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This Autumn the biggest names on the
comedy circuit will be hitting Wales.
Rachel England rounds them up and
talks satire, American stand up and
what it means to have a British sense of
humour words: RACHEL ENGLAND
T
he Oxford English Dictionary defi nes com-
as Gilbert says, “a bit mediocre” at the moment,
edy, among others things, as ‘A humorous
Boyle is surely guaranteed comedic longevity.
or satirical play in which the characters
But this isn’t ideal, claims Russell Howard, ‘the
ultimately triumph over adversity’. Now,
blonde one off Mock The Week’ as many have come
I don’t think I’m alone in my feeling that, at the
to know him (a cross he bears with compliance but
moment, adversity is the name of the game for the
notes that “A lot of comedians require a shorthand.
United Kingdom, so the throng of world-class comics
You just have to get used to it”).
heading our way this autumn defi nitely have their
“There’s a lot of really easy satire at the moment,” he
work cut out for them.
says. “About Gordon Brown being hopeless and stuff
Still, this comedy collective remains, for the most part,
like that. It’s a problem really because when things
optimistic. “There’s a certain joy that comes with every-
get really fucked it becomes a bit of a bandwagon and
thing being a bit crap,” muses Welshman Rhod Gilbert
people jump on it declaring the ills of the country
as he sits in a Swansea pub patronised by old men “one
without really knowing why they’re criticising it.
pint away from a fi ght”.
Remember The Da Vinci Code? Everyone went round
“Everything’s a bit mediocre, and that’s very fertile
saying it was a load of shit when half of them prob-
territory for comedy,” he says. “The Swiss wouldn’t do
ably hadn’t even read it.”
jokes about trains being on time, would they?” True
Undoubtedly though, it’s the thin layer of pessimism comic Ed Byrne (who once had the honour
words indeed, spoken by a man whose current show
prevalent in British comedy that ensures its ongoing of playing ‘grungy teenager’ on a Father Ted
Rhod Gilbert And The Award Winning Mince Pie
success. As comedian-cum-panto star-cum-voice Christmas special), “but the British have an ability
opens with him having a breakdown in a petrol station.
artist-cum-reality TV celeb Joe Pasquale notes, “You to produce comedy of appalling lowest common
With a comedy landscape almost dominated by cyni-
really do need a sense of humour to live in this coun- denominator crassness, high-brow sophistica-
cism and satire, one would be forgiven for assuming
try,” before adding that he’s considering standing for tion and all stops in between.” And thank God
that its icons were of the pessimistic persuasion
the Monster Raving Loony Party. “After all,” he says. “I too, adds Michael McIntyre (whose comedic
underneath the laughs, but no. Even Frankie Boyle,
couldn’t do a worse job than they’re doing now.” skill, he says, stems simply from writing down
known as the ‘Dark Heart of Mock The Week’ and
But let’s cast politics aside – perhaps Australian things that make him laugh and “saying them
who began his career telling jokes about murderers
if.comedy nominee Tim Minchin puts it best when he in a row”). Glad to be British and much preferring
and serial killers, admits to being an optimistic
says that “People who complain about these things our sense of humour, McIntyre recalls his run-in with
person. “I always think the best thing is going
probably aren’t busy enough.” Quite. And certainly American comedians at Montreal Comedy festival last
to happen out of everything,” he says. “I
Minchin is a busy man. Comparable professionally year. “It was awful,” he says. “We thought they were
have that weird feeling that things are
to Bill Bailey (a “very fl attering comparison”) and awful. They thought we were awful. All their jokes
always going to be good.” And cer-
physically to the tousled kohl-laden Russell Brand (“a were about relationships and air travel.”
tainly his success to date, includ-
fucking genius and beautiful man” whom, he adds, Russell Howard agrees. “All these comics were going
ing the fastest selling comedy
copied his look), Minchin raised the roof at Edinburgh on saying ‘I’ve just got married’ or ‘I’ve just had a kid’
show at Edinburghs’s Assem-
Festival with his brand of quirky musical humour and and the crowd loved it. Imagine if you did that over
bly Rooms in the history of
fondness of bare feet (a penchant which requires him here – you went on and said ‘So, I’m happily mar-
its existence, should go
to “carry around a form that says I’ll take full respon- ried.’ The crowd would just go, ‘Oh. Yeah.’”
some way in ensur-
sibility for being a dickhead”) and is now gearing up So, what is it that makes the relationship between
ing his confi dence.
for three month UK tour, Ready For This? Brits and comedy so special? Russell is quick to
Of course, Boyle is
British humour though, is arguably entirely unique answer. “It’s our celebration of flaws which makes
perhaps best known
in its self-deprecating nature, renowned the world us unique. The beauty of British,” he laughs, “is
for his witty satire on
over and oft struggled with by other countries. “The that we’re not afraid to go ‘Look at me. I’m an
Mock The Week, and
Swiss are good with chocolate, and the Japanese do idiot.’ Everyone recognises that idiocy and that’s
so with everything,
miniaturisation very well,” says observational Irish why it works.”

There’s a certain joy that comes
with everything being a bit crap
OCTOBER2008.indd 7

25/9/08 3:14:51 pm
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