Tag Archives: political correctness

Jonathan Pie co-writer says: “A lot of comics are not in favour of free speech”

Jonathan Pie is a fictional UK TV news reporter, played by Tom Walker, in satirical political videos posted online and in stage shows. The scripts are written by Tom Walker and Andrew Doyle.

Andrew Doyle on his return from Scotland

Andrew Doyle and I met in London just after he had come back from Scotland, where he had filmed a half hour TV documentary about a man who had been prosecuted and found guilty of training a pug dog to give a Nazi salute. The man – calling himself ‘Count Dankula’  – then posted a video of the dog on YouTube; he said he had done it as a joke for his girlfriend. 

Probably all my blogs should come with the warning that I do not necessarily agree with all the interviewee’s opinions. And, equally, I do not necessarily disagree with all of them.

Make of that what you will.

Just saying…


JOHN: Why the interest in the pug dog?

ANDREW: Because it is such a landmark case in terms of free speech. Lots of people have been found guilty of telling jokes in this country, but we don’t hear about them very often: they’re mostly just unemployed teenagers on Facebook. It’s the first case of its kind that has got widespread attention and it has caused a real division within the comedy community, which I think is fascinating.

JOHN: And that division is?

ANDREW: Well, when I wrote a Jonathan Pie video about it with Tom Walker, we fully expected comedians to be up in arms about the case. There were a few who were annoyed about it – Shappi Khorsandi, Ricky Gervais, David Baddiel – but most comedians were silent about it and quite a few sided with the court’s decision. It was the opposite reaction to what I would have expected.

It has really illuminated the fact that actually a lot of comics are not in favour of free speech at all. And that fascinates me.

JOHN: Any particular type of comedian? Left wing or right wing?

ANDREW: Well, virtually all comedians are left wing.

JOHN: But the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing are just a quirk of French history, aren’t they? If you take both to extremes, they end up in the same place. It’s a circle not a straight line.

ANDREW: Well, most comedians are middle class Blairites who call themselves ‘left wing’ but they don’t really know what ‘left wing’ means. I think because they identify as left wing and because the Left is often so hostile to free speech and has not done a very good job defending it, you now see people like Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins defending free speech and that makes the Left even more suspicious of free speech. It’s a really dangerous situation.

The Left needs to reclaim free speech – I am passionate about that, although I have been called a misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi.

A misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi??

JOHN: But you are gay. Why are you allegedly a homophobe?

ANDREW: Some of the jokes I make, apparently.

JOHN: So the Left are not very good on free speech?

ANDREW: No. They used to be. If you go back to the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s, they understood that free speech was at the heart of any…

JOHN: So you’re saying the New Left and the Blairites were OK but the Corbynistas are a bit Fascistic?

ANDREW: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Fascistic. And I don’t think the Blairites were particularly strong on free speech. There have been increasing attempts at press regulations and Hate Speech laws are now enshrined in our way of life. That is not a free speech position.

JOHN: But it’s not opinion, only incitement to violence, that is criminal.

ANDREW: No. The 2003 Communications Act deems that anything you send online that could be ‘grossly offensive’ is a criminal offence.

JOHN: Virtually anything Jerry Sadowitz says is offensive to someone.

ANDREW: Yes. That’s his schtick. If some of that were to go online, then theoretically he could be arrested.

JOHN: Do you think PC has gone too far?

ANDREW: I don’t use the term PC. I associate political correctness with a different thing. To me it is a good thing. It is about a general, shared, agreed discourse that we have in public, in work, where we basically agree to be polite to each other and agree not to say certain things. It’s a social contract.

Andrew writes regular articles for Spiked magazine

Obviously I am not in favour of enforcing any type of speech law but, say, if you agree to work in an office, part of that is an obligation not to use the word “faggot”. That’s not a free speech issue. You can say it elsewhere but not in the office you have chosen to work in. I don’t think the idea of society encouraging people to be polite is a bad thing – and that is all I see political correctness as being.

What is happening now is not political correctness. It is a transformed, perverted version of political correctness, creeping into authoritarianism.

JOHN: You seem to be saying you are not in favour of any restriction of speech laws.

ANDREW: That’s right. I am not.

JOHN: But someone should not be allowed to say: “I think you should go out and kill all black people…”

ANDREW: Yes, that is a terrible thing to say.

JOHN: Surely saying that should be illegal?

ANDREW: No.

JOHN: Is it not an encouragement to commit a crime?

ANDREW: No, because whoever commits the crime should be held responsible for the crime. I am really uncomfortable with the idea of diminishing the responsibility of someone who breaks the law.

JOHN: But, by that logic, Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust because other people did the killing.

ANDREW: He explicitly ordered and orchestrated it so, yes, he is responsible. He was not trying to persuade the SS to do it for him, he was ordering the SS to do it. They are responsible too – the people who did it – but he is too, because that is part of a military chain of command. That is not the same as someone standing at Speaker’s Corner shouting out that gay people should be castrated.

Just because he shouts that out, does not mean that people are going to go out and castrate gay people and, if they did, they would be responsible. It is not the same thing.

JOHN: But, if someone goes out and does something criminal as the result of hearing a speech, that speech was incitement to commit a crime, isn’t it? Which is illegal.

