On the same day that Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the US for writing something which some people found offensive, Anthony Alderson of the Pleasance (normally a logical man) issued a statement saying surreally:
“The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material… the material presented at his (Jerry Sadowitz’s) first show is not acceptable… This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.”
The Pleasance had no inkling that Jerry Sadowitz might be offensive…
My reaction on air was:
Well, I think he should do a comedy show based on that. shouldn’t he?
The story is that Jerry was offensive. I mean, Jerry has been doing offensive material for 30 years – 40 years? – and the Pleasance have been going for about 30 years. The Pleasance and Jerry have been going for about the same amount of time.
He is famous for being offensive. That’s why you book him in. That’s why the Pleasance booked him in, presumably – that he would be offensive. That’s his schtick.
So, if he’s NOT offensive, people will complain. But now, because some people complained about him being offensive – despite the fact he was clearly flagged as being offensive – the Pleasance appears to be committing professional suicide.
Interestingly, they say it’s the material. Apparently he showed his willy to the front row. But they didn’t find that offensive; they found the MATERIAL offensive.
Most comedy really has to be offensive in some way – or it has to be surprising. The whole point is a ‘punchline’ at the end. And a punchline is something you don’t expect, coming out of nowhere.
One of the best ways to come out of nowhere with a punchline is to do something that’s ‘offensive’. Frankie Boyle does it all the time. Bernard Manning used to do it to mainstream audiences. Bernard Manning is a great example.
I saw Bernard Manning at his own club twice and he had four-letter words all over the first half and then he stopped. They weren’t in the second half.
I thought: This is strange. Then I realised, in fact, he was being offensive to his very mainstream, middle-of-the-road audience in the first half but, having established that he was offensive, he didn’t have to do it any more. (They came to be offended.)
If you go to a Sadowitz show, you want to be offended.
There are no rules in comedy, really. People say you can’t make rape jokes. You can’t make jokes about rape. Generally, that’s true. But I have seen very funny rape jokes – But they’re not really about rape, they’re about…
I mean, Janey Godley, the Glaswegian comedian, had problems recently: being Cancelled. She put on Jerry Sadowitz’s first stand-up show in her pub. She did a show in Edinburgh – and wrote her autobiography about – being raped when she was a child, I think from about 5 to about 12.
And people laughed in the Edinburgh show. They didn’t laugh AT it. (They laughed WITH it.) She made the jokes against the rapist and she made the audience laugh despite the fact it was an ‘unacceptable’ subject.
You can make a joke about an unacceptable subject if you do it in the right way.
You have to be a very good comedian, as Sadowitz – and Janey – are.
Dapper Laughs had been at the centre of a storm about misogyny. Andrew Lawrence had posted on Facebook about the UK Independence Party’s poll successes and immigration.
I told Trevor Lock: “I don’t think Andrew Lawrence is being unreasonable if you actually read what he says.”
“Yes,” said Trevor. “If you read what he says. But it’s just… People… It’s absolutely terrifying… You can understand how Nazi Germany got off the ground. You really do see the witch huntery delight in identifying ‘the enemy’. It’s horrendous. Chilling. I found it chilling. That and the Dapper Laughs thing I find chilling.”
“Dapper Laughs,” I said, “I have no opinion on, because I’ve never seen or heard his stuff.”
“I don’t find him funny,” said Trevor, “but the point is he is not the anti-Christ.”
“Can I quote you?” I asked. “You might get hate mail.”
Andrew Lawrence’s Facebook postings
“Yeah,” said Trevor. “I don’t care. I got hate mail for the Andrew Lawrence thing. I was ‘outed’ on Facebook for liking Andrew Lawrence’s thing. I was described as being a Right Wing, misogynistic whatever. It’s weird.”
I suggested: “It was the three-word description of some women on panel shows that did for Andrew.”
“Women impersonating comedians,” said Trevor. “He didn’t say all female comedians and it’s true. They have a lot of people who are not comedians on the shows. I didn’t agree with everything he said and the way he put it, but the shocking thing for me was how people took delight in deliberately mis-representing him or jumping to the worst possible conclusion in order to hate him. It’s frightening.
