The Comedy Whore
“When I see an overweight woman tuck a copy of a ‘women’s magazine’ under the pizzas in her shopping trolley, I wish there was a God…the God I wish for would put at least some of these things right.” — Marcus Brigstocke
In circles outside The Guardian columnists’ reunion which passes for humour these days, it’s common knowledge (and common is what they think we are) that comedy just isn’t funny anymore. It’s hard to find laughs (that aren’t echoes) in the luvvie cave of dictatorial, finger wagging bores who appear on each other’s conveyor belt shows reinventing Tommy Cooper’s ‘glass - bottle’ gag with ‘Trump — Brexit — Brexit — Trump’ (camera zooms in on horse-faced woman laughing to show she must be funny because she laughed at the man’s joke).
‘Brexit’ has now replaced ‘Katie Price’ as a punchline and it’s soooo lazy a punch would do them the world of good, might even force them to ‘Russell’ up some new material. It has become a meek, feel good, emoji driven cardigan beard Barclays Bank shit parade of lying, disingenuous career climbers. No madness, no calling, no genius. Just “Hey guys, just want to thank everyone who came to the gig which I’m really pleased with as 2 percent is going to the just giving page for sexually abused glove puppets and my grandad was a sexually abused glove puppet. Feeling blessed xxx”
When alternative comedy pushed Bernard Manning off his perch and drained the swamp of guaranteed laughs at funny accents and tits, something strange happened. The more some topics became completely taboo, the darker the jokes about rape/paedophillia and the disabled became, especially at the end of the 90s/early 2000s and in-fact, in some places, up until around 2014. I find it ‘funny’ that this was about the time that these ‘men’ reached middle-age and fatherhood. And it’s in middle-age they’ve reached a new zenith of pomposity, swapping rape jokes for chummy charity child talk with other boring, born-again busybodies.
They tweet each other about ’trolls’, are either posh as a mouthful of marbles or dine out on their parents (sometimes Grandparents!) working class credentials as proof that they are down to earth just like us. We’re all on the same side, laughing at the real knobbers like Jacob Rees-Mogg (even if they were a home-schooled hippy or went straight from art school to the Edinburgh Festival at 20).
Oh, and don’t worry, if they did ever work a whole week at a call centre or café, it’ll be dragged out on a panel show for their colleagues to sit aghast at their crazy anecdote-filled tales from civilian life. It’s important to know that down-to-earth and worldly-wise is how they see themselves, because that’s why they think they’re such an authority on more issues than The Watchtower, they think joking about being in a ‘metropolitan bubble’ cancels it out. It doesn’t by the way.
They also function as the gate-keeper’s gate-keeper. ‘Of course there’s diversity in comedy, Johnny Vegas (art school) is here on the panel with his funny accent!’ And Caitlin Moran’s just popped out for CHEESE and we all know how much CHEESE she ate as a teen and her university educated parents once bought a second-hand washing machine. This wouldn’t matter except her whole FUCKING SCHTICK is about being WORKING CLASS. When? You didn’t even have to go to bloody school because “a girl didn’t like you” You’re a hippy not a worker. Opposites!
Katherine Ryan said in her ‘act’ that all three of Jordan’s children ‘came out of a cunt’. Brilliant! Bravo you dwarf faced Botox brat.
Of course, everything The Pricey has done is misjudged and embarassing where as when Ms Ryan worked at ‘Hooters’ it was ‘empowering — as a woman’. What’s saucy for the goose is goosey for the gander. This is the kind of girl who at school uses the word ‘cunt’ and slags off other girls as ‘tarts’ and ‘slags’ to impress the ‘clever’ boys (who secretly really fancy the ‘slags’)
It’s the same snobbery which brands burlesque classy and Spearmint Rhino dirty. A wank is a wank, spray tan or fat goth in a nightie.
And what else are these soulless grinning saps up to when they’re not haunting prime time like stinky aunties and uncles who won’t fuck off even though Christmas is over (the decorations are rotten and there are maggots in the custard, and everyone’s dead)? They try to ban the same free speech which allowed them to rise to fame in the first place. ‘That was different, we didn’t hurt anyone’ just like when their dads probably told them that Frank Sinatra was ‘proper music’.