Andrew’s stand-up comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017

ANDREW: Yes, but the problem I have with this is that, on balance, I do not think it is safe to allow the state to have the power to criminalise speech – even if that means some really horrible people are going to try to persuade people to do horrible things. On balance, I think that is deeply unpleasant but it is not as frightening to me as the state having the right to lock people up for what they say and what they think.

We cannot trust the state. We know that now. They have convicted in a court of law a man for making a joke video about a pug dog giving a Nazi salute. And they call that Hate Speech. We cannot trust them to distinguish between a joke and some psychopath in a park shouting and inciting murder.

JOHN: The pug dog video case was in Scotland. Would it have been illegal in England?

ANDREW: Yes, The Communications Act applies to all of the UK.

JOHN: This is all a bit serious.

ANDREW: Do you want to talk about something flippant?

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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Filed under Comedy, political correctness, Politics, satire

Cunning comic Becky Fury, banned by Facebook, is to go into sexy wrestling

Becky Fury was at Mama Biashara last night

Yesterday’s blog was partly about the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award given at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Last night, I saw last year’s award-winner, Becky Fury, preview her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show at Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in London.

Becky has been having a run of bad luck.

About a week ago, in the course of one day, she lost both her Edinburgh Fringe venue and her Edinburgh accommodation. And, when I saw her last night, she had just finished a 24-hour ban by Facebook. She remains unbowed, though, and has plans for making money in wrestling.

Everything was settled for her Edinburgh Fringe show Molotov Cocktail Party – including her paying the exorbitant fee to be listed in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. She was due to perform at the exotically-named Bar Bados Complex which, apparently, is the new name for the Cowgatehead building, a legendarily cursed comedy venue at the Fringe.

Becky’s expensive but now incorrect Edinburgh Fringe listing

But, around a week ago, well after the Fringe Programme was published, the Fire Brigade refused to allow two rooms in the venue to be used for performance and Becky was moved to another new venue in a different location though mercifully at the same time – 10.45pm – 6th-26th August. (EDIT! This changed two days later: See HERE.) The new venue, the Black Market, beside Waverley Station, was still being built when last heard-of.

Simultaneous with her venue loss, she lost her free accommodation in Edinburgh but was able to get some temporary accommodation for the first few days of the Fringe.

It never rains but it pours.

Particularly in Edinburgh.

“And,” I said to her last night, you have just been banned from Facebook for 24 hours. How did you manage that?”

Becky’s temporarily-banned non-cummunity standard Facebook

“Two jokes I wrote,” she explained, “included the word ‘Paki’. So I am on my third warning from Facebook. If I say anything else that ‘does not adhere to Facebook community standards’, the Facebook Thought Police will come, detain me, detonate my profile and ‘disappear’ me.”

“What were the objectionable jokes on your Facebook page?” I asked.

“The first joke was about genuinely meeting a racist at a train station who was talking about the three ‘P’s – Poles, Pakis and Paddies.”

“So,” I checked, “what got you into trouble was the reported speech of another person which happened in a real situation?”

“Yes. The joke was that I said I agreed with ‘no platforming’ so I pushed him off the platform under a train. That was the joke.”

“So,” I checked again, “Facebook had no objection to you saying you pushed a man under a train but they did object to the fact that, in objecting to his racism, you quoted him using the word ‘Paki’?”

“Yes,” said Becky. “That got me a ‘First Warning’. This second time, I got banned for 24 hours because there was a discussion around Daniel Kitson’s use of the word ‘Paki’ in his show and I don’t like the other politically correct words like POC or BAME so I suggested we might compromise and use the word Poci instead. I was agreeing with the idea of political correctness but I got banned because, again, the word ‘Paki’ was in there.”

“So what’s next after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Wrestling,” she replied.

“Wrestling what?” I asked.

“Probably existential questions.”

Wrestling with existential questions?

“Fury is a good name for a wrestler,” I said.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, “if it’s a good idea for my actual, real name to go up on the internet and be immortalised as a sexy wrestler. So I am going to be Minerva, the goddess of war.”

“What sort of wrestling?” I asked.

“I’m going to be a sexy wrestler…a bikini wrestler.”

“In front of crowds in stadia?”

“No. Mostly one-on-one.”

“Wrestling men or women?” I asked.

“I don’t mind. It’s obviously mainly men, because they are…”

“Stupid?” I suggested.

“Stupid perverts,” Becky laughed. “Yeah.”

“Define one-to-one wrestling,” I said.

“It’s wrestling with a guy – usually a guy – for money. That makes it sound like marriage, I suppose. But you basically play-fight with them for an hour and they pay you for it and you wear a bikini.”

“What do they wear?” I asked.

“Usually a teeshirt and a pair of shorts. Them wearing clothes is a pre-requisite. You are alone in the room with them. They could just attack you in that situation and fuck you. But there is always someone else in the building.”

Becky wants to get a head in wrestling

“How much?” I asked.

“£150 a session. There’s about three different centres in London do it.”

“If it’s wrestling,” I said, “it’s a competition. Someone must win.”

“Usually the woman wins,” said Becky. “As always in Life.”

“This is not really wrestling,” I suggested. “It’s hugging and stroking.”

“There’s no fondling going on,” replied Becky. “It’s sensual, semi-competitive wrestling.”

“Where does the ‘semi’ come into it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to think about that.”

“Why do they pay to do it?” I asked.

