Doing adverts? It's a crime against the truth

Ivor Dembina has the last word on the subject

Like Carl Donnelly, I’ve never done an advert, but I’m sure if I needed the money I would do. Then again, if things got really bad I’d sell heroin to seven-year olds or, even worse, publicly endorse Jongleurs

Mark Watson, whom we applauded for his 24-hour stand-up show, now appears around the clock selling alcohol. Mark’s explanation for doing the advert is to support his family, but if he wants to do so by selling booze, he should open an off-licence. Sorry, when you operate as a comedian your first responsibility isn’t to your family, it’s to your audience.

Mark doesn’t need to justify his remarks by defending his personal integrity because nobody gives a toss about his integrity, we only care about what he says and does in the public domain. If he wants to address feelings, then he should read Frank Skinner’s account of how he felt when he heard his own voice prostituting itself by advertising some product or other.

Whether you see comedy as art, entertainment or political activity, it’s one of the few places left for sharing truth. Commercials are expensively constructed lies, and to accept money in exchange for spreading them is a crime against all the people you deceive. People just need to make their minds up, do they want to be comedians or criminals?

There are countless obstacles to telling the kind of jokes you prefer in the kind of venue you’d like, and some people spend their comedy lives trying, and usually failing, to overcome them. But at least they do so honestly, knowing that if they cannot provide the audience with something decent, they can at least exercise the choice of rejecting fraudulent use of their talent.

When Carl Donnelly tells us, ‘Unless a comedian has been an open critic of advertising or the particular product being advertised, then their appearance in a commercial has no reflection on their stand-up.’ he reveals the bankruptcy of his own argument. Let’s get this straight: when a comedian speaks the truth, he doesn’t do so selectively and certainly not in his paymaster’s interests.

The reason why most live comedy is so dismal is precisely because it’s bound up with the marketing principles of the advertising man. I remember a time when people enjoyed a beer with their comedy, now we’re given comedy with our beer. Today comedy is one grisly advertisement for itself, a marketing march into banality and cretinism, held together by crap PR, cynical sponsorship and corporate tripe.

It’s no wonder that so many ‘comedians with integrity’ do adverts; they probably don’t even spot it when they’re doing one.

  • This topic is now closed

Published: 14 Sep 2009

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.