David Longley: A Joke Is Just A Joke

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Dave Longley has some big ideas, eloquently put, in this imperfect but intellectually ambitious hour.

He is an out-and-out cynic, with a clinically unromantic attitude to love, a militantly atheist reaction to religion, and an almost pathological hatred of both psychics and alternative medicine charlatans selling demonstrably useless salves to body and soul.

His vigorous scientific demolition of these is as thorough as it is entertaining, and he has a nice line in passionate rants. The theme that underpins every segment is his despair that so many people cling on to predetermined points of view, no matter what weight of unarguable evidence is presented to them.

The themes are familiar once among the more enlightened practitioners of opinionated comedy: that celebrity culture is insidious, that new age voodoo is worthless, or that if there is a God, is he really more concerned with teenage masturbation than, say, Darfur?

But the arguments are deftly put together , and his take on these subjects is always good, sometimes superlative. Set-piece routines suggesting modern medicine should take a more evangelical air, or the constant ridiculing of the ‘what she needs is a good seeing-to’ school of misogyny are artful and hilarious. He does have a disconcerting habit of avoiding eye contact during much of his set, however, fixing his gaze about the audience’s head.

That people’s opinions can be so inflexible was brought definitively home to Longley earlier this year when he, as he understatedly put it, ‘made a mistake at work’.

His schoolboy error was to crack a joke about Madeleine McCann and Rhys Jones in front of an audience in famously sensitive Liverpool. The gag died a painful death, Longley apologised and went home, embarrassed at his faux pas. Unknown comedian tells bad joke is hardly headline news, he thought, but that was to ignore the offended audience member who alerted the Liverpool Echo, which hyped up the outrage. It became the sick joke heard across the world.

Today, he asserts that a joke is just a joke, a sweeping statement which is exactly the sort of argument Bernard Manning disingenuously used to defend his hateful material. Jokes, like any form of expression, can be genuinely hurtful and corrosive.

This section of the show is a little self-serving, seemingly most concerned about restoring his reputation. But thankfully, he does wittily puncture this atmosphere as he crescendos towards his conclusion.

But he needn’t worry about his reputation if he can build on this level of quality and incisiveness, perhaps without that one nagging bee in his bonnet, he could very well find himself becoming a festival must-see.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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