Last night, I went to the launch of comedy writer/performer Dave Cohen’s latest publication How To Be Averagely Successful at Comedy – it aims to be “a practical and funny book explaining how to make a living at comedy”.
If anyone knows how to be more – far more – than averagely successful, it is Dave.
We both worked at Noel Gay Television in 1989/1990. (For American readers… that production company was neither gay not Christmas-related. Noel Gay was a man who wrote a very British song called Run Rabbit Run Rabbit Run Run Run.)
Dave has written for – among many other TV shows – Have I Got News For You, Horrible Histories, Not Going Out and Spitting Image. He was nominated for the 1984 Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 1995, he was a founder member of the Comedy Store Players – the original line-up was Dave Cohen, Kit Hollerbach, Mike Myers and Neil Mullarkey. Dave has also programmed tomorrow’s Big Comedy Conference in London, filling it with big comedy industry names; his only stumble was booking me to be on a panel about the future (or not) of television comedy. Of what was he thinking?
Back in the day, Dave was even a columnist for the NME, The Face and the Guardian newspaper.
In my view, though, his main claim to fame is what he said at (what he says was) a lacklustre gig in the Camden Head venue in Islington one night in 1988. He had a gag which referred to his upcoming appearance at a Kensington venue formerly called The Nashville. He was enthusiastic about appearing on the very stage where many punk rock legends had bounced and spat.
His set-up for the gag at the Camden Head included the words: “I’m being asked to perform at venues where I used to see bands… comedy is the new rock ’n’ roll…”
A reviewer from City Limits (a lefty-wing rival to London listings magazine Time Out) was in the audience. His review of the gig started: “Now that comedy is the new rock ’n’ roll…”
Dave was the rather grandly titled Chief Publicity Officer for the venue and, to publicise their ’new material nights’ he sent out copies of the City Limits article to other journalists. A few weeks later, he stumbled on a TV programme in which Janet Street Porter said that comedy was the new rock ’n’ roll.
In his new book, Dave writes it was:
“A clunking phrase, invented as the set-up of a joke, abandoned, repeated in a left-wing magazine with a tiny circulation, then appropriated by a journalist on a fourth-rate chat show… I laid no claim, she was welcome to it. Sadly I learned that even barely-watched regional TV chat-shows reach more people in 30 minutes than I had managed in four years of stand-up.”
And so the words of Dave Cohen entered the language and affected the way comedy was seen when, a little later, Billy Connolly and Harry Enfield introduced bands at Wembley Stadium and Baddiel & Newman played Wembley Arena.
How To Be Averagely Successful at Comedy is definitely an under-statement.
Oh… Dave was also 1994-2000 a key member of the occasional piss-take Jewish heavy metal band Guns ’n’ Moses which, at various times, included comedians Al Murray on drums and Jim Tavare on bass.