“I think part of what’s going on is that these guys are submissive, so they normally have a control issue in their life. They are normally guys who are in control, maybe OCD, very obsessive-compulsive. What they like is that, in the ring, they have to maintain control over their own lustful desires while you are asserting yourself over them. So it’s like very, very light BDSM.”

“It’s in a wrestling ring?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Why have a proper ring?”

Becky with her 2016 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

“It’s the theatricality of it. Makes it more fun.”

“With most theatrical experiences, there’s a build-up, development and a climax,” I prompted.

“There’s no happy endings,” said Becky. “It’s about maintaining a level of eroticism.”

“You seem to know a lot about it.”

“I did it for a couple of months a few years ago, but I’m a lot stronger now. I’ve been doing loads of yoga and going to the gym. If you’re not strong enough, they don’t want to wrestle you. They don’t put up a great deal of resistance, but you do need to give them a proper fight. The women fighting women are really going for it, though. You really have to fight, until you get your arm ripped off by some psychotic Ukrainian.”

“Women fighting women?” I asked.

“If you just want to go and watch girls wrestle each other competitively,” said Becky, “that goes on for a few hours, so that might cost £70 for a ticket.”

“Are you going to do that as well?”

“Yeah. But they tend to be really hardcore Eastern European women, much more interested in beating-up other women for money than I am. It’s the women that I’m scared-of, not the men. I may get my arse kicked by some big fuck-off scary Russian female shot-putter. The men are little, weedy, runt-boy men.”

“When you were involved in it before, how old were the men?”

“Generally in their 40s.”

“Is it a fetish?”

“It’s just something people want to pay for. People pay for all sorts of nonsense. One time, I did a filming session. The guy was wearing a Santa Claus hat with a little white ball dangling on it and the woman was riding around on his back half the time. At the end, she got the hat and shoved it into his mouth and, when he took it out, he told us: I’ll be wearing this for Christmas dinner when I go and visit my family. People have got all sorts of really bizarre fantasies and, if they want to spend money realising them, they can.”

“What was Father Christmas wearing apart from his hat?”

“Shorts and a teeshirt.”

Becky Fury’s Molotov Cocktail Party show

“What is the attraction to you?”

“Money.”

“So, basically,  these people are like the Medicis to your struggling artist? Supporting the Arts with their cash.”

“Exactly. Because I can’t be bothered to fill-out Arts Council grant forms…” She paused. “I don’t know how this blog will come out. I don’t want to sound like a whore.”

“Would I do that to you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“No,” I tried to reassure her. “You will come out as a lover of eccentricity. A worthy Malcolm Hardee Award winner.”

“Well,” she said, “it’s just more fun than working in McDonalds, isn’t it?… And also you get to kick men in the testicles and not get sacked… again.”

“Will you be wrestling up in Edinburgh?” I asked.

“If anyone wants to wrestle me in Edinburgh,” she said, “it will be £200 – or mates’ rates, which will be £250.”

Becky also appeared in this 2016 music video

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Chris Dangerfield, political correctness in comedy and recurring fishnet tights

Fishnet stockings (not tights)

Fishnet stockings – not tights. (Photograph by RJFerret)

Chris Dangerfield in Dean Street, Soho

Chris with shopping bag in Soho

When I met performer Chris Dangerfield in London’s Soho last week, he wanted to talk about how political correctness has gone mad and I wanted to talk about fishnet tights.

“I thought you were leaving the country,” I said.

“I did plan to go travelling for a couple of years,” he told me, “maybe forever. But my problem, John, is connection and going travelling is almost giving up connecting with people and having nothing permanent. I would just be a wanderer and get old and end up one of those blokes on a beach in Thailand with no hair.”

“That seems to be what I’ve done,” I said, “except for the beach.”

“This is the concern,” Chris said, “ending up like you. But business is going so well that, if I commit to work for the next couple of years, I’ll probably be able to retire well.

“This,” I asked, “is your lock-picking business?”

“Yeah. I just got a warehouse in America and we’re thinking of maybe doing something in Hong Kong. But what I wanna talk to you about is Gazza and his joke.”

We then talked about various subjects.

“I can’t post that,” I said. “It is not going to read well in print. It will make you look bad.”

“What?” asked Chris. “As in ‘bad’ not interesting or ‘bad’ meaning I look like a cunt?

“Yes,” I said. “I…”

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

“I don’t care,” he told me. “Put it all in. I’m done with caring about all that bullshit. The Glasgow police have got a Twitter account and they Tweeted – This is 100% true – They Tweeted We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything illegal – that’s fair enough – unnecessary and unkind. The police Tweeted this! We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything unnecessary and unkind. This is actually happening! It’s absurd!

“The Canadian comedian Mike Ward made a joke about some spastic kid and was fined $42,000. It’s bullshit. What is happening not just to comedy but to the world?… How was the Edinburgh Fringe this year? You’ve watched it go downhill for the last 16 years. Be honest now. It’s shit, isn’t it?”

“I don’t really see that much difference,” I replied. “You were supposed to be coming up for a few days this year. I was looking forward to that.”

“I thought about visiting for a few days,” Chris explained, “but I’ve just got too much work on. Hardeep sorted out a room for me with another friend, but her Facebook had fishnets and I thought: Oh shit!

“Fishnets?” I asked.

