Worthy targets

Snez Naik says celebs - even McIntyre – are fair game if you've got a point

So, Stewart Lee has got himself into trouble over something he said three years ago.  A quote dragged up on Desert Island Discs stirrs up some trouble between him and the BBC’s comedy figurehead, Michael McIntyre

I really don’t get what the fuss is about. Stewart Lee created a whole show based on comedy and what it means to him today.  It’s greatly personal to him because he feels that stadium comedy is creating a new type of comic; highly polished but ultimately vacuous.  I’m with him.

The number of comics who have great delivery but have nothing to say is quite scary.  When I first started I was excited, but now, a few years later, I’m tired.  At any gig you’re guaranteed to see the same act. A kid in his twenties who is being lauded as the next big thing, he’s got to the semi finals of a competition so he must be good.  He goes on stage and picks on a member of the crowd, he’s fast. Now he makes jokes about the same three things because that’s what his comedy course taught him to do.  His name, the way he looks, where he’s from.

Hi I’m Tom, yeah I know, it sounds like tomato.

I’m fat so my testicles look like tomatoes.

I’m from Coventry which is a shithole and it's full of chavvy pedophiles that rape young tomatoes,  Fritzel blah blah blah incest blah blah Madeline McCann blah blah.

He has nothing to say because he hasn’t lived very much and experienced anything of any consequence so he makes jokes about fruit, women and child rape, designed to shock. Soon he’ll be on Mock The Week and he’ll fit right in.  I remember when I started out my mates would say ‘you’ll be on Mock the Week soon’, like it was a compliment. If I ever get on that show I’ll see it as a failure.

Frankie Boyle made a joke about Jordan's disabled son and when questioned about it afterwards he said that if Jordan wants to put Harvey in the spotlight then it is fair game to make fun of him.  This is a really interesting thought, but Frankie never once explored it in his show.  Hence, it looked like a guy picking on a disabled kid and nothing more which is a shame because the joke might have worked in some sort of context. 

You see this sort of thing at gigs all the time, comics say something nasty about a popular celeb and easy target like Beckham or Katona, pandering to the audience and knowing full well what the response will be.  It’s cheap and easy but as long as there’s a laugh it’s ok for them.  If you want to talk about someone famous then at least have something interesting to say, something different and not ‘Oh Amy Winehouse is dead, she should have gone to rehab’ crap, I can read that on Facebook.  Have a reason for your nastiness and make sure the audience knows, they might even like it.

Maybe comics are scared of upsetting celebs because maybe one day they think they might be sitting next to them on Mock the Week.  David Baddiel told Stewart Lee that he should stop because he will meet his targets and find they are all right really. 

Of course they’ll be ‘all right’ who isn’t ‘all right’ in celebdom? I’m sure Jedward are great lads but it won’t stop me disliking their music.  Last year people in this country went crazy hating X-Factor contestant Cher Lloyd.  Journalists were saying the most horrible things about a 16-year-old girl who they didn’t really know.  It was playground bullying of the highest order.  She has a crooked smile, she’s a wannabe gangster etc etc. and nobody batted an eyelid. Now all of a sudden the same people trying to protect a £6million-a-year celeb?  Why? Because his ‘you’ll never work in this town again’ cliché of a manger might affect their career? Jeez.

Chris Rock and his ilk aren’t scared to speak their mind about celebs. American chat show hosts are always having a go at each other and they still respect each other.  Why are we so scared in this country? 

The UK was built on satire and we once had the best comedy in the world but it’s just not the case these days. Comics are becoming celebs, the very people they should be questioning and celebs are getting very powerful. John Oliver said UK networks are scared to challenge, but can we really blame Frankie Boyle for everything or are we kissing celeb arse too much?  Not only kissing them – in Pippa Middleton’s case we are actually worshipping it.

To be honest, Stewart Lee doesn’t need to defend his act, although his observation that he doesn’t really swear is eye opening. It’s why he’ll always be better than most, he manages to challenge his audience without swearing or being tasteless (except the Jesus stuff), which is an art in itself.

Ultimately Stewart Lee and Michael McIntyre are both observational comics, one observes knives and forks and spoons, the other observes everything else.

Published: 27 Jul 2011

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