Why is the Fringe censoring free-thinking artists?

Mark Little on the increasing conservatism in comedy

Who is squeezing the 'political' life out of the Fringe?

Since 1979 I have been performing my solo spoken-word comedy. My main influences have been performers like Lenny Bruce and Jello Biafra who saw their function as humorous artists to push the boundaries of censorship and moral repression.

I have always been true to this in my comedy.  Granted it gets me into a lot of trouble, but without 'pushing the trouble envelope', the evolutionary process stagnates.

In my Edinburgh show THEbullshitARTIST – whose title is being censored by the Fringe – I am attempting to get to the bottom of some sort of human truth buried under a mountain of cyber-bullshit. This is serious! That’s why I choose to perform on the Fringe. The Fringe is notoriously the place for alternative thinking and a response to the lies that can be perpetuated by the mainstream.

But I have seen this trend of neo-conservatism creeping into the fringe for the last ten years. That's why I have kept away from the Fringe for the last ten years...

But the time is now. With Planet Earth in revolt, the turmoil of the Arab Spring still ringing in our psyche and the Occupy movement continuing to put pressure on the one per cent, it is definitely time for comedy to shake off the vacuousness it embraced in the Noughties, and its ever-increasing reactionary stance.

Comedy has become a huge ‘brand’. With this branding it seems that comedy’s ability to mock the system and bring it to account has been marginalised. The wall of conservatism is being stacked higher and higher to the point where performers like myself who are keen to smash this wall down are being met with more and more obstacles. It’s hard enough without the Fringe organisation itself censoring free-thinking artists who put it all on the line at festival time, both artistically and financially

That’s where I have been. Hunkered down in the Noughties.  Regrouping. Planning my assault on an ever- increasing conservatism in society and art!

THEbullshitARTIST 2012 is my response. Leave it free! I have spent hours/years thinking through my ideas and how to put them in an entertaining, philosophical and humorous form. To the Fringe I say: ‘Show some respect to your artists and stop the bullshit.’ Those ads in your brochure are not cheap!

As the Dalai Lama says, ‘anger is an energy'. It's time to power up the National Grid...

  • Mark Little’s THEbullshitARTIST – or THEbullsh*tARTIST as the Fringe programme has it – is on at Assembly George Square in August.

Published: 10 May 2012

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