Good morning. My name is Barry Harris and now, at the grand old age of 75, I am retired. I have had a long and chequered career. I began life would you believe as a butcher's assistant, and my main job was carrying animal carcasses, cleaning up all the equipment, running errands and making sure that all the floors and work surfaces were spick and span. I'd been there a year before they even let me use a knife to cut meat, and another six months before I was allowed to use a chopper!
This was not such a bad idea. I was the third person that David, the butcher, had taken on as an assistant. The first one had not lasted very long; he was pretty squeamish and since it was necessary to go to the abattoir regularly he watched a couple of lambs being slaughtered. It put him off meat for life!
The second one though, named Colin, had a much more gruesome experience. Although he was just 16 years of age Colin was a big lad used and to get served quite regularly in the local pubs at night. One Sunday he spent the whole day on the booze; and whether or not this affected him on the Monday morning is debatable. The fact is that he went to chop off a leg of lamb and took off his left index finger at the same time.
The compensation culture hadn't kicked in in those days. There was no point trying to stitch it back on again either. It was put down to his own fault for being so careless and he left the job the next day.
I then had a complete change of career. I worked as an assistant at our local theatre; as a big lad I came in handy on the odd occasions when some of the local boys got a little too boisterous! This meant I was mixing with a lot of show business people and one particular one who really affected me was a stand-up comedian called John Stiles. John was never lost for words! I was pretty good at picking things up quickly though and when I'd listen to his same repertoire five nights a week for a week or two I could just about repeat every single one of his jokes verbatim.
Neither of us is realised how important this would turn out to be. One Saturday night we had a full house; and John developed laryngitis and couldn't talk.
I took to the floor very nervously; I had never spoken in public before. Many of the audience had seen John perform before and didn't seem particularly happy that I'd gone on in his place; but all that changed after I'd launched into my patter. I soon had them rolling in the aisles; and I found that instead of being terrified by being in front of so many people, I actually loved it. A new career was born for me.
In those days the club scene was very active. I was able to pop round to see a lot of the club owners; some of them were very shady characters; to introduce myself and ask for a spot. I became well-known very quickly and was able to make a reasonable living for the following couple of decades.
Being a stand-up comedian is a very lonely life. Many people think it is very glamorous but it isn't. I spent many a night on my own in a dingy, cheap hotel room, with nothing to do all day except practice my material. The chance came to study accountancy, and I was fortunate enough to be offered a job by a local company who were prepared to let me learn on the job.
I now spend my time doing a little writing; I would love to write a book and make a fortune from it and perhaps I will one day