“Not Hardeep. His friend. I thought: I’ll be sitting in a room working and then only going out for a couple of hours. So I didn’t get up there. I’m thinking of doing a show next year.”

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“No, stockings,” Chris replied. “Stockings. No-one wears tights any more in my bedroom. I can’t be doing with them. They remind me of my mother. I would find my mum’s tights with her knickers rolled up in them at the bottom of the stairs. Eugh! Dark tan. Not black, not white, not pink, nothing sexy. But, nonetheless, if a woman arrives in my bed with tights on, they have to be removed. That’s a game changer as much as no hair on a woman.

“Where were we? My Edinburgh show maybe next year. I’ve been quite outspoken about the political correctness movement that is gaining so much power at the moment and I’ve lost a lot of friends through that. And some of them were my media contacts that I’d spent eight years building up. And they’ve become arsehole virtue social justice warriors. Really. A lot of them have gone. All just disappeared from my Contacts list.”

“So will you do a show next year?” I asked.

Rare sight - shy Copstick - at Mama Biashara

Kate Copstick might be involved with Chris

Copstick said to me: For fuck’s sake do a show up here – which was very nice of her. I said: If I do, I’ll need your help and she said something along the lines of Alright. You interrupted her on the Grouchy Club Podcast. She was about to market me as part of the… But you interrupted, mumbling something about biscuits…”

“Well,” I said, “that’s my role.””

“Let’s get back,” Chris insisted, “to political correctness being poison.”

“Net stockings?” I tried.

“I think this is going to snowball,” Chris persisted. “People are taken to court for really shitty jokes that are not racist, that are not harassment. It’s happening. There are lots of examples. There’s Guy Earle in Canada. A load of people heckled him. They introduced themselves into his show. They were the vampires at his door. He welcomed them in. He shouted back at them and they took him to court and won. This is madness.

“When I read the Top Ten Jokes in Edinburgh, they are lollystick jokes aren’t they? They are good for families. But that’s nothing to do with me. And that’s alright. I don’t expect it to all be about me. Far from it. But that’s what gets the Awards. Lollystick acts. The awards have the odd inoculation – a small amount of acknowledged evil that will make them feel better. It works like an inoculation. They take on a few people who are a bit risky to protect themselves against the generalised evil and generalised subversion.”

“You realise,” I asked, “that this blog is going to have nothing in it about political correctness – just fishnet tights?”

“Stockings!” said Chris. “The other thing, of course, is I’ve just finished writing a novel. The story is there. But it’s not long enough and it needs a lot of work on it.”

“That’” I told him, “is what women constantly say to me.”

“It needs as much editing as you do,” said Chris, “which is a helluva lot. At the moment it’s 58,000 words; I’m aiming for around 75,000. The book is the story of a man who goes to Thailand to get clean (of drugs) and gets a lot less than he bargained for.”

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand yesterday morning

Chris Dangerfield had some laughs  in Thailand

“Does he,” I asked, “try to kick his heroin addiction in a brothel?”

“Yes.”

“That always seemed a very bad idea,” I told Chris. “Doing it for real.”

Chris told me: “I set out to write it thinking it was about a man getting clean in a brothel. But it isn’t. It’s about childhood, nostalgia and connection. When you set out… When you define your enclosure and say It’s about this and contrive something, it doesn’t work. It’s not creative.”

“So,” I asked, “it has ended up being about the man and how he got to be who he is?”

“Yeah. To an extent. Or how he didn’t become what he should be. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. It would be really nice if I got it published before next August and I would do a reading (at the Edinburgh Fringe). Then I can present it as fiction and avoid a lot of trouble.”

“How can you present it as fiction?” I asked.

“Well,” said Chris, “I mean, some of it’s fictional; it just has to be.”

“The more unbelievable something seems,” I suggested, “very often the more true it is. You have to tone down reality to make it believable.”

Coming soon – the last ever performance of his 2012 show

Chris had to downplay the actual reality to make it believable

“Absolutely,” said Chris. “That’s what happened with (Edinburgh Fringe show) Sex Tourist. I had to play it down. That was totally insane. I bought a gun. They’re plastic.

“When I finally came out of that methamphetamine binge, I took the gun back to the shop and said: Mate, I’m done with the gun. I really don’t need it.

“And he was all No, no, no. You can take it back to England and he took it all to pieces and said I’ll send it back to you in parts. I asked What do I do for bullets? and he said I can send you them as well.”

“Not plastic bullets?” I asked.

“No. Do you know blank keys are made out of spent bullet shells? They use a lot of bullets in practising and they collect them all, melt them all down and make keys in America.”

“Have you written a novel before?” I asked.

“I had one vanity publishing thing in my early 20s – Tired etc. It done quite well, got some good reviews, was in i-D, Loaded.”

“What’s the new one called?”

“A friend suggested Last Exit To Patong… You know, John, I don’t think you’re going to have a coherent blog here.”

“It’s never worried me before.”

“What? When I was smoking crack in Brown’s? Do you remember? I had to run to the chemist. I read that blog back and thought: Who is this? I was reading it, really excited, wondering: Oh shit! What happens next? And it was me.

“Tights,” I said.

“They’re horrible things,” Chris replied.

