Comedian Nick Revell is working on his next hour-long show. We had tea together in Soho.
“What is the new show called?” I asked him.
“Feminist Porno Jihadi.”
“So you are not mellowing?” I asked.
“There’s quite a lot of religion in it,” Nick told me. “But not all anti-religious.”
“No knob gags?” I asked.
“There were a couple, but I took them out – largely for pace and placement rather than on grounds of principle.”
“You can’t,” I suggested, “do this sort of comedy now, can you? It’s like going back to the serious political comedy of the 1980s. You’re supposed to do The Mighty Boosh nowadays.”
“I would not say much of it is polemical,” argued Nick. “There’s quite a strong surreal element to this show in terms of the nature of the narrative.”
“You could be a politician,” I said.
“I could be a politician,” he agreed.
“Oh,” I said. “Your tone sounded surprisingly positive.”
“I could be,” Nick repeated. “But I’m not interested in being one.”
“Well, I’m quite interested and reasonably literate in that field but, on stage, there’s something about having the licence and freedom from the constraint of responsibility. I think one is probably just as practically useful offering some kind of argument from the stage and engaging with extra-Parliamentary politics in some way as you are trying to work within the system as a whole. I can foresee the Labour Party just collapsing now. What’s the point of them?
“Going back to religion, though, it’s just a convenient panacea to ascribe all bad human behaviour to organised religion. I think we are quite capable of finding reasons to hate and assault each other based on differences that need have no spiritual or escatological background… Football clubs, colour of hair, different supermarket carrier bags.”
“Are you worried about annoying people and their reactions?” I asked. “Death threats, even?”
“I’ve had threats of violence and death from various different people over the years. And, over the years, I’ve been interested in exploring the reasons and impulses for social and political violence.
“People will look at lunatic psychopaths and just put them into a separate category of lunatic psychopaths, but I think it’s really a continuum between that and the ‘ordinary’ human condition with fantasies of whatever kind which we never put into practice – whether it’s violence or sex or whatever it might be. There are always different ways that the id is messing us around and mud-wresting with the super-ego.”
“So what sort of people have threatened you?’ I asked.
“Members of the British armed forces, Irish Republicans, Zionist Jews, fundamentalist Moslems, various bruisers, hen parties…
“The purpose of comedy is not about challenging authority or satirising institutions or bringing truth to power or bearing witness to injustice. We are the only creatures who laugh. Comedy is about helping people find their common humanity. And I have succeeded in that. Yes, it may be the desire to kick the shit out of me, but that’s a start.”