Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Stench of Regimented Fun

Stand-up comedy is traditionally where someone stands on a stage and says stuff that makes you laugh, and it has become a massive industry over the last decade, leading unfortunately to a reduction in the quality of chuckles one can expect when attending whichever one of the four million comedy clubs you've picked out by stabbing a random pin into a page of the comedy guide. In England (at least during the late 1990s) this aforementioned downward turn made the practice of popping out to see a comedian of a Saturday night an increasingly haphazard experience, and often a surprisingly miserable one  - particularly if you happened to live in East Dulwich and had the misfortune to stand next to someone as they opened a packet of crisps, an event which would almost certainly draw the attention of local "funnyman" Stephen Frost. This encrappening process seems to have arisen due to the increased general popularity of stand-up comedy in turn leading to a million mildly amusing blokes in works canteens across the land finding themselves surrounded by howling mates all crying out nahahahahahah stoppit Kevin, I'm pissing meself, you should be on stage you should you stupid bleedah!

I'm guessing that's what happened. Just before I gave up on live comedy, I saw one hell of a lot of deeply unamusing middle-aged blokes standing around in jeans and sweat shirt whining about girlfriends not understanding them, hilarious occurrences transpiring whilst smoking jazz cigarettes, timeless hangover anecdotes, general self-conscious efforts towards appearing to be a Cockney Barrow Boy and not, for example, the upper middle class child of award winning artist Sir Terrance Frost. Because we all love a bit of dope don't we... we all love a spliff as we jingle our car keys in a back pocket and ponder upon how great it is to be just this bloke, just some geezer who AIN'T FANCY...

Anyway. There's too much comedy around, and not enough of it is funny. Now that I'm resident in the United States and no longer able to look to funeral warm up acts like Stephen Frost, Andy Smart, or Ed Byrne for my jollies, I occasionally scan Netflix for something that might raise a smile. So far I've found the mighty Bill Hicks and not a whole lot else. There are a lot of Jams, and a lot of Roasts, and many pictures of chaps in casual dress doing that face to the camera, the one that says hey... you don't have to be crazy to work here, BUT IT HELPS!!!, the one that usually accompanies a failed joke cracked by someone who has just spent ten minutes telling you how much they earn.

Jam is a fruit preserve that one spreads upon either toast or scones (and if you have no idea what scones may be, please feel free to go right ahead and develop civilisation); or a weirdly amusing TV series written by Chris Morris; or a memorable 1970s punk band formed by Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton, and Rick Buckler; or, at a stretch, what happens when a bunch of musicians get together to improvise a piece of music that will never be enjoyed by anyone other than those involved, excepting perhaps drug-addled friends who tend to like anything. Apparently Jam is also something that happens when stand-up comedians get together, although I don't really understand how that works, but it has the stench of regimented fun about it, so it's probably not for me. Anything which induces Hiroshima volume levels of hootin' and a-hollerin' before the Bringer of Hilarity has even said his first word inspires my distrust

Roast is the other term which confuses me, given that it only makes real sense when applied to something one takes out of the oven at Christmas. In comedy terms I gather a Roast is similar to a Jam. One prefixes a Roast by high-fiving one's buddies, rolling one's eyes, and a-hollering hoo boy, Sherman Bingley sho' am gon' git hi'self a roastin' when he see what them guys got in sto' fo' his ass yesireebob. It presupposes gut-busting hilarity, and I have a sinking feeling that said gut-busting hilarity in this case tends to range from how fat yo' mama be to asking bagels... man, what is up with those things, that little bitty hole in the middle and all made of bread 'n' shit, and what few points exist between the two.

Today's handy hint is therefore directed at the next generation of America's comedians: calling something either a Roast or a Jam does not make it inherently amusing. That's what jokes are for. And whilst you think on that, here's some PROPER music:

Ah Paul... how did it all go so terribly wrong?

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