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with anything. Nothing’s good; nothing’s bad. But I have a relationship with them that I don’t want to re-live with a sexual partner… Look, when I’m coming down my stairs as a toddler on my hands and knees, at the bottom, I end up with my face in my mum’s gusset. That’s a phrase I never wanted to say. I can’t stand them. They’re a proper party-killer. Tight round the waist, gonna leave a mark and there’s a thread and a seam that goes round the fanny.”

“You know,” I said, “when you realise you shouldn’t have said something?”

“No,” said Chris. “No, I haven’t got to that stage yet.”

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Filed under Bad taste, Comedy, Drugs, political correctness, Sex

Will Franken wants to return comedy to the art form it was intended to be

Will Franken and Charles I in Soho Square today

Will Franken and Charles II in London’s Soho Square today

The last time Will Franken appeared in this blog was on Christmas Day, when he and Lewis Schaffer were talking about being comedy failures.

This afternoon, I talked to Will about the 4-hour ‘satire workshop’ he is hosting at comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in London, on Sunday 17th January – promoted by the ever-entrepreneurial Arlene Greenhouse.

The workshop is titled: From The Classics To The Clubs: Bringing The Rebellion Of Satire Back To Comedy.

“There is a continuum,” Will told me. “There is a link between Jonathan Swift on up through to, let’s say, Chris Morris.”

“What do you know about satire?” I asked him.

“Well, I have my degree in Restoration and 18th Century British Literature. My thesis was on Juvenalian Satire Within Swift and Pope.”

“Where was this?” I asked.

“The University of Missouri. I had some good instructors.”

“So, in your satire course, you will include what?” I asked.

“One thing I will slip in will be Obvious versus not-so-obvious enemies. If you are going to be a satirist, you have to have an enemy of some sort. Horatian satire, for example, is very lighthearted – like You know, the people at Starbucks, who make the coffee – But Juvenilian satire is like Swift – Oh, you want to stop the starvation problem in Ireland? Here’s a recipe for eating babies – It’s got this viciousness.”

“What are the satire targets today?” I asked.

Donald Trump or Jeremy corny? The choice is yours

Choose Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn…

“Well,” said Will, “if people come to the workshop and say I want to do something about Donald Trump, I would caution them by saying: First you have to look at supply and demand. Do you think that the market will be saturated with Trump jokes? I presume it will be. However, are there any Jeremy Corbyn jokes? So how can you look at Corbyn and try not to be obvious? Is there anything in Corbyn that you can see is worthy of ridicule? If you can, you might be on your way as being able to stand out as a satiric voice, 

You don’t want to perform in an echo chamber. You need to be able to stand out. When I got started in San Francisco, everybody had George Bush jokes – It was Bush Bush Bush Bush. I realised the only way I could stand out was to add a layer to that and make fun of the people who were making fun of Bush. So I had to observe them, learn their mannerisms, learn their hyperbole and make it even more exaggerated.”

“Why did you choose Restoration satire for your university course?” I asked.

“Well, I had been a fan of Swift before that. I had read stuff like Directions to Servants and Modest Proposal, of course. I was just intrigued by the fact somebody could have that idea of biting against the Establishment that long ago – and even before that, with Juvenal and Horatio.

“What I’m really good at is satire and being able to make a point of moral indignation but couch it in humour to make it a bit more palatable.”

“That’s your definition of satire?” I asked.

“Yeah. When I originally put the posting about the workshop up on Facebook, a lot of people confused satire with sarcasm.”

“So how,” I asked, “is your workshop on satire going to change comedy for the better in Britain?”

“At the very least, it will add a bit of intellect,” will replied. “When I first sent Arlene Greenhouse my pitch, she said: I dunno if they’re gonna get it. And I said: Well, the thing with comedians is that they all want to be clever. So, even if they don’t get it, they will pretend that they get it.”

“If I print that,” I said, “it will sound like you are knocking your market.”

Will/Sarah Franken - "I didn’t know when to make the move"

Will Franken – for intellectuals, pseudo intellectuals & ‘others’

“Well, the thing about my comedy,” said Will, “is it works with intellectuals AND with pseudo-intellectuals. Even if they only pretend to get it, I win. And other people love it because it’s just weird and politically offensive.”

“That,” I warned him, “will read as if you have a superiority complex.”

“It’s because I’m a failure,” replied Will. “All I have is my ego.”

“You reckon you will be a good teacher?” I asked.

“Well, I did it before and quite enjoyed it. I taught World Literature and Creative Writing.”

“Where?”

“At North Carolina for a couple of years and at the University of Missouri for a year. I used to dress up as Jonathan Swift and get a powdered wig and an 18th century outfit in Springfield, Missouri. I memorised the entirety of Modest Proposal and had a PowerPoint presentation on the recipes for the children.”

“Are you going to wear a powdered wig in Shepherds Bush?”

“My wig days are over, man.”

“British alternative comedy’s great days,” I suggested, “were when Margaret Thatcher was in power in the 1980s.”

“Margaret Thatcher,” said Will, “had a debate with William F Buckley around 1980/1981. She said: There was a time when people had conviction. Now, you see, it’s all consensus. Who can argue with that? It’s a paraphrase, but…”

“I suppose yes,” I said, “if you want to rule by constant consensus, you must be against people who rule by conviction.”

“Yes,” said Will. “There is an assumption that, if a lot of people agree with something, it is therefore correct and good. How stupid can you get?

