Friday, September 25, 2009

Comedy at any cost?

Well,I used to think the only criteria for comedy was that it had to be funny.Beyond that anything goes, nothing is off limits.Maybe I was young, maybe I was naive, but mainly I was just plain uncaring egotistical selfish and wrong. I wrote a funny poem about Ted Hughes the other day but as soon as I had written it, and it really wasn't that bad, I knew I wouldn't post it.Comedy sometimes has a cost, at worst it has a victim, then that joke just isn't funny anymore. Billy Connolly, one of the few comics that could actually make me laugh, the only comic I have paid money to see, found this out when he cracked a joke about a real life hostage and how he wished his captors would just get on with it and kill him. Connolly paid a price for his humour at any cost mentality.Here in Ireland Tommy Tiernan one of our most talented comedians at the percieved to be enlightened artsy Electric picnic is being given full support for his jokes about Jews. I quote..

'But these Jews, these fuckin Jew cunts came up to me.Fuckin Christ killin bastards! Fuckin six million?I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that.No fuckin problem! Fuckin two at a time, they would have gone! Hold hands get in there! Leave us your teeth and your glasses.'

Funny?Well he and the Electric picnic crowd appeared to think so, no objections were raised till 3 weeks later when his joke was printed in a newspaper. Tiernan somewhat ironically claims to be greatly upset that these comments have caused hurt to others as this was never his intention.Maybe, or maybe not , either way his priority was to boost his ego.He claims his remarks were taken out of context? In what context known to man would these comments have been acceptable let alone humourous? As far as I know the entire audience was with him, nobody objected (as they did to Connolly) nobody booed and nobody walked out. Tiernan has previously made jokes about Travellers and people with Down Syndrome , all of which I've heard and all of which I've found offensive. I've always sensed the negative charisma of the bully within Tiernan. Neither he nor his backers feel the need to apologise, he will continue to tour, continue to sell out (in every sense of the word) and continue to offend with impunity.

19 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I do agree with you TFE. Billy Connolly is my favourite and he always makes me laugh. I think with a live audience the jokes come so thick and fast that you laugh and then forget as the next joke comes - whereas in the newspaper it is there for all to see. This does not excuse it I know - I think sometimes these comics just get carried away with their own importance. Can't write any more as my head is full of Monday's "poem". Have a nice weekend.

Rachel Fox said...

Sometimes comics can get so on that 'must be the most extreme comic' path that they lose sight of what and who they are talking about (or they're just arseholes and never cared anyway). A little more thinking (rather than just racing for the finish/punch line) wouldn't do them any harm. You can be proud of a real joke...anyone get easy, lazy, laugh-at-the-weak laughs.
x

Jasmine said...

Thank you for posting this. Sometimes these things really do need to be said and uncomfortably chuckling and looking at ones feet is as big a part of the problem as the semantics of source.

It is difficult to balance comedy. Especially here in England where there are so many government imposed taboos placed upon comedy topics that so much of life's observations are off limits n stage or camera.

Good comedy should not have victims, both internally or externally. I think it is better to poke fun at oneself than others but not so much that it becomes depreciating.

The problem is that it seems very much en vogue to be controversial and there are still fools out there who think that any publicity (no matter how negative) s good publicity.

That said, I'm off to see Tim Minchen tomorrow as there is always room for some dark huour..

ArtSparker said...

I don't see the Billy Connolly joke as being in bad taste - that is, everyone has experienced "Just get on with it" moments in life. The other is not humor as such - just tribal signalling and validation.

Heather said...

Billy Connolly often makes fun of himself as well as others, whereas the other fellow seems to set out to shock and be as provocative and controversial as possible. I agree with freedom of speech, but some people need a gag!! (No pun intended).

Jeanne Iris said...

A joke must have two entities laughing for it to be a joke: the teller and the audience about whom the joke is told. If Mr. Tiernan had shared that same joke with an American audience, where many Jewish people would have been in the audience, I doubt very seriously if he would have been able to continue.

There are so many other subjects which can breed a hearty laugh. I don't understand why some folks must be so cruel.