“I find the self-righteousness of it terrifying,” Trevor continued. “This certainty – this chilling certainty – that they are right. That is how most of these people think. They are certain they are the good guys. Did the Nazis walk around thinking they were the bad guys?”
“That is something it’s dangerous to even talk about,” I suggested. “Presumably Hitler, while committing unspeakable evil, thought he was doing good.”
“Well, of course he did,” said Trevor. “Stalin thought it was a good idea to kill people. On Facebook, a propos the Andrew Lawrence debate, someone wrote something to the effect of It’s funny how, if everybody who opposed liberalism were to be shot, the world would be a much better place. It was there on my Facebook Feed and I just thought: This is interesting on so many levels.”
This photograph won a contest to find the ‘ideal Aryan infant’. It was selected by the Nazi Party as front cover of Sonne Ins Haus in 1935. They never realised she was Jewish.
“Well, Hitler was a National Socialist,” I said. “And that’s not a misnomer. I’ve always thought that Socialism is not a political system; it’s a religion. If you follow the true path of Socialism without deviation, it will create a perfect heaven on a perfect earth. That’s bollocks. That’s religion not reality. If you’re a Conservative and someone disagrees with you, then you think: Someone disagrees with me. If you’re a militant Socialist and someone disagrees with you, then you think: They are evil.”
“That’s what we’re talking about,” said Trevor.
“There’s that thing in some universities,” I said: “We are liberals. We are democrats. So we must not have people coming to talk to us if they disagree with what we think.”
“It’s astonishing,” said Trevor. “This time last year, someone invited me to talk at Leicester University. He said: I am chairman of the Oxfam Society. I would like you to come and give a speech on the importance of charity. So I said OK.”
“Why did they invite you?” I asked.
“He said: I love listening to you and reading about your philosophical take on life.
“They also wanted me to write something for their student magazine and it was just after Russell Brand had said Don’t vote! when he was on BBC2’s Newsnight.
There is a YouTube clip of Russell Brand’s appearance on Newsnight last year.
“So I wrote this piece explaining my views on charity and they were on the phone to me saying: We’re not sure we can publish this and we’re really worried about you coming to talk to us.
“And I was like: Whaaatt?? You can’t publish my views on charity – about how I have a completely different understanding of charity and how giving money to an organisation is not what I understand as charity. And I was sympathetic to Russell’s idea about not voting.
“And they changed the wording of my piece. They edited bits out to make it sound like I was in favour of charity. They sent it to me and said: This is what we are going to publish. Is it alright?
“How would that be alright? I told them. You have made me say Vote! when I did not say that; it was a complicated thing. And I am actually against organised charity.
“Yeah, they said, we’re really worried about what you’re gonna say.
“Well, I asked them, why have you booked me? I even said it in the article. I said I didn’t know why I had been booked to talk about charity.”
“Did they keep the booking?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Trevor.
“How did it go?”
Trevor Lock talked to me at Soho Theatre earlier this week
“It went fine. There was one clever know-it-all trying to make me defend Russell Brand’s point of view, which I don’t fully share. But what was amazing was that this was a university unable to hear… I don’t think I’m known as being Right Wing; I don’t think my opinions are particularly Right Wing… I was just saying: This is what I think charity is.”
“And did they print your piece?” I asked.
“In the end,” said Trevor. “But it took me a long long time and I had to accuse… well, two of them got very angry.”
“They printed your original version?”
“Yes. Because I told them: You have to put THIS back in. Then they said: It’s too long…. I thought: Don’t tell brazen lies to me! You are telling me you have had to edit the article to make it sound the opposite of what I said because my article was too long??”
“If they disagreed with your views,” I said, “all they had to do was commission someone with opposite views to write a counterbalancing article and then it would be an interesting debate.”
“This is the thing,” said Trevor. “When I went to university, it was about hearing and talking about ideas. I am 40 years old and here are young lads in theirs 20s who should be debating interesting thoughts. But they are frightened to hear my thoughts. It’s almost like being in Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible”… Welcome to the Big Brother House.
