Beggar

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Hugh is a beggar. Tatty beard, old raincoat - pretty sordid. He has a small cloth cap on the ground and is playing the mouth organ. Stephen, dressed like a plutocrat, passes near him. He stops in amazement and stares at Hugh. Hugh starts to get rather discomfited by this.

Stephen What on earth are you doing? What on earth are you doing?

Hugh What do you mean?

Stephen What is that cloth cap there for?

Hugh Well it's for the money.

Stephen Money? What money? I mean, what are you doing?

Hugh I'm busking, aren't I?

Stephen Busking? Busking? You're busking? What do you mean you're busking?

Hugh I play the mouth organ and people give me money.

Stephen Money? They give you money? For playing the mouth organ? People give you money for playing like that? They actually give you money? They pay you?

Hugh Some people do. No harm in that.

Stephen No harm in that? No harm in that he says. People are prepared to give you money for standing on a pavement and blowing through spittle? It's unbelievable.

Hugh Look if you don't like it, you don't have to listen or give me anything.

Stephen Don't like it? How could I like it? It's revolting. It's the most disgusting and pathetic noise I've ever heard. And people give you money for it?

Hugh Well it's kindness as well, isn't it? They're just being kind.

Stephen Just being kind? But surely if they were just being kind they'd put a bullet through your head, wouldn't they? That's what I'd call being kind. Put you out of your misery.

Hugh I'm not that miserable. I quite enjoy it. People are nice to me.

Stephen Not miserable? Not miserable? How can you be not miserable, look at you, your clothes are in rags, you smell disgusting, how can you be anything other than miserable?

Hugh You're very insulting, you know.

Stephen Yes of course I know. Do you think I wasn't aware of the fact? Of course I'm insulting. I'm very insulting indeed, especially to smelly, squalid poor people who play the harmonica badly.

Hugh We share the same planet, why can't you let me be?

Stephen Share the same planet? What are you saying, "share the same planet"? The planet I inhabit is full of restaurants, fast cars, high level finance, holidays in Barbados and fine wine. Your planet is full of bottles of meths, howling harmonicas, smelliness and grimy doss-houses. It's not the same planet at all. How dare you suggest that it's the same planet?

Hugh You may not think they're the same planet but they are. You couldn't have one without the other.

Stephen What are you talking about couldn't have one without the other? What are you talking about? Are you saying I depend on you?

Hugh Course you do. All your wealth is entirely propped up on the rotting hulk of my poverty - and one day it will give way and you'll come crashing down with it.

Stephen Rotting hulk? Have you gone mad? Is this communist talk? Are you a communist? Do you want me to call a policeman?

Hugh It's not a crime to be a communist. Anyway I'm not.

Stephen Not a crime? Not a crime? Have you gone howling mad, not a crime. This is 1988, of course it's a crime. Communists are the enemy of democracy, they are criminals.

Hugh Well what's so good about democracy?

Stephen What's so good about democracy? What's so good about democracy he asks? It's freedom of speech and thought and belief, that's what's so good about it, you degraded heap of smelliness. Now get out of my way before I set fire to you. Get a job, clean yourself up. It's demeaning to have a pile of litter playing the harmonica at one. Stephen turns and moves off.

Hugh (Behind him, removing beard) Wait!

Stephen Wait? Wait for what?

Hugh (Pointing straight into the camera) You see that?

Stephen What? See what? What have you done with your beard, what is the matter with you? Have you gone mad? See what?

Hugh (Laughing) You don't recognise me, do you?

Stephen Recognise you? No I don't recognise you. Of course I don't recognise you, why should I?

Hugh Do you ever watch a television programme called "On The Streets With Bibby"?

Stephen "On The Streets With Bibby"? Oh, the one with the hidden camera, you mean? (Suddenly terrified) My God, you're not Robert Bibby are you?

Hugh (Sinking down back onto the street) No, but I might have been.

Vox Pop

Stephen Until you've been there, you don't really have any idea what it's like - I shouldn't think. I'm not sure, I've never been there.

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