Thank you for this posting. It illustrates your sensitivity. I'm proud to consider you a 'friend.'

Argent said...

I also cannot see what possible context could justify those words. I think comedy should be broad and surely to goodness there's enough funny in the world without resorting to such abusive "humour"?

I have written and binned 2 poems so far.

Dominic Rivron said...

Totally agree. (I leave it at that as it's late and I'm dropping off here...)

Rachel Fox said...

Had your post in mind and was back in the archives looking for something else and came across this post and thought you might be interested.
x

the watercats said...

Tommy the twat tiernan! I've always wondered what the hell he's all about.. it's a mystery!. I'd give my left arm to catch Dylan Moran sometime though.. now he's a genius comic! Intelligent.. gentle darkness.... and sometimes blatant scary darkness...
Comedy is an interesting thing.. I think it is the best way of blowing open taboo's.. BUT... I reckon, as you mention, an intelligent viewer (or anyone with sensitivity) can tell the difference between the intent of the humour. Blatant shock factor is just crass and repulsive...

Titus said...

Good post, TFE. I think the fact that Tiernan said what you quoted in front of an audience and got away with it tells us as much about the mentality of crowds as it does about Tiernan. Ask any audience member individually if it was funny, and they would have to think. In a crowd, we somehow bypass our own grey matter for a group consciousness.
Still weird though. And not funny.

BT said...

What an excellent post. I cringed when I read your account of those Jewish so called jokes. I am part Jew myself, although it would have been awful about any nation. I would like to think I would have walked out, but as Weaver says, sometimes in the moment you get carried away. Well done for this post.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Thanks for all these comments.

Matt Bolton said...

I know it is a bit since you posted, but I do agree and I think that this is a great post.

People should have walked out or at the least, the very least, booed as those kinds of anti-semetic comments are neither funny nor acceptable. Maybe, the crowd mentality at the gig prevented any one from doing anything. You like to think that if you was there you would have said something. But you don't know.

After Billy Connely made the joke about Kenneth Bigley (the hostage, if I remember his name correctly) he used the "It's just a joke" excuse but as Iain Lee says: "jokes about the holocaust allowed it to happen" and there is some truth to that.

jenmorrison said...

I think, since the artist is generally trying to explore "truth" and human experience, that compassion is one of the most important tools in his/her pocket. The great comics (I would number Connelly among them) know this. Comics can take the mickey or expose bad behaviour/ideas - but unless they do that with some attempt to understand *us* and all our motivations, then they just come off as angry blowhards.

I was glad to come across this post because I've been somewhat preoccupied with the growing level of anger surging amongst us in this human community (no matter how much I try to ignore it). Artists should be trying to understand this and explore it and expose it, rather than perpetuate it.

P Nolan said...

I could never, despite the endless, overt publicity, see Tiernan as 'one of our most talented comedians'. Very much a one trick pony - and a derivative, shouty, monotonous, increasingly desperate pony at that?

I fully understand and value the right of comedians to tackle taboos - but please - with rights come responsibilities. Maybe make it funny? Perferable original too? Not just loud. And crass. And predictable.

It seems he gets the audience he deserves. Or vice versa. If you're going to sit in a tent that advertises Tiernan, that's what you're going to get. There are other tents. That's where I'll be.

I think he's drowning, not waving.

mrsnesbitt said...

so sorry to say I wont be contributing tomorrow,

Dx

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Some of this is the backlash to all the PC stuff of the 90s, some of it is that in order to shock people are having to push further and further.

Connolly has often joked about his own family, including his father's mental health problems - which i guess you could say is fair game because its him making light of a situation he's been through, but a joke about terrorists shooting a hostage is too far, as is your quote (simply NOT funny)

It's like Frankie (no relation to Susan) Boyle on Mock The Week - he seems to be actively being repulsive just for a laugh. One wonders what lenghts the next generation of comedians will have to go to

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

but of course - on the other side - pretty much every joke has a victim in some way.

Even the one about the gooseberry - i mean: there it was sitting innocently in a lift just trying to get back to its flat...