Don't blame us open spots... you created us!

Sean Hartnett hates the insecurities of established comics

Go to any open mic night half an hour early and you'll hear the same conversation playing out among comedians like Groundhog Day: That the bubble of stand-up is about to burst.

was performing last Thursday night and as usual the inevitable discussion reared its head. Until now I was content to listen to the infinitely more experienced comics and then the promoter got in on the act and started chipping in with his two cents. He was of the older generation and immediately started laying into 'younger' comics such as myself for 'jumping on the bandwagon' of the new wave of comedy.

It's an argument I've heard now and again from seemingly insecure older comics. That somehow us young'uns have come to kick the established comedians out and infect the world with our rape jokes and hairstyles.

 The thing that really annoys me about people who hold this opinion is that they don't seem to realise one simple thing. We are yo! We are the kids who grew up watching the magic of our TV, film and stand-up icons and felt such earnest ambition and hope for the future that the only way we could feel satisfied was to try to emulate even a fraction of the talent we saw on the screens when we were at our most malleable.

Even the most successful of stand-ups nowadays have to realise they were in exactly the same position as us when they started out too. They weren't always famous or earning a living out of comedy. They were just lucky enough that they didn't have to contend with the sheer amount of 'insiders' trying to keep them out as we do now.

Yes there maybe more hopeful stand-ups working the open mic scene than ever before, but it's completely in proportion to the amount of awe that was inspired when people were influenced by accomplished performers who are now the very people trying to condemn them. Congratulations established comedians, we are the bastard sons of your ambition.

   The truth is, is that you're never going to have the perfect amount of people in any given industry. It's always going to be to either over-crowded or under staffed. To be honest, I prefer the comedy industry to be over-crowded, because at least that gives everyone ample choice to pick their favourite acts. It allows to co-existence of acts like Michael McIntyre, Frankie Boyle, Stewart Lee and Noel Fielding. Another positive by-product is that there are only so many jobs in the industry and much more people trying to get them. So it forces people to up their game to be the best that they can be so they might break through.

 Think of the alternative. In a country where the comedy industry has a handful of performers who are successful, jokes would become too familiar. The same stories would be told over and over again. It would be like Dave on every channel. We have real life precedents of certain Eastern European countries where they have one comedian. Or Middle Eastern countries where the funniest man in comedy has been so for 40 years.

They are hardly known for their metropolises of comedy are they? But we are.

There's a reason the West has the greatest entertainment industries and it's due in part to its ability to adapt to the changing times and the problems that come with it. Overcrowding, changing of comedic tastes, these are all problems that this industry has faced time and time again. Each time they come, some people say 'Oh well that's it now, it was good while it lasted', but while it may seem like a big problem now, in all likelihood, life will go on and so will comedy.

 I resent being made to feel guilty for having followed my passion in life by the very people who did the exact same thing in years gone past. Being told that I am the very cause of the collapse of the industry I love so much is heart-wrenching.

  • Sean Hartnett has nothing to promote. He is simply a man.

Published: 16 Oct 2012

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