“You think I’m funny? Funny how?” That famous exchange between two gangsters in Goodfellas must have been going through Joe Fattorini’s mind as he was thrown into the deep end and asked to perform a turn as a stand-up comedian whilst filming for the new series of The Wine Show (Friday nights, Channel 5, 7pm). His biggest concern was that he could only make jokes about wine, which proved even harder than you might think…
Well could you do it? We might all be able to tell a funny story with our mates down the pub, but getting up in a room full of strangers in a far, foreign land and only be able to tell jokes about wine. A brave Joe Fattorini was up to the task…just.
I had a relation who died in a vineyard. He’d been hungry and started eating the fruit. In the end he ate so much it killed him. I’m writing a story about it. It’s called “The Wrath of Grapes”.
Okay, wine isn’t a natural partner to comedy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Or perhaps you saw me trying my hand at stand up at Hollywood last year (in the first episode of the new series of The Wine Show). In which case you’ll be sitting there saying “no, seriously, YOU shouldn’t try”. At least among the stars of stage and screen in North Hollywood I felt among friends as a wine merchant. I wasn’t the only one who woke up that morning wondering if that day I’d spit or swallow.
And there’s your problem straight away. There’s something about wine that seems to drag humour into the gutter. And I didn’t want that. I aspired higher. I wanted to root my jokes in truths about wine. To leave the audience with knowledge along with laughs. Being in the US I thought I could find something funny in the grape variety “Clinton”. I don’t know if you’ve tried it. It’s a hybrid, famous for its deeply-pigmented skin and rich colour. You have to be careful when you’re tasting it though, as Clinton can stain clothing.
A little bit of politics…
Politics is dangerous ground. Some in the audience didn’t like me making jokes about Donald Trump. But the week before the show, UK writer Douglas Blyde had organised a comparative tasting of Trump wines. Trump’s wines were voted in last place. It was the biggest electoral upset since… well, the last time Trump lost the popular vote. Which was the last time people voted. But all was not lost. Wine tasting is a complex thing. And wine competition organisers guard against bias. They use a special process. It’s too complex to explain really. And an American audience would find it baffling. But after all the votes had gone through the competition’s “Electoral College” it turns out that Donald Trump is the greatest winemaker of all time.
Not that Donald Trump would ever enjoy his own wines. Temperance organisations suffered a terrible blow in 2017. Donald Trump explained he’d become the man he is today by not drinking alcohol. Fortunately, other people in the public eye shared their love of wine. We learned that Sir Alex Ferguson and Meghan Markle have the same favourite wine, Tignanello. The Super-Tuscan red is noted for its refinement and complexity. But there was depressing coverage of the news. A subtle racism about people from particular ethnic backgrounds drinking fine wine. Meghan Markle was appalled. She said it was disgraceful to suggest you can’t enjoy fine wines just because you come from Glasgow.
We also heard more rumours that David Beckham was looking at buying a vineyard. There was a lot of interest in the sort of wine he enjoyed. Journalists asked if he went for something fruity and voluptuous. Or perhaps a more challenging style of wine. Something lean, with sour and wooden characteristics. Well, obviously yes, said David, that was what he normally had at home. But he loves something voluptuous when Victoria is staying at her mum’s.
In the end it’s hard to judge your own performance. But the compere on the night was there to give me a quick review. And “as a gift to stand-up comedy” he said “you make an excellent wine taster”.
- You can catch up with Joe Fattorini’s less stressful moments filming The Wine Show every Friday night at 7pm on Channel 5. You can also read his views on (wine) subjects he is more confident about at joefattorni.com and follow him on social media at @joefattorini.