If you have any love of stand-up comedy, and an interest in the way it’s crafted and the dilemmas between pleasing yourself and pleasing the audience, then get thee hence to the Lyric Theatre (before Friday!) to go and see The Comedians, which I went to last night with @zsk and her husband.
It’s set in 1970s Manchester where a veteran Northern stand-up comedian runs a comedy class – and that night, his students will perform for the chance to get a contract with a venerated club promoter.
It’s often said the past is a different place, but it’s amazing to watch this recreation of 1970s Northern club comedy in 2000s West London, and marvel at the difference between then and now. Jokes you would not possibly get away with these days, mixed in with constant references to localities and local comedy clubs that reinforce the sense of community, from Liverpool to Leeds, that you just wouldn’t get today, especially in Southern England. Plus watching the on-stage collapse of a brotherly double-act is always highly amusing in a horrifying way.
There were, alas, moments when it seemed we were watching Mind Your Language instead, especially when the token comedy ethnic character popped in to steal the show for two minutes. Only, to my mind, made sadder by the realisation that the role was taken by one of the cast of the then ground-breaking Goodness Gracious Me. From being one of the co-stars of one of the most diverse sketch shows to a three-minute role, in ten years.
Of course, now we live in a world where vindictiveness is returning to comedy in a way it never has done before. Frankie Boyle, a Scottish teetotaller comedian, constantly stereotypes Scottish people as racist miser alcoholics, and refers to an Olympic athlete as being so ugly, she must be “very dirty”, and everybody laughs. Even I did. Indeed, tonight, the sick jokes website Sickipedia (don’t visit if you have any sensitivities to any jokes) is putting on a gig.
Still, if you have any love of comedy, go and see it before it closes on Friday!