I said: “Whenever wankers use the phrase ‘positive discrimination’ I think Have they not read about Doublethink in Nineteen Eighty-Four? Positive discrimination is discrimination.”
Trevor said: “What I have taken away from reading Facebook in this last week about Andrew Lawrence and Dapper Laughs is that Hitler could have happened here.”
A chap from The Green Party contacted me last week to offer me a 10 minute slot on a bill headlined by Alistair McGowan, for a Green Party fundraising event. I accepted, and we started exchanging e-mails to finalise details.
This morning, I received this –
I’m really sorry but I am going to have to withdraw our offer. It’s nothing personal, I was asked if I could increase the diversity ofcomics on the night. So we’ve got a 63 old transexual comic instead of a second female artist. Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual
I am a great admirer of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, especially the Appendix – on The Principles of Newspeak – which is why I have always been extremely opposed to so-called “positive discrimination”. It is pure Orwellian Doublethink. There is no such thing as “positive” discrimination; it is simply discrimination… It is an attempt to prevent discrimination by discriminating… Pure Doublethink.
The Green Party has managed to mess up their gig – and their PR – on all fronts. They had a good female comic in Lindsay Sharman. They then bizarrely tried to make the bill more ‘diverse’ by getting rid of not one of the male comics but one of the two female comics on the bill. AND they managed to belittle the (extremely good) transsexual comic (whom I know and admire greatly) by treating her as if she is not a woman but a separate ‘quota’.
As comic Karen O. Novak said, when hearing about this, the Green Party thought it had “achieved ‘diversity’ by replacing a white female comic with… a white female comic”.
Comic Charmian Hughes said: “I think the Green Party insulted both comics! They insulted the trans-sexual comic even more than the person they cancelled! I think it was actually more insulting to her than to Lindsay!!!”
Women have it bad enough already without the Green Party muddying the waters.
Janey Godley, a superb comic and possibly the best all-round creative I have ever encountered, tells me: “There is a booker in northern England who won’t have women on the bill… and I have had bookers say to me Sorry – We had a woman before and they were shit.”
Comedian Kate Smurthwaite tells me: “A London promoter once said to me: I can’t book you that week, Kate – I’ve already got Angie McEvoy on the bill and you’re too similar. Anyone who has seen both our acts would know we are very different in terms of style and content. The only obvious thing we have in common is gender. Five minutes later, in the same conversation, the promoter said: I do want to book you, though, cos I think you’re really pretty – Do you want to come for a drink with me?”
Comedian Laura Lexx tells me: “I have been introduced as The very pretty young lady Laura Lexx, which obviously doesn’t make an audience think particularly highly of you… but I very rarely gig on bills with other women outside of London so I suppose it often feels like it’s a ‘one in one out’ system for ladies and bills.”
Kate Smurthwaite tells me: “I once saw a male promoter say, as a female comic left the stage: I normally kiss the female acts, but I won’t kiss her. Then he said: If you want to drink alcohol, use the bar downstairs but (pointing at a busty woman in the front row) if you want to drink milk – ask her.”
Lindsay Sharman tells me: “A West Country promoter once introduced me to the stage with I only gave her this gig cos I fucked her! (I certainly hadn’t) and then mimed humping me from behind.”
But the sexism is not even restricted to men. Another female comic said to me: “CSE, who book gigs for the British Army, rarely book women – maybe one every four years – and they have a sexist website where all the men hold mics and the women are sexy dancers – and it’s women who run it!”
Lindsay Sharman used yesterday’s Green Party PR own-goal as part of her comedy act last night. “But,” she told me, “one of the other comics actually thought I was making it up, as the crassness of Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual just sounds too unreal, like a shit punchline.”
I guess it is a bit like writing fiction. Novelists have told me they can’t write the actual truth because it’s so utterly OTT no-one will believe it. People will only believe the truth if it is watered-down. In comedy, I think people have a tendency to believe the made-up bits if they are skilfully interwoven and think the real bits are made-up because they are just too incredible.
Like this case in point.
The Green Party ‘diversifies’ into comedy Newspeak & Doublethink over women.