Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Stand up comedians face extinction

Stand up comedians are in danger of over-mining their material. There can only be a finite number whose routines see them as geeks at school; suffering embarrassing parents; then later becoming hopeless lovers and cynical observers of life. Their success is the antithesis of their material and ultimately this shallowness will undermine their careers.
Some seams are already exhausted. Few laughs in commercial quantities are to be had from sexual positions, erections (or failure to achieve same), periods, sanitary towels or any other formerly taboo subjects.
The frequent use of the f- and c- words is in itself no alternative for humour. Mocking Stephen Hawking is not an effective alternative to actual wit.
Stand ups are swarming over media outlets – comedy clubs, television, DVDs, and the internet. They hi-jacked the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where I was last week.
Only a cull of the weaker members of the species can save the better ones from being swept to extinction with the mundane.
Stand up comedians should learn the lesson of fish farming. Once wild salmon was rare and valued. Now it is available everywhere, unloved and tasteless, full of additives and the same unnaturally pink colour as some fresh-faced comedians.
The UK is at war and our soldiers are dying every day; disaffected youth are killing each other at home; we have a Coalition government, which no one voted for; and the country is facing savage cuts to its public services.
It is an insult to audiences – if they but knew it – for stand ups to continue to seek the lowest common denominator with which to entertain them. Too much is little higher than the equivalent poo and fart jokes of the playground.
This is not a plea for more political humour but more intelligence. In Shakespeare the fool is the character with the clearest vision of the truth; today insight is abandoned in favour of the easy laugh.

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