“There is a dearth of satire nowadays and I think that’s because people largely don’t know what it is – and I think that’s largely due to being inundated with political correctness. If you have a politically correct comedy establishment, there’s really not much you can do in the way of satire.

“When people come in and they say Sensitivity… sensitivity… they are basically saying Don’t do comedy. There is a hyperbolic feeling which people have that, if you come out and say Political Correctness is stupid. Of course you should make fun of whoever you want to make fun of… then there will be black people hanging from trees.

“A satirist is an artist, right? A comedian fills a function. That’s another thing I hope to bring across to people in the workshop: How to transform comedy from something that’s just a means to get a pay check from Jongleurs… Because it’s always the bookers, not the audience.

Will Franken

“Throw something out there and it’s good… they will grasp it”

“It’s the bookers who are the gatekeepers, who say: I get it, but the audience will be too stupid.

“As pessimistic as I am, I always believe that people in this country will innately veer towards the intelligent. That, if you throw something out there and it’s good, they will grasp it.

“I say in the marketing stuff for my workshop: I can’t guarantee you a string of gigs at Jongleurs, but I will veer you towards being able to go after comedy as the art form it was originally intended to be.”

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Is a Japanese comic doing their act in English with a Japanese accent racist?

Louise Reay Chinese

Image for Louise’s Chinese language show It’s Only Words

Last night, I went to see the final of the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of The Year competition, rightly won by character act LJ Da Funk (aka Zak Splijt).

One of the acts was the highly esteemed Louise Reay.

In a previous So It Goes blog, about her Edinburgh Fringe show, she explained to me: “I’ve always been interested in communication. People have a real mental barrier about languages and the way we communicate.

“But just one look can mean so much. We communicate all the time. Look at my hands. I can’t stop them moving. There’s so much more than language going on. That’s what my show’s all about. There was a very spurious 1960s experiment which proved that only 7% of communication was verbal. So my whole show is an experiment in the 93%. If I did it in French, it wouldn’t work, because most people maybe understand enough.”

Today, one review of last night’s show said: “Louise Reay was the first oddball of the night, coming on speaking Chinese and then explaining, via placards, that her whole act would be in Chinese. It could easily have been seen as racist, but Reay was more of an absurdist. I didn’t think it was offensive, maybe if I was Chinese – and very sensitive –  I might have felt differently.”

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri is currently conducting a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another.

On Facebook, his response to the review was “I don’t understand why the possibility of considering Louise Reay’s act racist is even entertained (although, fortunately, rejected). She does not even pretend to be Chinese; she just plays on the absurdity of using a language the majority of the audience cannot understand.”

The reviewer (alright, it was the admirable Bruce Dessau) came back to Giacinto with: “As you say, I did consider it before rejecting it. But I still wonder if a Chinese person would be OK with it, though I don’t like the idea of being offended on other people’s behalf so I won’t be offended on behalf of the entire Chinese population!”

Giacinto, responded: “Indeed. But I think we need to go a step further: even if they were offended, they wouldn’t be justified in being so. Offence, even when real and not hypothetical, cannot be its own justification.”

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during the BBC2 TV series The School that turned Chinese

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during filming for her BBC2 documentary series The School That Turned Chinese

At this point, Louise pointed out: “My Edinburgh show was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is funded by the Hanban, the culture department of the Chinese government. This would appear to indicate that my act is generally supported by both the Chinese and the academic community of Chinese speakers. I would add as a general point that it is not remotely racist (for a white English person) to speak real Chinese. A Chinese person speaking English is never questioned on the matter. The Independent wrote an article about it all in case of interest.”

Interestingly, by a quirk of scheduling at last night’s show, Louise Reay’s act (an English woman performing in Chinese) was immediately followed by Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani speaking English with a Japanese accent. She won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award last week.

There has never been any suggestion that her act could, in any way, at any time, be considered racist.

Louise Reay is currently working on her next solo show, titled Que Sera, 些拉 

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Critic Kate Copstick’s ‘offensive’ Edinburgh Fringe comment about comic Sarah Millican stirs up hate mail

A startled Kate Copstick lurks in gloom last night

A startled Kate Copstick stares from the shadows last night

At the Edinburgh Fringe last night, I had a brief chat with Kate Copstick, doyenne of Fringe comedy critics.

Next week, Monday-Friday, I am chairing a chat show – So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show – at the Fringe.

First guest on Monday will be Arthur Smith; last guest on Friday will be Adrienne Truscott, possibly the most talked-about act at this year’s Fringe.

More details on my website.

Kate Copstick will be on the show daily with her shows-to-see tips and her always forthright views on Fringe people.

Copstick is nothing if not forthright.

And it can sometimes get her into trouble.

“Apparently I’m getting incredible hate male on Yahoo,” she told me last night. “I’m quite excited, really.

“The first day I arrived in Edinburgh, I did an interview with Russell Kane on this Fringe in 5 thing on Yahoo – little five minute chunks of interview, mainly with famous comedians. It’s still online.

“I got a call from Avalon (the comedy management company) saying it had all gone a bit crazy. Most of the interviews were getting around what David Baddiel got – 15,000 views – but the interview they’d done with me had got 100,000.

“I thought Oooh, lovely, but couldn’t remember what I’d said. We’d gone way over, with me yacking on forever but, apparently, the problem was things I’d said about Sarah Millican. All hell had broken loose, on account of the ‘sisterhood’ getting their tampons in a twist.

