Confessions of a right-wing comic | There are more of us than you'd think, says Geoff Norcott © Adam Ethan Crow

Confessions of a right-wing comic

There are more of us than you'd think, says Geoff Norcott

A couple of times this year, the question 'Where are all the right wing comics?' has been asked. I like the question (not least because I'd started writing a show from this angle last September) but I also like the inference: that right wing comics are definitely out there, it's simply a question of coaxing them into admitting it in public.

There's probably some truth in that. Plenty of comics have had green room discussions where opinions shared are somewhere right of Norman Tebbit circa 1982. But it's a big leap to take those views on stage.

Comedy is all about status. You need to be kicking upwards if possible. A posh bloke talking about his support for the benefit cap is a tough sell.

However, in my Edinburgh show, Geoff Norcott Occasionally Sells Out, I admit, among other things, to centre-right thinking and some Tory sympathies. I'm not trying to water it down by calling it 'centre right'. I don't think I need to. In the leftie morass of stand-up politics, anything right of Vince Cable is akin to Oswald Mosley doing the lunchtime show at The Gilded Balloon.

I've just about got away with it so far. I think the fact that I'm not a 'Nigel' or a 'Leonard' helps. I grew up on a council estate. Members of my family have claimed benefits over the years; I am at least half 'scrounger'. In my house, 'tax avoidance' meant ignoring letters.

While I'm just starting my run at the Fringe itself, previewing the show around the country was an illuminating process.

What has become clear is the North-South divide is alive and well. Banging on about wealthy pensioners makes a lot more sense in Surrey than it does in Newcastle. In the North East, if you talk about pensioners going 'cruising' it's more likely to conjure up images of granddads in leather chaps looking for men at the bookies, than financially well set geriatric hopping and off liners.

If Manchester, the sheer idiocy of a southerner going on stage and admitting a passing fondness for David Cameron provoked a kind of benign wonder. I guess they'd heard tales of fools like me but never thought that they'd actually meet one. I'd imagine there were loads of youngsters taking 'selfies' with me in the background and the tag 'A real life Tory'.

Because you don't meet many Tories. It's like farts in lifts. No one ever owns up. Despite polling a consistent third of the British electorate, you're hard pushed to meet someone who wears their conservative colours on their sleeve.

I think it's to do with perceived meanness. People learn that professing a blue political affiliation normally ends up with you being described somewhere between Margaret Thatcher and Genghis Khan. It couldn't be further from the truth for me. I watched plenty of people on the estate I grew up on enslaved to a benefit culture. Their lives became tedious and unfulfilling. My support for some austerity measures is to do with wanting those people to get more out of life, not less.

I don't mind a good row though. I've had some heated discussions with some extremely 'red' comedians. Most comics hate Tories, but they hate dishonesty more, so my plaintive stance has just about earned me a reprieve thus far.

What I do hate is hypocrisy. When Thatcher died, I respected all stances on her passing. I didn't, however, appreciate people who couldn’t be more like Thatcher's children if they'd shared a womb with Mark and Carol rocking up at the Brixton Ritzy to celebrate her death. Then returning to their privately owned properties (funded in part by wealth from their parent's purchase of a right-to-buy council house) to file tax returns that would make Phillip Green blush. Having a conscience but not following through is bad news. It's the reason Nick Clegg looks like he can see dead people.

Then there's the war. Most comics are instinctively pacifist. I'm not saying I love war (I did when I was nine, but things change). I have been out to Afghanistan five times to perform for the troops and it's clear on the ground that the reasons for being there are slightly more nuanced than your average stand-up would have you believe.

It's worth remembering that the Taliban really aren't particularly nice chaps at all. Their attitude to women would make a golf club blush. It may be deeply unfashionable, but I still think freedom and democracy are worth fighting for. I must have been the only person who watched Team America: World Police and thought 'fuck yeah!' without any sense of irony. (I realise I may be sounding a bit like Jim Davidson at the moment, but he might be going away for a while soon, there might be a gap in the market).

The reaction at the Fringe so far has been surprisingly positive. I've not encountered much dissent. There was one woman who did amazing work with the homeless and invited me to spend an evening with her seeing people 'penniless, scared and living without hope'. Clearly she's been hanging out at the Loft Bar.

Ultimately, the political element of the show - however genuine - is a means to an end. I wanted to write comedy that forced me to deal in areas that weren't likely to get automatic mass approval. Admitting to being a Tory in Scotland is one way of achieving that. Alternatively, I could just go on draped in a St George's flag and chant 'ENG - GER - LAND'.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Geoff Norcott Occasionally Sells Out is on at Just The Tonic @ The Tron, Hunter Square, at 17:00

Published: 7 Aug 2013

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