Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Like many writers, I observe people very closely and take inspiration for my writing from what I find. Occasionally, I find beauty and greatness. Sometimes, I find shallowness, conformity, bigotry, one-upmanship, ignorance, chippiness, lack of charity and absence of humility. Mostly, I find a combination of good and bad. Sometimes, what I see disappoints me but I do see the humour in the layer of bullshit at the bottom of life.
Personally, I don’t like to boast publicly about the good things in my life because there will always be someone out there who’s got a shittier deal than me to cope with. So I moan and generally try to take the piss, make people laugh, expose the ridiculousness of everyday life and some of the flaws in the people I see. This is the writer’s way and having seen Ed Byrne perform last night, this is the comedian’s way too.
I have been a fan of good quality stand-up comedy for decades. When I lived in London, me and the husband used to go to The Monday Club at the Tattershall Castle. This is a big old boat moored on the Thames. There, they host a comedy showcase night, where up and coming as well as established talent cut their teeth and new material on an experienced audience. Over the years, I saw Ross Noble, Shappi Khorsandi (she was bloody terrible twelve years ago but has greatly improved since), Stephen K Amos and many others who have since become household names and there were also some comic greats like Andrew Maxwell, Daniel Kitson, Jeff Innocent and Ian Stone who unfortunately haven’t. Think Ed Byrne looks fresh-faced? We went to see him do a gig in Reading about twelve years ago and then I saw him again last night. He’s a consummate performer. I’ll also never forget (although I try) the time Jimmy Carr was a new name, supporting Daniel Kitson at an Edinburgh Festival warm-up gig in Clerkenwell’s Comedy Cafe. Carr was bloody terrible and although I think he’s great as a TV show host and ad-libs very well, I still can’t stand his 1970’s style Bob Monkhouse-esque one-liners. So stiff and formal!
In any case, I feed off comedy intellectually and I try to make my own writing for children as funny as possible. Making people laugh is such a tricky and skilful art. It requires great discipline and most importantly, requires a truly miserable bastard to do it properly. Only the brutally honest, anti-social arsehole can sit as an outsider and find the funny in everyday things, the woefully crap and irritatingly ghastly. You have to have the troughs of the emotional rollercoaster to see the negative and turn it into comedy gold and then you have to have the heady peaks to perform or write it with enthusiasm and energy. I’m not talking about the rollercoaster of the bi-polar here. I’m talking about the full range – both highs and lows - of normal adult emotion.
At the weekend, I had a debate with someone about writing critically about life. And my thoughts are this: nobody wants to hear streams of tambourine smacking, flag waving, evangelical bullshit about your life. If all you do is boast: how brilliant you are, how fucking genius your children are, how immensely gymnastic and fulfilling your sex life is, how firm and fragrant your turds come out, how fast and quality your car is, how well paid your job is, how lucky you are to be God’s chosen Alpha Male or Female and how gorgeous you are, inside and out, then people are going to want to punch you. You’re lying. Plain and simple. And nobody wants to hear that shit. Life just isn’t like that. Optimism should always be tempered by healthy cynicism. And for those people who do only see the anodyne, the bouncy and the fluffy in life, perhaps you are emotionally crippled or on valium.
For me, it boils down to this: Should I report to you in this blog that my car is sparkling clean and howls like a rabid beast down the road, inspiring envy in all? Would that be entertaining? Would it be truthful? NO! The truth is, my car is OK, but the interesting aspect of it is the litter all over the carpets. I call it kid compost. The fact that the interior smells of farts is also more interesting because as a family, we are prodigious farters. Should I boast about my 9 year old daughter coming top in science and having great bone structure? NO! The truth is that she can lay claim to both of those things but it’s more interesting to report that she is an untidy little fecker, whose bedroom is carpeted wall to wall with dirty tights and knickers. I expect her to start her own Dale Farm community in the back garden any day now.
So really, in the yin and yang of life’s experience, should I write only about the happy, sunshiny bits that are intensely personal and that might make some other fucker, worse off than me, feel like a piece of shit? Or should I write the stuff that everybody recognises? The spots, the flab, the bald patches, the embarrassing smells, the irritation, the angry outbursts, the mortifying faux pas? Should comedians just come onto the stage and talk for two hours about how great life is? Would that be funny? Would it air on channel Dave for the next ten years, if they appeared on Mock the Week, praising the positive aspects of the current Governments’s fiscal policy? You, the reader, can decide...