Thursday, 9 December 2010

Quote of the day

"In the slipstream of the mass popularity of stand-up, even the person who is supposed to be the alternative to stand-up can do reasonably well. All of us comics must offer thanks to one man, and one man alone, for this state of affairs. Michael McIntyre.

For it was 'Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow' that convinced the public that they might like stand-up, en masse, and he has begun to make household names of some hugely worthwhile acts, who somehow managed to shine in the show's brutal showcase format. Though McIntyre's massively popular and super-evolved brand of observational schtick is regarded with baffled ambivalence by many comedians, he may, on balance, be a good thing for the future of stand-up as an art form. The skipping humorist's utilitarian ubiquity means that everyone knows what a stand-up comedian is now. And the idea of going to see stand-up comedy is now no longer something only those with very specialised interests do.

Stewart Lee singling Michael McIntyre out for credit (if not outright praise), rather than damning him as the embodiment of all he hates about stand-up? Not something I'd have expected to read...

Lee's got a point - comedy is a booming business now, and it's not just the big hitters who are benefitting from McIntyre's success and patronage. But this suggests that the erosion of the traditional divide between mainstream and alternative comedy doesn't really matter - a viewpoint which seems hard to square with his usual pronouncements on stand-up.

What he does recognise, though, is that we're at a turning point and that this great breakthrough and surge of interest could well result in stultifying, derivative, tediously safe comedy. I suspect (fear) that that will be the outcome of entrusting stand-up's future to the general public, though the normally cynical Lee appears to have more faith in his fellow man. Perhaps, if a safe consensus comedy does come to rule the roost, then that will encourage a new oppositional or alternative strand to develop and the cycle will begin all over again?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

"Do you ever have dark thoughts?"

Jurassic Park! Alan Partridge is back, currently starring in a series of short online snippets sponsored by a certain manufacturer of cooking lager. The first episode bears all of the usual hallmarks and the addition of Tim Key as Sidekick Simon ("Man the barricades!") for some spurious banter works well. It's a little forced in places, but for the most part a very welcome return.

I do wonder, though, what Stewart Lee will have made of friend and collaborator Armando Iannucci's involvement, given his bilious Edinburgh Festival rant in the summer...

Coogan has also returned to the mainstream media with new sitcom The Trip, which features he and Rob Brydon playing caricatures of themselves on a national tour reviewing restaurants. It's directed by Michael Winterbottom, who has already worked with Coogan on 24 Hour Party People and with both of them on A Cock & Bull Story.

The premise, essentially, is to milk the generally amicable but subtly competitive relationship between the two that the latter film first showcased, as Stephanie Merritt acknowledged in her recent profile piece on Coogan for the Guardian. The first episode took a while to get going, but once they were duelling with impersonations over dinner the concept's strength really shone through.

A Friday evening in also gave me the opportunity to catch up with the first two episodes of the second series of Getting On. Somehow the award-winning first series completely passed me by, but I'm pleased to report that it's quality viewing. Given the frequently harrowing subject matter, "dark" hardly does it justice - but the hospital staff's gallows humour (which I imagine strikes a chord with NHS employees everywhere) ensures there are enough laughs to prevent it from becoming too bleak.

Nice to see that Jo Brand, a former psychiatric nurse, isn't the only person involved to be drawing usefully on personal experience - Peter Capaldi has also clearly picked up some directorial tips from his time as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, while Joanna Scanlan, who also featured in Iannucci's political sitcom, co-stars and co-writes here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Goodies 40th Anniversary

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the awesome TV comedy show The Goodies, there's going to be a birthday party!

Tickets are now on sale for the Goodies 40th Birthday Party on 6th November 2010, at the Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester.

The tickets cost £30 each and include entry for the whole day, including all events and activities, autographs and even a very special party Goody Bag.

To find out more about the event (and the competitions) please visit the event's page:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Quote of the day

"Before doing a TV series next year, Stewart Lee is setting out on an 18-date tour to venues where he believes he has a 'trusting' fan base — and the Regal in Cowley Road is one of them (typically he’s now not too sure about two other places, but it’s too late!)."

From this Oxford Mail article about Lee, previewing next week's show for which I've now got tickets. I must confess to being a bit surprised - and disappointed - that he seems to have been keen to play it safe. That's not something you'd expect of him, though one thing you could perhaps accuse him of is preaching to the converted - perhaps touring new show Vegetable Stew around Jongleurs nationwide would have been a more challenging but ultimately more rewarding venture?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Know Your Enemy

"Corporate Whores. Morons. Illiterates.

There is so much good stuff you could use your corporate funding for, and instead, year in, year out, you make these crass decisions.

The whole thing will blow up in your face. Then, perhaps, we will see an end to your nonsense.

Your cynicism is breathtaking. Your Edinburgh Comedy God idea is banal. There are no comedy gods. Enjoy your Edinburgh Comedy Festival™.

Stewart Lee takes entertainingly violent exception to the Foster's Comedy God poll, calling upon comedy aficionados to sabotage the sorry process out of respect for "that wonderful, indefinable, mischievous, playful thing we call The Spirit Of The Fringe" by voting for Japanese performance art duo Frank Chickens.

Also on a comedy tip, I was intrigued by the prospect of The Trip, a new sitcom directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon - not least because they were very good together in Winterbottom's A Cock & Bull Story and there's a certain irony in Coogan, a man with a notoriously fractious relationship with critics, himself playing a critic (albeit of restaurants)...