“I couldn’t remember what I’d said, but it was a throwaway remark.

Copstick, Dean & Kane on the offending Yahoo show

Copstick, Dean and Kane on the offending Yahoo Fringe show

“Avalon called me back in to do another Fringe in 5 and Emily Dean, the girl who’s with Russell, said she was quite offended and “tens of thousands” of women had been equally offended “on behalf of other women”. Not just women in comedy, but women in general. Though especially women in comedy.

“Apparently I had said something like Oh, if Sarah Millican wasn’t a Geordie, she’d just be told to go away, lose some weight and come back when she was funny.

“Self-evidently, that’s just a daft, off-the-cuff remark. I mean, she’s not even really fat. She’s really not – she’s little and cuddly.

“But apparently the problem was that I’d dared to mention something physical about a woman in comedy. Apparently you’re not allowed to.

“You’re not allowed to say – I don’t know – presumably anything… Big, Blonde, Fat, Thin, Old, whatever.

“I was Wow! What? This is just…

I started to say to Copstick: “Of all the offensive things you’ve said to…”

“Absolutely!” she interrupted. “Of all the offensive things I’ve said… And Emily Dean said to me Do you want to apologise for it?

“And I said, Well, no…

Cuddly Sarah Millican - probably not crying

Sarah Millican – Cuddly but probably not crying

“Obviously and genuinely, if I thought for one second that Sarah Millican was in a corner crying, I would apologise wholeheartedly to her… But I’m not going to apologise to the bloody sisterhood in general for, in principle, transgressing the unwritten laws of irritating women.

“It’s crazy!… I got really very pissed-off with the oestrogen-raddled, pathetic small-mindedness of it all.

“I half thought about deliberately including highly personal comments about everybody I review now.

“Oddly enough, I’d just written a review about a comedian called Bobby Mair, who is clearly the heir to Doug Stanhope. I said the first thing that strikes you as he walks on stage is you can immediately hear, in your mind’s ear, the theme tune of Duelling Banjos, cos that’s what he looks like. I said he looked like an unmade bed.

“It’s just ridiculous… It’s unbelievably irritating… What else can’t we say?… Can you not say any woman comedian is shit?… I do have a little more, but I won’t say it on a recording. Apparently…”

And then I switched off my iPhone recorder.

But she may be less reticent on my chat show next week…

Hint.

The Edinburgh Fringe is all about promotion.

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Jimmy O: a ‘blackballed’ comic inspired by Jerry Sadowitz & Bernard Manning

Jimmy O yesterday in Wigan via Skype

Jimmy O chats in a Wigan internet cafe yesterday via Skype

A couple of months ago, I saw Waves of Laughter, an episode of BBC2 TV documentary series Funny Business. It was about comedians performing on cruise ships.

According to the BBC publicity blurb: “This film follows the fortunes of Jimmy O – a virgin water-borne comic, as he makes his very first cruise, and tries to learn the ropes in a hurry when he is thrown in at the deep end.”

He sank, so I was interested when he contacted me about a charity single his band Clown Prince are releasing for online download on 3rd May.

“What sort of music is it?” I asked.

“I always say it’s sugar-coated pop with a twist of melancholy,” He told me yesterday. He was in Wigan. I was on Skype.

“Comedy happened by accident,” he said. “Me main passion in life were music. It’s a cliché, but I were the class clown at school. People were always telling me I were funny. So, when the band originally broke up and I had no creative outlet left, I never thought I’ll be a comedian, I just thought I’ll stand on stage to test just how funny I actually am.

“Me band’s doing stuff again now, but I thought we’d do it online rather than live. To test it. And we’ll give the proceeds to a local stroke charity in Wigan and Leigh – Think Ahead

“I lost me mum to a stroke two years ago, which is a harrowing experience. It puts a lot of this entertainment bullshit into perspective.”

“How are things after the BBC documentary?” I asked.

“I’m on the dole,” replied Jimmy. “I live in a council house in Wigan with no carpets, paper hanging off the wall, a broken fridge and a broken telly. I’m basically a tribesman. I wonder what Michael McIntyre’s doing this morning. He’ll be sat in his £8 million house.

“I have problems getting booked.

The glitz and glamour of showbiz

Jimmy O amid the glorious glitz and glamour of showbiz

“When I first started out, Jerry Sadowitz was me idol. When I ran a club, I’d love to have booked him, but he’s always telling me to Fuck off on Twitter. He was the first comedian I felt passionate about. But I grew up with the pre-conceived idea of a real professional comedian being Bernard Manning. I used to watch the show The Comedians on telly.

“I actually supported Bernard Manning once. I was quite lucky. When I started out and was only ten gigs old and I were shit, I got the chance to support Bernard Manning. After that, I thought I don’t understand this Political Correctness. It’s such a middle class bar.

“You can make jokes about the poor. You can make rape jokes. You can make cancer jokes. You can make all the disabled remarks like Ricky Gervais does. But, as soon as you mention something like an asylum-seeker…

“When I went onto the alternative Manchester circuit, I told a gag which got me blackballed effectively. I said:

“I’ve got a friend. He’s a Kosovan asylum-seeker. I invited him round our house and said Make yourself at home. So he raped me wife and ate the dog. 

