Friday, 21 August 2009

"In my day, if a cat tried be a doctor we'd have had it shot...."

Off the back of yesterday's Bruno post, here's a very balanced and insightful Stewart Lee essay on political correctness in comedy.

If you'd rather watch Lee tackle the subject on his home turf while attacking Richard Littlejohn, please check this youtube clip:



Me and my pals are going to see Stewart Lee at the Fringe on the 27th August. The blurb for the gig is a little vague, but as this clip shows, Lee's a master at circling round a point until it collapses in on itself so I'm sure it'll be good. My friends and I are also going to see Lee's former comedy partner Richard Herring this Sunday. The theme of Herring's Hitler Moustache show is hard to ignore -- it's sitting there, right in the middle of the comedian's face, just daring you to look:
Reclaiming Chaplin's moustache for comedy, 'Headmaster's Son' star muses on iconography, the positive side of racism and why an innocent square inch of facial hair took the blame for Nazism.
Interestingly, Herring ended up having to defend himself in the Guardian recently, after an article on "the new offensiveness" in comedy made his current routine sound like a cheap shlock-fest. "You're taking what I said out of context!" is often the first defense of the weasel, but Herring makes a convincing case for himself:
I think that most reasonable people might assume from the article that I am racist, or at least pathetically confrontational. Indeed, some reasonable people did assume that. One blogger wrote: "Richard Herring is currently putting on a show called Hitler Moustache, where (and I haven't seen the show) he apparently dishes up straight-faced endorsements of racist ideas."

It is true that the phrase "maybe racists have a point" is in the show. It's an interesting moment: the awkwardness in the room is palpable; a core belief has been challenged (by a man with a Hitler moustache) and people are uncomfortable about where this might be leading. But the statement is followed by what is possibly the standup routine I am most proud of, one which examines our attitudes to ethnicity and questions whether the way humans choose to divide themselves is obfuscating their essential similarity. It challenges racism, but also liberal assumptions about cultural identity. It's funny, too. Comedy, it seems, can cover some complex issues much more effectively than someone blankly stating these truths.

Sounds good to me! I can't wait to see how it comes off on stage, because I have faith in Herring's ability to make something out of these questions instead of simply saying something "shocking" and chuckling away in (relatively) safe company.

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