"Jimmy Carr had to take Jim Davidson to task for stealing some of his material. Although, to be honest, if Jim Davidson can steal your material maybe it's time to think about writing something else. To be fair to Jimmy Carr, it was a kind of sexist bit that he'd written with a sense of irony that Jim Davidson was able to appropriate at face value. One of the kindest things you could say about Jim Davidson as a fellow comic is: he's not a performer who is troubled by the possibility of duality of meaning" - Stewart Lee
We're getting close to Edinburgh Fringe time and Paul Fleckney, editor of the fantastic comedy site London Is Funny, has set up Edinburgh Is Funny as a one stop port of call for all festival attendees in need of comedic guidance. Here's a small image I was commissioned to produce for the mini-site:
I sadly won't be able to attend the Fringe this year but based on the preview shows I've been seeing, there will be some absolutely outstanding sets.
Of course, most broadsheets and various other media will be trying to be your source of information about the festival throughout the summer, but I really would advise you to bookmark Edinburgh Is Funny over all of them. Believe me when I say that it isn't just because Paul is kind enough to commission me. Paul really knows his comedy and has been running London Is Funny for well over a year now. Besides being a great place for some genuinely well written comedy journalism, there's a wealth of great interviews and Josie Long is writing a fantastic column about charity shopping (which I talked about in an earlier blog entry) so you certainly won't be left wanting for interesting material and/or recommendations.
But also - you won't find anything like this pernicious and unhelpfully blinkered article by Brian Logan (published in The Guardian yesterday) which attempts to address the extremely complicated issue of the apparent rise of politically incorrect and offence-for-the-sake-of-offence comedy. There is certainly an interesting discussion to be had regarding all this (I say "all this" because there are several related issues to be dealt with here) but it would not be a new one. Far from it in fact. Stewart Lee has often pondered the merits of political incorrectness, taboo breaking and the fine line comedians tread in and outside of his work (here, here and here), as has Daniel Kitson and, indeed, Richard Herring whose latest show is horrifically misrepresented in Logan's article. The problem with such pieces is that they tend to engender the "I haven't seen/read/heard it but..." argument in people who read it. Essentially, anyone who starts a sentence with that opening conversational salvo is really just saying "don't listen to a word that comes out of my mouth from this point on as I am clearly uninformed and won't empirically check things out for myself. Actually, it might be best to avoid speaking to me altogether as I clearly can't be trusted to form reasonable and interesting opinions of my own. All the best now. Take care".
I suppose what irritates me most about Logan's column is that successful, intelligent, interesting comedy relies on a lot of trust. The trust of the audience in the performer to ride odd and sometimes uncomfortable trains of thought, and the trust of the performer in the audience to not take everything they say at face value and understand what they are really trying to say. Granted, there are undoubtedly comedians who may not think about the responsibility of what they say on stage but I'd suggest that the large majority do. Indeed, I imagine most probably agonise and overanalyse a lot of their more difficult material. To suggest otherwise would be to do them and the medium of comedy a huge disservice.
You might be asking: "What does this have to do with comics?" Well, not much really. Like I've said before, I enjoy live comedy and I get easily annoyed by lazy, reactionary journalism which takes things out of context to appease an erroneous conceit. Normal service will resume shortly!
Read Herring's response to the article here. Andrew Collins also makes some good points about the article here. Paul manages to write a decidedly more entertaining and balanced piece about Herring's new Edinburgh show here.