Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

When Frankie Boyle said he was leaving Mock the Week, everyone thought it would be the end of the show. It couldn’t continue without its controversial comedian. None of the other comedians could hold the show together. People would stop watching the show without Frankie’s acerbic brand of comedy.

Well guess what’s gone and happened. The show’s viewing figures are doing just grand, and to be honest, so are the comedians who are coming on the show. Since Frankie left the show, the comedians who have sat in the hot seat have been Patrick Kielty, Chris Addison (x5), Andrew Maxwell, Jack Whitehall (x2), Seann Walsh. All of whom have done a sterling job, with Addison clearly being quite a favourite for the producers. But that’s good, Addison is a good comic with a great satirical mind, which the show greatly benefits from.

Changes are good. They are. We might not always think so, but changes are good. Granted, when it comes to panel shows, though, changes are a mixed bag. Take two popular panel shows that both had big changes made with a change of host, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, both have, in my opinion, opposite fortunes when it came to their change.

Have I Got News For You had to get rid of its host, Angus Deyton, after allegations of him and a hooker, they made the move to having guest hosts every week. This was met with scepticism at first, but what it did was give the show a fresh take on things every week (although some would argue that freshness is wearing thin).

Then you have Never Mind The Buzzcocks, who really did have mixed fortunes. First they had Sean Hughes leave and be replaced by Bill Bailey, which was a brilliant move, given Bailey’s musical and comedic background. Then, host, Mark Lamaar, decided to call time on his tenure on the show. To start with, they did the same as HIGNFY and had a season of guest hosts, with the ultimate decision to have Simon Amstell as a permanent host. For me, this was the start of the decline of the show, Amstell turned it into the Amstell chat show, forgetting it was a panel show. Bill Bailey then left only to be replaced with Noel Fielding, who, I feel, is no replacement (I know a lot of Boosh fans will strongly disagree).

So we have two shows whose fortunes changed when a show regular decided to leave (or was pushed), and I really do think Mock the Week fits in with the fortunes of HIGNFY. Yes, Frankie will be missed, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t the core of the show. Towards the end, it become almost the Frankie Boyle show with him interjecting at every possible point, and now, now other comedians will actually get the chance to make the show more than what it had become. Many fans probably forget that Rory Bremner was the original regular panellist on what is now Andy Parson’s and Russell Howard’s team, he left, and the show survived quite well.

The same has happened with Frankie’s departure.

SL

“They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. They’re not laughing now.”
Bob Monkhouse

Whether or not you found that joke funny (for the record, it is), the actual setup to the joke is something that is so true when you look at the various forms of entertainment. If a child says they want to be a singer, no-one really bats and eyelid, but say you want to be a comedian, and people look at you as though you must be some kind of scumbag. A comedian? Couldn’t you be a chimney sweeper instead?

This kind of reaction is made doubly interesting when you consider just how emotive comedy is to the listener. If you watch a TV drama and you don’t like the performance, you might just think “I didn’t really like that show/performance,” but if it’s a comedian you don’t like, this brings in a whole other range of emotions. You’ll question how they even make a living when they’re “such a shit comedian”. The subjectivity of comedy is immense, and if a comedian doesn’t tickle your fancy, then woe betide them.

Rich Hall sums it up when he says people used to ask him “how did you end up being a comedian?” “End up?” he would retort, “you make it sound like I made a bad decision, a wrong turn.” And that’s what people think: you do comedy because you screwed your life up somewhere. Forget the fact that making people laugh is one of the hardest things you can do (trust me, I’ve tried it!), that doesn’t matter because you have clearly messed your life up. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking about comedy, something which a lot of people rely on to cheer their days up.

But this doesn’t just apply to the stand-up section of comedy, it also applies to the big screen. In 2009, The Hangover took over $270m at the box office, beating films like Star Trek1; it was the highest grossing R-rated (18 rated) comedy film; it had a 78% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which means 78% of online critics liked it); it got 73% on metacritic (Inception only got 74%!). All of these are all pretty impressive, it did well at the box office, and the critics generally like it. So it got nominated for an Oscar, right? Wrong, of course it didn’t; the academy can’t be having a film that made you laugh in its Best Picture nominations. One of the nominations this year, The Blind Side, was actually rated worse on both metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes when compared to The Hangover.

It’s not like this was an isolated incident, either. In 2005, The Wedding Crashers had similar success to The Hangover, taking $205m at the box office, and 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The nominated films for Best Picture at the Oscars that year were, Million Dollar Baby (91%), The Aviator (88%), Finding Neverland (82%), Ray (81%), and Sideways (81%). And you’ll find this all throughout the history of the Oscars (Ghostbusters anyone?2).

So why is comedy always shunned like this? Is it snobbery? It could very well be, and it would go back to the medieval times when you had court jesters who were seen as one of the lowest of the low jobs you could have. For some reason, whether we’re aware of it or not, this kind of mentality, this snobbery, has stuck in society. It might not be as prominent as it was all those centuries ago, but you can still see it and it’s a shame.

Making a whole audience laugh is hard. It really is. Whether it’s a comedian up on stage, or movie goers in a cinema, it’s hard. Just remember, if you go to see a “chick flick” and it doesn’t make you cry, you don’t think ‘that film was rubbish,’ but if you go to a comedy and it doesn’t make you laugh, you will think ‘that film was rubbish.’ So when you do walk out of a gig/film that really made you laugh, just remember how much work was put into making you laugh.

SL

1. You might try and discredit that source as it lists Avatar as having only taken $209m, do please remember that this is for 2009 and Avatar took a lot of its taking in 2010.

2. Ghostbusters did actually get nominated for 2 Oscars in 1985, but they were for visual effects and Ray Parker Jr’s legendary Ghostbusters song. It didn’t win either. But it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture. Extra trivia: Ghostbusters got a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 1985’s Best Picture, Out of Africa got just 63%!

This could be an interesting post for me (or very likely not), but I shall push on with it anyway. This post is basically an open offer/invitation to the @BournemouthEcho to use me, and no, not in that way (well…no, definitely no). Anyone who knows me, knows that I love my comedy, to the point of doing a spot of it myself, and when I’m not performing, I’m constantly going to gigs. Over the next 8-10 months I will be going to a number of gigs around the Dorset area (although specifically, Poole, Bournemouth and Wimborne) and would love to contribute reviews to the Echo for these gigs.

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