May 26, 2003
Late Night Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair is a popular draw each year at the Hay festival. This year he is on stage so often the first weekend that we might call it the Hitchens weekend.

Hitchens is a great wit, intellectual, English Ameriphile, curmudgeon, raconteur. He is an old socialist who detests Bill Clinton and support George Bush from the left. He is a great supporter of Gay rights, smokes Rothmans Blue and drinks Johnny Walker. His intellectual range runs from Orwell’s literature to wars in Bosnia and Iraq. Hitchens has written devastatingly critical books about Mother Teresa and Henry Kissenger. (He was asked to testify before the Vatican against the impending sainthood of the former).

Yesterday began with an interview with the great historian and writer Eric Hobsbawm (The Age of Extremes and the Age of Empire) and closed the day with a session called “Late Night Hitch”. In between there were debates about the Iraq war and American Imperialism.

Let’s focus on the comedy. It was a very good idea to give Hitchens a stage and a mike (and a drink and a pack of Rothmans) and let him loose like an unguided scud on topics near and dear to him. He began by telling a couple of jokes – unoriginal and silly and a little vapid. We laughed a little. More and better were to come, but not jokes. Hitchens is very well read as they say. He knows his Waugh from his Wilde and he is not afraid to use it. He is a master of the dirty limerick it seems.

There was a young man from Nantucket, whose cock was so long he could suck it. He said with a grin as he wiped off his chin, if my ear was a pussy I'd fuck it.

The final hour or so of Late Night Hitch was made up by a sort of Q and A from the audience. He was asked about “playing the clown” whereby he suggested that for all of us life ends badly, and that we have a duty to treat it with some contempt. “treat the frivolous very seriously”.

“May my friend and I buy you a drink after the show” from a girl in the audience.

“Yes” says Hitch

“What do you fear?” Ask the man in the back.

“Boredom” says Hitch. “Boredom and bores. It is rude to look over the shoulders of people at parties. Better to declare they are boring and get away”

Later from a flabbergasted girl in the third row: “You are the best thing about the Hay festival and I come every year and I love you mind, and I just want to thank you for being here and...”

“Angel” says Hitch looking a little longingly. He cancels his drink with the other two and carries on.

Hitch needs a drink. He is offered temporary water and promised that “the other stuff” is on the way.

Hitch is asked about his passionate writings on Gay rights and then asked if he has ever been tempted by a man. “More than tempted” he says. “Will you buy me a drink then” yells a man from the audience. “Buy you a drink? Now you see why I prefer women.”

Hitch is done. He is tired, but we want more and he leaves us with a few more limericks. As the lights come up in the venue and down on the stage, I see Hitch waving the girls up to the front. Time to avoid his greatest fear.

Posted by tstubbs at May 26, 2003 05:14 PM
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