Everyone loves hearing about horrible gigs...

Milo McCabe has a backlash to the backlash

The backlash Kai Humphries got on these pages for posting an account of his demolition of a heckler struck a chord with me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Kai’s a very good mate of mine and he told me this story before he submitted it to Chortle. I and several others suggested that he blog it, in spite of his worry that it may come across too self-congratulatory – a charge Mike James subsequently levelled at him. But my point was that it was more of a tale of good vs evilthat he happened to be the hero of (most examples of this type of story require one after all).

The story resonated with my – and I’m sure many other comics’ – angst of being a powerless bystander when we aren’t personally on stage.

Secondly, I think someone criticising a comic for being too egotistical is possibly the most pointless thing I’ve ever read (other than someone criticising someone for doing it, of course). Maybe Mike James is visualising a comedic utopia of humble performers, adopting a shoegazing performance style akin to many indie bands of the Nineties. Gigs would take place in living rooms for free, after which there would be a round of apologies, from both comic and audience.

All comedians prefer hearing about a death. This is obvious. There will never be a story of a comic storming a gig that has travelled from green room to green room in the manner of Mike Gunn’s legendary dumbwaiter tale. Most people find comics who retweet praise tedious in the extreme, especially the ‘humblebrag’ ones.

In my opinion though, there is an exception when a story is involved. I had an incident happen with a heckler recently that I found interesting, but didn’t write about on Chortle, because I thought it was too self-aggrandising. Retrospectively, I was massively irritated with myself for having this attitude.

Celebrating failure is not uniquely British, but in my view it is definitively so. I’m not going to insult you as a reader by listing examples because we all know hundreds…it is the same hard-wired impulse that traditionally makes British people recoil in horror at the self-celebration culture that is more prevalent in the States.

At every level of the circuit there is a comic who brags about ‘storming every gig’, and who loves to list their successes at every available opportunity. Somehow they seem blind to the reaction this elicits from their peers. They are talked about endlessly, impersonated and often caught out, by being unaware that someone they are telling about a gig was actually there.

So what? These people are fucking hilarious. And if we don’t self-promote, who will? And who will be offended if we do?

So what impulses prompted the backlash against Kai’s story? What is it about a comic relating a triumph that stung another stand-up in another country to the point he needed to reply? I would understand if there were no point to the original piece other than self congratulation, but you have a story arc there and everything…

So Kai Humphries decided to take control of a situation that we as comics can relate to. He could have lost, but it seems he didn’t. He then went on to relay the details of the event.

‘Why write any of this in the article if not as self-promotion?’

Seriously. Has Mike James never read a Chortle Correspondents piece before? I thought that was the point…

Talking of which, did I mention my Edinburgh show Milo McCabe: Schiz will be on at 17:00 in the Gilded Balloon Balcony Bar? Or that I tweet at @milocomedy

Published: 6 Apr 2013

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