James Veitch: ‘Broken heart? Fix it like an iPhone’

Comedian asks: "Why can't I wrap my heart in rice?"

Comedian and former Genius Bar worker James Veitch
Genius idea James Veitch worked as a Genius Bar techie before turning to comedy.

When comedian James Veitch split up with his girlfriend, he took the logical approach.

Having worked as a Genius Bar technician at the Apple Store for four years, the Londoner decided to use the same techniques for fixing iPhones in trying to mend his relationship.

Veitch wrote the best-selling book Dot Con last year, about talking to the conmen behind e-mail scams and “having fun with them”. 

But his idea of wooing back his ex using troubleshooting techniques  didn’t go entirely to plan, as Veitch explains…

When I broke up with my ex, I Googled “How can I fix my relationship?” Google tries to anticipate what you’re trying to search, and the first Autofill was “How do I fix my life?” “How can I fix my relationship?” was third. But the second was “How do I fix my iPhone?”

That says a lot about the human condition, that the iPhone is second only to life. But then I realised “Hang on, I can actually fix an iPhone.” I got to thinking about the troubleshooting techniques that I learned at the Genius Bar and if they could apply to my relationship. And then I thought “Great, I’ve got an idea for a comedy show.”

“If you still hadn’t fixed someone’s Mac, it’s that awkward conversation: ‘I’m really sorry, but it’s time to ditch this one and get a new one.’ And that’s what she did.”

In Genius Bar training at Apple, you’re taught eight steps of troubleshooting to fix someone’s machine. So I opened my old Genius training manual, and it all seemed to apply. Some of it’s obvious, like Restore From Backup. All I had to do was to restore my relationship back to a time when it was good. Or trying to find a time when I knew it was good with her – Rebooting From A Known System.

At the end, if you’ve run that gamut of theory and you still hadn’t fixed someone’s Mac, it’s that awkward conversation with a customer: “I’m really sorry, but it’s time to ditch this one and get a new one.” And to be honest, that’s what she did.

Scamming the scammers James Veitch's Ted talk about having fun with e-mail conmen

I told my ex that I was doing the show, so that she wouldn’t see it and go “Er, this is awkward.” She hasn’t seen it yet. I suspect, sadly, that she treats the idea with the same indifference that she treated me. I had the idea when I began writing the show that she’d be “Oh James, I know we’ve split up, but now you’ve made this show for me, this is it. Let’s do it again.” Pathetic, but that’s what I hoped.

So did my plan work? It went about as well as you could imagine. I’ve asked a fundamental question – “Why can’t I wrap my heart in rice?” – and I’ve come away not with a girlfriend, but with a mediocre-to-good comedy show. That’s enough for the time being. The fact I’m a comedian should tell everyone how successful my love life is. If I was happy, I’d probably be a banker.

Dot Con author James Veitch
System error Veitch was unable to lure his ex back with his Genius Bar tactics.

It took a while for the show to come together. I didn’t want to be a comedian who whines about their ex, but that’s pretty much what happened at first. There were moments in preview shows where I was basically whining “Oh, she left me!” which is just boring in comedy. If you go too far, the audience simply feels sorry for you.

Instead, I got into the more fun side of break-ups. I emailed Nasa to say that I wanted to become an astronaut to impress a girl, even though there were a few forms to fill in. I wanted to prove that life had become too complicated without her, so I emailed Kinder Surprise to say their toy too is far too complex.

Some women have come to the show and thought “Oh, he could be great”, but then they come to their senses and think “Oh, but, just no…” I give out my Facebook, Twitter and phone number at the end of the show with the message “Tell your single friends.” You’d think that might help, but alas, nothing. This is where I need Loaded’s help. I need to go global.

“I emailed Nasa to say that I wanted to become an astronaut to impress a girl”

What I’ve learned from performing it is not to write a show after you’ve just broken up with someone, because it just prolongs the heartbreak and it won’t get her back. If anything, it’s just going to make her think you’re a bit weird.

I’ve also learned that the more existential side of life can’t be fixed with zeroes and ones. I had love, and that was OK. I’ve learned to relax and not to worry about trying to fix the whole world. But if there’s a problem with the home button on your iPhone, I could probably fix that.

James Veitch’s show Genius Bar is at London’s Soho Theatre on February 1-2. The 13-date tour of his book Dot Con runs from April 2-June 12. See Veitch’s website for full dates.

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