They are gutless cowards pulling up the drawbridge because they can’t face the fact they are old and their rebellion isn’t rebellious. They’re not Ben Elton on Wogan having a go at Benny Hill at just the right time — but they’ve been trying to drag out the same feeling for 20 years. It’s an ugly inanimate Frankenstein’s monster we know is dead no matter how you try to make it look like it’s dancing. They remind me of gangs of girls at school, there’s always betas — the ones who stand at the side goading and cheering on the alpha’s bullying but shift shaky allegiances when they get a shank in the flank, moving on to another leader. The leader in this case being whatever this year’s fashionable ‘cause’ is. Four legs good, Three Girls bad. YOUR SILENCE IS DEAFENING You fucking disgraces.
Their social commentary comes across like a bank advertisement’s idea of ‘cool’ which never moves beyond 1989. It’s all graffiti and high fives and “Fuck off Donald Trump you nazi!” I don’t think I really like Donald Trump either, but I’d have liked a bit of breathing space to decide for myself. The disingenuous nature of the endless dissent is apparent in the lack of actual, individual points of contention, it’s all rather vague. He’s orange, he’s stupid, and…he’s orange!
Ironically, they are themselves like the troll asking ‘who’s trip trapping over my bridge’ since their early 2000s jokes about paedos and spazzies and periods and rape. They’ve reverted to type — on Twitter day and night. Personally, I’m glad Spike Milligan didn’t end up hashtagging #mentalhealthawarenessweek. But that’s just me. He may have been a bit ‘difficult’ but would you rather be told you’re a ‘moron’ by a wristband wearing Question Time regular trying to get the attention of the 18-year-old blue-haired Twitter follower or by Spike.
But don’t count on it lasting too long, comics are notoriously conviction-free hypocrites, jumping ship when the next one looks like it has a better bar and bigger cabaret crowd. The only two names who spoke up on behalf of Count Dankula (the YouTuber taken to court over a joke) were David Baddiel and Ricky Gervais (update – Baddiel predictably reversed his stance in a wishy washy mumbling, fence straddling cop out) and it’s important to remember that this is still brave at the moment, the others will have been watching from behind the net curtains counting the change in their pockets, weighing the risk.
I didn’t like the ‘joke’ much because I don’t really like animals doing ‘tricks’ but it’s not the point. These tired old Emperors of Twitter pick and choose their fights. The causes they choose are how they compensate for their past of ‘ironic’ sexism/racism which, if judged by their own standards today would be ‘called out’ in a heartbeat. The laziness and out-of-touch bubble they live in is the only comical thing about them, of course they don’t think they’re ‘in a bubble’, which is kind of the defining feature of being in a bubble…
I have a nasty feeling they’ll crawl out of their safe spaces when the pay-off outnumbers the fear, but also when it’s no longer interesting or uncomfortable. This year at the Edinburgh fringe, the stairs were apparently packed with queues to see ‘right-wing’ comedy and all (most) of these people really want is approval, feedback and applause and it’ll be soon no doubt. An article about free speech here, support of a demonetised YouTuber there. It’ll lose all its danger which makes this moment in time really quite exciting – If frustrating for artists with genuine conviction.
Russell Brand’s recent interviews with Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson where he flailed around like a spoiled six-year-old being indulged by tolerant grow-ups, was a grotesquery almost too sad to mock as the drama-school-cheeky act painfully grates against middle age and psychobabble hypocrisy. He is becoming his own picture in the attic. ‘Yeh but (state person’s full name) are we all just figments of our own imagination wot has been projected into our own reality like glistening jewels dancing upon a very beautiful lake? Lets not argue, you’re a very handsome man’ — fix with the smile which was almost enigmatic at 25 but is now slipping into that of a mentally unstable aunty after asking for the 58th time “Am I pretty?”
And when it comes — the switch — it will be with the same fervent smugness which embodies them now. It’s not to say people can’t change their minds — it’s just fun — if you find tragic inevitabilities fun, to watch how the minds change depending on how comfortable the land becomes, and they really don’t deserve to ride back in on the ideas being built by people who’ve been ostracized and isolated and treated disgustingly for the worst reasons. Band-wagoning, cheap-seat-pleasing laziness.
By then it will be stale and corporatised, corrupt and wearing a cardigan and anyone with a drop of rebellious spirit might have to find another song to sing.
As Malcolm Mclaren said “Suddenly you’ve become a novel idea and you’ve got people wanting to join in.” It may even be time to resurrect Ben Elton. “Little bit of identity politics”