Comedy, as is often pointed out, is not an easy business to get into. Unless of course you happen to be a failed politician. Or a retired newsreader. Or a mediocre TV presenter with alopecia, or an ex-Blue Peter cocaine sniffer, or any of a myriad of other minor celebrities desperate to keep the flicker of fame they once had.
Now many people might think Iím just a bitter open mic comic whoíd love a modicum of the publicity that these people are getting and those people would be right. But why shouldnít I be bitter? I started performing comedy not for fame but because I like making people laugh. But having had a taste of the adrenaline a good gig can pump through you I have to admit Iím hungry to play to bigger audiences, to more people, to feel the rush at a higher level. To do that Iíll really have to slog my guts out on the circuit, something that I donít always have the time or indeed money to do. But Iím under no illusions that I need to work harder if I ever want to succeed and if I donít make it itís down to shortcomings either as a comedian or in my work ethic. Or both.
So how come Lembit Opik et al get a free ride? There is no reason why someone who wouldnít even be a footnote in the big book of politicians if it wasnít for his ability to pull a Cheeky Girl should be better at comedy than me. Equally Jon Snow, Gail Porter and Richard Bacon have done nothing in their careers to suggest that they have any comic talent.
Of course theyíre already known to people, so they have the ability to perhaps draw a bit more media interest than a bearded, fat lad from Croydon can hope to do, but what really galls me is how they perceive stand-up comedy as a whole. It seems to me that they see it as an easy way to garner a bit more press. A bit of a lark, maybe a little scary, but ultimately it doesnít matter if they get laughs or they die.
Itís patronising to stand-up comedy as an art form if you ask me. Would these people expect a gallery to display doodles theyíd scribbled in the downtime since losing their seat in parliament? Or would they expect someone to commission an opera they wrote during the commercial break when they were on The Wright Stuff?
No, but itís OK to do high-publicity comedy gigs with little or no preparation ahead of struggling comedians who have spent every waking minute trying to perfect a five-minute act. This must be how up-and-coming black American actors feel when they see all the plum roles going to gangster rappers. But itís not just open mic-ers like me that should be annoyed. These people are getting gigs ahead of professional comedians too.
People who are playing up and down the country are screaming out for a big break or even a little break thatís not going to come because someone has had the bright idea that Coleen Rooney could probably do 20 minutes set on the hilarity of shopping in Primark and pull in the punters.
But maybe Iím doing them a disservice, perhaps they have a genuine drive and desire for comedy. Perhaps theyíve studied the greats and have worked long and hard on jokes and routines. So Lembit, Gail, Jon or whoever if you want to get into comedy then thatís fine. I run a little open mic night in Croydon if you want five minutes unpaid. Because thatís how you get into stand-up and if that doesnít take your fancy, then kindly sod off and leave the rest of us to it.