“I had another one:

“My girl said she wanted some smellies for Christmas, so I got her a tramp and a gypsy.

“Just a silly one-liner.

“But, as soon as I done that, I was known as ‘the racist’ and I was blackballed on the Manchester comedy scene and it’s kinda carried on. The vilification has carried on in the six years I’ve been doing stand-up. I’ve had promoters tell me We’ve had discussions. I’ve heard other promoters talk about you and because of ‘The Gypsy Joke’ you won’t get bookings. I have this reputation that precedes me.”

“Political correctness is an interestingly variable thing,” I said.

‘It’s a class thing,‘ said Jimmy. ‘If a middle class student had gone on stage and delivered that gag, it would be post-modern irony. If I go on stage – I look like a hod-carrier – I’m seen as a piece of racist BNP poster-boy filth.

“They’re just gags and it shouldn’t be that way. You shouldn’t have to police yourself. It’s comedy. Is it a George Carlin quote? It’s the job of the comedian to cross the line and offend. The nature of comedy is a dark art. It comes from a dark place. Most comedians are mental. The best ones are.

Jimmy like Total Abuse from Jerry Sadowitz

Total Abuse inspired

“I first saw Jerry Sadowitz on an ITV morning show called The Time, The Place when I was 15 years old. This episode was about swearing and they had Jerry Sadowitz and his manager sat in the audience. This is a clip from your show… and it was like Beep… beep… beep… beep… Being 15, I thought This is great! so I got me mum to buy me his Total Abuse DVD and I loved it. It was amazing! When I started doing comedy, he was the man I wanted to be like. That’s why I did asylum-seeker jokes. I thought: Well, he’s doing it…

“I grew up on a council estate in Wigan. I had a loving mother and a cold, distant, cruel father. He never beat me, but he was always putting me down so I’ve been instilled with this fucking Grimaldi complex – you know – the tortured clown. Most entertainers are dysfunctional to varying degrees and they stand on a stage to say Please like me.

“Other ‘normal’ people go out on a weekend and go for a dance and that’s their showtime. But the more twisted of us go stand on a stage and get shouted at.”

“And a TV documentary about cruise ship entertainers is a bigger stage,” I said.

“I’d been on television before,” Jimmy replied. “A show called Living With Kimberly Stewart: a reality TV show with Rod Stewart’s daughter on Living TV. Twelve contestants. The premise was Kimberly Stewart had no friends in the UK, so she had to find two flatmates to live with her. This was 2007 and Kimberley was in her late twenties.

The world of Kimberly Stewart on the cover of Hello!

Kimberly Stewart’s world: the cover of Hello!

“I fill out the application form and I’m brutally honest. I’m an unemployed comedian. I have a battered old Astra car. I live with me mother. I guess because I was raw and different, they invited me down to auditions at Endemol in London and it was full of girls who looked like they’d just come off an FHM shoot and guys in scarves and pointy-toed boots who looked like they’d been in Duran Duran and I’m a bloke from Wigan with a flat cap on and a pair of £7 jeans from Asda.

“There were tasks every week and, because I had been involved in music, there was a music task. Donny & Dirk Tourette were on the show doing the music task as well – Donny Tourette was on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.

“The producer took us to the London School of Music. Donny & Dirk Tourette were sat down with loads of Stella beer cans round them. Having a comedic slant, if you’re in a strange situation, you tend to fall back on comedy. Dirk Tourette’s hair were bright blond, with a straight fringe and straight down the sides.

“I said: I know you off the telly… It’s Jim’ll Fix It!

“And he said: You cunt! You Northern cunt! It were like something out of Grange Hill. He actually said: I’m gonna put your ‘ead dahn the toilet! There’s footage of the fight on YouTube, but they’ve edited all this bit out.

“So it started a push-and-pull. His brother Donny ran over with a full can of Stella and smashed it in me face – the footage is on YouTube.

“Donny Tourette scratched me eye. I had to go to Moorfields Eye Hospital. One of me regrets is I didn’t punch him; I just grappled him to the floor because, at the time I was green and thought Well, I don’t want to get thrown off this show. I thought it could be me ticket to the chocolate factory. But it turned out to be me ticket to the fucking meat counter in Tesco.”

“When I saw you on the BBC2 cruise ship show,” I said, “I thought He’s playing a professional Northerner on-and-off stage and I can’t see what the guy’s really like.”

“Well,” explained Jimmy, “I had a dichotomy that had been bothering me for a while. I had developed this dopey, Northern, Ken Goodwin type character. I’d shuffle onto the stage looking bewildered and get laughs.

“I had developed this act which was very old school: dead-pan one-liners. But I’d got bored with it and me delivery had become so slow and dragged-out… My goal now is to become more like myself on stage, but there’s something very scary about that. It’s like going on stage naked.

“People told me: You’re funnier as yourself. But it’s like when someone tells you something and, deep down inside, you know it too and you’re in a state of comedic denial.

“I’m not a cruise ship entertainer. I’m not from a world of cheesy smiles and Come on, Beryl, let’s have a dance; it’s Beryl’s birthday, everybody! Comedically, that’s not what I want to do. My goal is to be myself now. That BBC cruise ship documentary put the final nail into the coffin of my old act.”

There is an extract from the upcoming Jimmy O/Clown Prince charity single Cradle Me on SoundCloud:

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