When the seekers take over the asylum

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The Independent Online

All this week I am bringing you a different story to cut out and take away on holiday with you. Today's is a heart-warming multiracial tale.

"Who's next?" said the very famous comedy agent into his phone.

The very famous comedy agent had once been a very bad, penniless comic called Ben Trovato. Now, however, he was a very good and prosperous comedy agent called Harry Leslie. Isn't it funny how life turns out?

"Next we have four guys named..." said the phone.

"The Four Asylum-Seekers," said a voice.

Harry looked up.

Four men had just entered the room. Normally he threw out people who entered without his say-so, but the name intrigued him.

"The Four Asylum-Seekers?" he said. "I don't get it. Are you a singing group? Do you dance? Or do funny things with feathers? And which one do I talk to?"

"My name is Ali," said a young man, stepping forward. "I am from Syria. I am the leader. Unless, of course, someone else takes over."

"Me for instance," said another young man, stepping forward. "My name is Asiq. I am now the leader of this group. You see, we understand your British democracy already."

"And we have only been in your country 24 hours!" said the third. "See how fast we learn, squire!"

"And what is your act?"

"We are a quadruple comic act," said Ali, "following in the footsteps of The League of Gentlemen. And the Goodness Gracious Me team. And Beyond the Fringe..."

"So what kind of comedy do you do?" said Harry.

"We do dangerous comedy," said Ali leaning forward, his eye glittering slightly. "We are bringing asylum-seekers into the mainstream. Sooner or later all victims become mainstream operators. Jews were once made fun of and are now establishment figures. There was the Irish joke, and then Irish comedians took over. Asians were made fun of till Goodness Gracious Me. So who are most made fun of today?"

Harry felt he ought to say "asylum-seekers", so he said it.

"Exactly," said the last man in the group. "I am Eli," he explained.

"Are you the leader as well?", said Harry.

"No," said Eli. "I am Bosnian. But that does not matter. We are in fact controlled by faceless Albanian gangsters. Like all the best asylum-seekers. They take 20 per cent of everything we earn. So we thought we would get an agent. At 10 per cent, it would be a lot cheaper!"

"We first met in Sangatte camp," said Ali," and we discovered we had all been trained in physical disciplines, so we put the act together there and then."

"What act?" said Harry.

"Watch this," said Ali. "Hup!"

On the command, all four of them sprang together, locked limbs and turned into a small cube.

"This is how we hide in the boot of a car," said a face in the cube. "But if we have to lie flat on top of a train..."

They sprang apart and reformed as a flat blanket.

"We have travelled thousands of miles standing in lorries," said one of them.

They rose and stood one behind the other so you could only see the front one.

"We deserve British citizenship," said another," because as we have come across half the known world crammed into lorries in danger of dying, we are now completely prepared to travel on your London Underground trains."

"Ah, the Underground!" cried another.

And they went into a very funny mime routine involving busking, pickpocketing, and giving up your seat for a lady, which ended with all four of them dancing forward and crying in perfect unison: "Please mind the gap!"

"You are very funny and very clever," said Harry, without a vestige of a smile. "I also think you are a brilliant new trend. But I have one question to ask. Are you in fact genuine asylum-seekers?"

"No," said Ali. "We are in fact a cabaret quartet called Knickerbocker Glory, whom you auditioned last week and turned down. We are now a new group with a new, breakthrough act."

"So you are English?"

"We are."

"Thank goodness for that," said Harry. "For a moment I thought I was hiring four foreigners."