It can’t be easy being Mark Monahan and Dominic Cavendish. They write about comedy for the Daily Telegraph and do so with a degree of insight and passion. At the same time their employer engages in a constant war with modern comedy paying other journalists to spew out whatever drivel they can cobble together which must have the following agenda – alternative comedy is left wing and evil. Old fashioned comedy rocks. In order to fit this agenda, their journalists will pretty much say anything no matter how utterly stupid and bereft of even the slightest notion of understanding it is.
William Langley is a new name in this regard. He is the author of this puff piece on Tim Vine. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/comedy/11052857/Tim-Vine-the-man-behind-the-masterful-one-liner.html It would be hard to imagine a more condescending and ugly minded piece about comedy. Or at least it would be hard if I hadn’t read other Telegraph articles. It is hard to know where to start. But lets start with the headline.
“offers a perfect antidote to the tyranny of alternative ‘humour’ “
Humour is in inverted commas. Do you get it ? He doesn’t think alternative comedy is funny.Never mind the millions who willingly flock to large arenas to watch it. He thinks it is a tyranny. Because we all have friends who have been forced at gunpoint to watch Stewart Lee DVD’s. He doesn’t get that Tim Vine didn’t arrive fully formed. He plied his trade on the same circuit as all of us. I am a leftie, gay , son of immigrants, Guardian reading bedwetter. And yet I have been on the same bill as him many times. In actual clubs. Langley writes that Tim Vine ” still packs them in two decades after we were told that sophisticated modern audiences had moved on” The odd thing is that I don’t know anyone who received that memo. Certainly the Perrier panel didn’t in 1995 when Tim Vine won the Best Newcomer Award at Edinburgh. Interestingly a year later Milton Jones won the award. Another subversive godless leftie storyteller.
“You couldn’t go to a show without being hosed down by F-words and drenched in attitude by gloopy-voiced, predominantly Northern working-class comics who thought it more important to make political points than to send the paying punters home with aching middle-sections.”
Well if there is one thing Edinburgh is, it is a celebration of Northern working class culture. In the same way that the film Kes is mostly about rising house prices in Berkshire. This statement is so cartoonishly incorrect and dripping with class and regional hate, that frankly Langley should frankly tender his resignation from the profession with an explanatory note saying “Sorry, I appear to be a colossal bellend” Why include the words “predominantly Northern” other than to expose the bigotry of your viewpoints ? There is literally not an iota of this representation of comedy that any sane human would recognise.
“Today, the notion that comedy must have “meaning” is so entrenched in the business that anyone who plays a routine purely for laughs is considered not merely tame but suspect.”
And so, inevitably, Langley misses badly again. We have already established that he has no understanding of the business. It is one where great joke tellers are revered, the ability to make people laugh treasured. Many of the most commercially successful comedians in the UK have got there because of their simple ability to make large numbers of people laugh. That is how it has always been.
“Beaming with middle-class wholesomeness and the benefits of a stern Christian upbringing”
The mask is slipping. The agenda of this piece is becoming more exposed…
“Older audiences like him because he’s a throwback to how things used to be, younger ones because they haven’t seen anything like him. Women enjoy him because he isn’t angry, and men because he doesn’t endlessly flog the dog-eared, bloke-as-perpetual-loser routines.”
How to patronisise four large demographic groups in one fell swoop. I particularly enjoyed the image of women as a collective well of timidity cowering in the face of comedians with opinions and attitude. Yep that is definitely one I recognise. Instead of this fanciful nonsense, just accept that people like Tim Vine because he is hilarious. He has a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous, and watching him at his best is a joy. He is not shunned or mocked by the “alternative comedy” industry, he is loved and celebrated as a hugely successful practitioner of the art of stand up comedy.He is one of us, albeit funnier than us. Because William Langley, this industry that you berate with such misdirected spleen is a broad church where joketelling, storytelling, sketch,improv, mime, musical comedy, absurdism and occasional politicising all happily coexist cheek to jowl. If you had done even any research you would know this. Instead you saw an opportunity to write a “How can I shoehorn my rightwing politics into a piece about comedy” and ended up with a veritable car crash of a piece.