has to say is a series of untrue observations. This all happened to him and we want to hear it because it’s happened to a lot of us. To be honest, I think most people who have worked in retail could tell similar anecdotes to the ones he tells but he has that gift of delivery that raises the stories above the everyday.
There is great recognition when he talks about wearing a staff uniform and people ask if you work there, or someone coming into the shop, full of customers and staff, and asking ‘Are you open?’. We’ve all had it. I worked in a greetings card shop when I was a drama student and I remember someone coming in and asking if we sold light bulbs. These are the titbits that are dangled before us to reel us in so he can tell us about the more unpalatable and ridiculous moments in his pre-stand-up career.
Uniforms are generally designed to be as unattractive as possible. His employers have put him in various fashion disasters. He quickly rose (through self-confessed nepotism) to being the General Manager of a large garden centre with no experience, knowledge or interest. He confesses a point most of us know; middle-management side-step responsibility with anodyne comments (you can’t help thinking of Father Jack in ‘Father Ted’ being trained to say “That would be an ecumenical matter”). He spent his entire time there doing so. His attempts to implement some kind of staff safety were laughed off by his own bosses.
It was only a matter of time before he found himself in the corporate world in charge of a pet store in Sussex. He spoke candidly about how the top level of management were basically crooks who got there through exploiting the staff (this is not a political rant) and that most of his colleagues on the same level were the worst kind of sniveling toadies who would have been perfectly comfortable as grotesques in ‘The Office’.
To hear first-hand accounts of work conferences and staff reviews can almost bring you to the point of disgust with their pointlessness and deception. To hear about Katie Price buying a cat litter tray comes as light relief. To then hear about a conference fancy dress party makes you just want to punch the person responsible. His situations are funny but the manner in which companies are run makes the blood boil.
He got to be a DJ for a short time, but his dream job was ruined almost immediately by a new boss who told him what to play and what he’d say. He ended up at another garden centre. It’s clear his sense of humour and sarcasm were out of place there. Bosses took his irreverence literally and most of the staff didn’t understand it. It’s a perfect example of trying to keep everyone happy the best way you can and finding out you were on a different road from the outset.
He knows his material well and connects perfectly to his audience. The show speeds through with a coherent thread and comes from real experiences. There’s no fake scenarios or puns to be endured here.
In his own words, Aiden Goatley is a bit sweary, but nice.