Comedy and cancel culture

Questioning liberal orthodoxy is a formidable prospect given the inevitability of outrage. But as we risk sliding into coercive ideological conformity, opening up space for debate is surely a matter of some urgency. Comedy is one place where such issues can be raised and explored in relative safety, and two recent instances, Leigh Stein’s satirical… Continue reading Comedy and cancel culture

Stand-up: seduction and susceptibility

In the recent flowering of online theatre, it is clearly the monologues and the Zoom formats that best suit the restrictions of the streamed experience. These front facing pieces resemble the direct address of stand-up, and prompt speculation about the similarities and differences between the two art forms. Often in such comparisons, stand-up is characterised… Continue reading Stand-up: seduction and susceptibility

Jordan Brookes: deconstructing stand-up

Stand-up is often prized for its transparency, and its lack of artifice; up there alone on stage, there’s nowhere to hide, and comedians must acknowledge their embodied identities. There’s transparency too in the relationship with the audience – the comedian’s need for an audience is perhaps uniquely evident: as John Limon puts it, ‘they make… Continue reading Jordan Brookes: deconstructing stand-up

The Darkness of John Robins

Emotional honesty has long been John Robins’ stock-in-trade, but the Netflix special, The Darkness of Robins, a recording of a show about the end of a relationship, which won him the joint Edinburgh comedy award in 2017, takes self-exposure to a new level. It seems to answer a challenge: if emotional honesty is central to… Continue reading The Darkness of John Robins

Coronavirus memes: visual banter

There’s much that is positive in the abundance of coronavirus comic memes: in their assertions of shared experience and collectivity they clearly do provide a degree of relief. But as units of communication to be exchanged and circulated, they are often only placeholders for real emotion or feeling. Given that the experiences of strain, anger,… Continue reading Coronavirus memes: visual banter

Richard Gadd, Baby Reindeer

Richard Gadd’s solo show, Baby Reindeer, which is just completing its run at the Edinburgh Fringe, has some similarities with Hannah Gadsby’s work. Both artists can only loosely be described as comedians at this point in their respective careers, given their preoccupation with explicitly traumatic material. Comedians have long used the often painful intimacies of… Continue reading Richard Gadd, Baby Reindeer

Hannah Gadsby and humourlessness

Hannah Gadsby, known primarily for her 2018 Netflix special, Nanette, has created another show which has just started touring. In The New Yorker, Hilton Als wrote a less than glowing review. Rather unfairly, given I haven’t seen the second show myself, his response has distilled some of my own suspicions. Justly commended for her attempts in Nanette to produce… Continue reading Hannah Gadsby and humourlessness