Jake Farrell: Gary the Rat Catcher didn’t hide his disdain for me

Fringe Debuts!

Welcome to our Fringe Debuts series, where comedians taking their first show to Edinburgh Fringe will give you a little taster of what to expect, an insight into their world, or really super weird musings on something equally bizarre — to be honest, we just let them run with it. If you’re readying yourself for a giant lol injection in August, now’s your chance to find something NEW to add to your list.

Jake Farrell is performing Sky, a show about moving back to his hometown of Stevenage during the second lockdown — but also, commitment, family and rats. Here he talks about being alpha’d by the Stevenage Rat Catcher.

On reflection we had to leave, regardless of what I know now about what came next. The people in the flat above us had builders in twelve hours a day, six days a week. After a month the landlord came down and told us that the builders had been cowboys, they’d fucked it and it was going to take another three months to fix.

Also having spent so much time at home, I had become super attenuated to the noise of the city. I became convinced that I was part of a small sect of people who could hear a low frequency hum that emanated from the centre of the earth. It’s fair to say things weren’t physically or psychologically ideal.

In this context, the Hertfordshire New Town of my youth morphed from a place that had in equal parts bored and repelled me as a child into a bucolic paradise and antidote to the alienation of the Post-Pandemic urban hell-scape. It had also not long got a Wagamamas.

The move home of course did not solve everything or maybe anything. After just weeks of living there even without the building noise and The Hum I had to confront the sobering reality that the problem wasn’t entirely without — not completely caused by doing prison-yard laps of Crystal Palace park or the faux ragged gastro pubs flogging scotch eggs for fifteen quid — but at least partially within my seemingly cursed bonce. Hertfordshire, it turned out, wasn’t utopia — it was just like London with less readily available high end pizza.

I’ll tell you one story that kind of typifies how the move home went and hopefully gives a flavour of the show.

About six weeks into living in the new house, I came down for breakfast to see a massive rat sat on our worktop drenched in sewer juice.

The Rat’s arrival was galling; for a rat to be living like a malignant, clandestine lodger in the house of a thwarted, neurotic person felt like a bit of an on-the-nose metaphor for internalised, festering rage from whichever hack writer was doing the script of my life that day.

I panicked. For about twenty minutes I sat in the hallway fruitlessly Googling “Stevenage Rat Catcher” — which wasn’t helpful as “rat catcher” is a job that only exists in fairy tales and hard bitten detective novels about turncoats in American police departments. When I came to my senses and remembered that the actual term is “Pest Controller”, I got through to Gary.

Gary expressed frustration that I was keen to get rid of the Rat there and then. He wondered if I might wait until tomorrow as he was just about to go bowling. He eventually arrived two hours later in a van that had a large cartoon rat on the side. He was wearing bowling shoes.

From the off he didn’t try to hide his disdain for me. He seemed to hold me in low regard because I wasn’t man enough to deal with my own rat problem. I hadn’t anticipated being judged by Gary like this given that his job was, quite literally, to catch rats for people unwilling or unable to do so themselves.

At one point he chuckled as he witnessed me pacing about running my hands through my hair. “You really don’t like rats do you?” said Gary. It was bizarre to get alpha’d like that. I’ve been on stag dos where people have made me down a pint or watched horror films where my flinching has led to snickering and lads saying “Are you scared?” but I’ve never been in an environment so toxically macho that someone has loudly exclaimed: “Hey fellas, this pussy ole’ is scared of rats!”

Jake Farrell: Sky runs from 3-28th Aug, 8:40pm, at the Pleasance. Tickets here

Jake is on Twitter and Instagram at @j_akefarrell


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