Our friends at The Comedy School ran their wonderful annual funny festival today and nine of our students came along for the ride. It was a full on, but pretty stimulating day starting with Roland Muldoon (who ran the Hackney Empire for twenty years)'s provocative, but highly entertaining rant on the anodyne state of British comedy. His thesis that there are only twelve jokes in play, all of them observational, held water to me - he reserved quite a bit of bile for the high flying Michael McIntyre, who has huge exposure and never says a dangerous thing. Roland lamented the bravery of previous comics, inspired by Lenny Bruce and in this country, fuelled by the cruelty of the Thatcher era, who tackled things head on.
Has Stand Up become a pale reflection of the mediated world? Does it suffer from the same kind of callous disinterest that allows a newspaper to devote a column of type to a genocidal conflict and eight pages to Katie Price? The real deal is that observational stuff is introverted. Sure it pulls an audience into the absurd gap between appearance and reality and catches them off balance, but at best is simply knowing. The braver stuff might tell a deeper truth and not mind too much who is offended by it. A lack of respect for hierarchy, tradition or power doesn't half liberate and offer the potential for a more humane reordering of attitudes and resources.
Set up for the day the ten of us ranged around. I dropped in on Ivor Debima's stand up workshop and Neil Mullarkey's Impro class. The day ended with a question and answer session with Hugh Dennis, pretty much dominated by St. Mary's students. We fell out of the building an into the Dublin Castle at 7pm to talk about whether Stand Up Comedy might have a role to play within the department. There seems so much to say, if you can fly the fear of saying it.