Credit where it's due, Jim

Lloyd Mills thinks it's a crime to overlook a joke's writer

I’ve just read Jim Davidson’s latest blog on comedy and I have to take massive issue with his assertion that there is something less than noble about writing and performing one’s own material.

‘The new comedians pride themselves on “writing their own material”, but who cares?,’ Jim writes. ‘If a man tells you a joke in a pub does it make it funnier if he had written it himself?’

Maybe Jim feels qualified to make this sort of statement because the sort of tripe he’s been peddling for four decades consists mainly of ill-informed stereotypes and rotten bigotry which presumably comes quite naturally from his nasty brain and requires little writing.

Davidson’s sentiment is not isolated though. Your average Joe or Jill on the street typically share his viewpoint. If there’s a joke to be told it would probably kill the moment to stop afterwards and say ‘but I must confess that joke was written by Steve Thomson of Chipping Norton!’

That’s obviously not going to happen. We can’t always know where or who a joke has come from. It’s a shame but once a joke is out there it can be appropriated by anyone. People don’t care.

Shit joke website Sickipedia is a massive conduit for this. People I know to be comedy fans copy and paste ‘jokes’ from that particular site onto their various social networking profiles as if they’ve come up with them themselves. I’m sure there’s no malice involved but it’s always struck me as vaguely dishonest. It’s the same with your Jim Davidson-style blokey blokes down the pub, gurning and braying punchlines at each other as if they’re the second coming of Jimmy Carr. Easy for me to say, I’ve never been a great joke-teller and since trying my hand at stand-up comedy I definitely find it hard to write them.

I feel compelled to write in defence and praise of those that come up with the source material and the comedy gold that we hold so dear, the funnies that the blokey blokes down the pub wouldn’t give a second thought to the conception of.

Laughter is a brilliant thing and I don’t think for a second that our laughs should be limited in any way – but if you’re reading this and do toss jokes off willy-nilly, then perhaps stop for a moment and imagine the individual who came up with the gag that’s making you piss your pants.

Picture the struggling writer, despairing that their new routine or gag isn’t panning out the way they’d hoped before it finds it’s own life onstage or in print. The self doubt, the second guessing, the cripplingly low self esteem and the rocky road to coming up with the material that they are truly proud of.

That’s where the talent lies, something we mustn’t forget. That’s why jokes not being credited is a crime; the sweat that it took to create them and the laughter they bring once they’re shared. Perhaps that’s why Davidson is considered such a joke in proper comedy circles, his contempt for this fundamental truth.

Published: 22 Jul 2011

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