Solidarity with the brothers and sisters at the BBC for whom ~ . the bold and brilliant production- values ofJohn Birt no longer entirely compensate for earning one-halfof what their comrades earn who have opted for the (more-remunerative- but-irnplicitly-lesser. in that spartan snobbish spirit of austerity which still hangs like a fog around our great institutions) production-values of David Nicholas (phew) did not prevent me from enjoying a rogue latenight repeat of Round the Home. which replaced Today in Parliament at the end of a sinisterly news-free 24
hours on Radio 4.
At least. I thought I was enjoying it — for quite some minutes — before I realised that a) I wasn‘t smiling. never mind hooting. and b) the pacy. cheeky ahead-of-its-time surreality was serving a script which was supported by those four pillars of classic British humour: Racism. Anti-semitism. Misogyny and Homophobia — which perhaps comprise one central column — Misanthropy.
Aw. come on! Where‘s my sense of humour? It’s an interesting question — I find myself honking at Laurel and Hardy these days. after decades of incomprehension at their alleged mirth-inducing reputation. Monty Python repeats. on the other hand.
I fail to hit the spot and Alexei Sayle
5 wasn't ever supposed to be funny.
l To be fair. it‘s not just me that’s
changed —- the stuff of British humour l has irreversibly altered. in the wake of Sayle et al. ()h. I'm sure there are grim pockets of clubland where The llandbag-Swinging Fairy and the lleavy-l lurdied Mother-ln-Law are still invoked for financial gain and group solidarity — but the time-honoured targets of the insecure savagery of professional funnymen have been augmented by a more confident brand of self-mockery.
But not entirely replaced. I spotted a Silly Vicar the other day. Much rarer than they used to be. when you think about it. They used to have their own series remember? — All . (ias and Gaiters? And there was the
Silly Vicar in most sitcoms ( Dad's Limit: ’l”lie(iom1[.iﬁ’) and soaps.
They were cloned from a single fluffy. well-meaning. totally irrelevant model. 'I‘heir mere appearance on set was guaranteed to raise a patronising and indulgent snigger. Perhaps in residual revenge for the antique supremacy of ('hurch-in-State. perhaps in complementary homage to their equally ludicrous appearances in the sin-and-spanking annals ofthe Sunday tabloids — they held their own as quintessential figures of fun.
No more. For whatever reason. Light Entertainment producers now see greater comic purchase in lampooning the laity — those new 'l'hatcher—spawned icons: the bank-manager. the backbencher. the patriot.
With or without dogcollar. the clerical profile is different these days. Even the annual jokes about Edinburgh‘s brothels being busiest during the week ofthe (ieneral Assembly of the (‘hurch of SCotland are no longer exchanged with much interest or confidence.
Why is that? Are we more religious? Not on the face of it. Applications to become members of the Kirk are not significantly increasing. But the headlines and the typeface-sizes are. As churchmen and women recollect the proper political responsibility ofthe body spiritual. there‘s a gradual but perceptible reawakening of interest from the body national. However non—commital Scots may be about actually joining the club. there‘s a power of listening and watching going on. ls it possible that vicars and their ilk might be finding a new role? Ally rather than moral policeman? (‘o-operator rather than clot?
Perhaps it's time to add a new section to the Listings: SERMONS (on Mound or otherwise). detailing venue. performer. rating and seat-price (a tithe used to be the general rate. but concessions might be arranged for turning up with The List etc. . .)
Frivolous? I told you my sense of humour was awry these day. Mind you. did you hear the one about the Moderator. the Prime Minister and the Editor ofScotland on Sunday? They were all in this balloon. you see. and it was too heavy so one of them had to jump out. so the Moderator said — (That's enough Silly (‘olumnists— Ed)
VIVA LA FESTIVAL
‘Lots of people know about the seaside in Spain,‘ claimed Frank Dunlop atthe launch ofthisyear's Edinburgh International Festival Programme. ‘but we thought there was an opportunitylor peopleto learn much more about its rich culture.‘ So don't expect to turn up in your swimming togs and sun-tan oil when Edinburgh plays hostto the likes ofthe Spanish National Ballet. Compania Nacional de Teatro Clasico and National Opera of Spainthis summer. Some 450 performers and stage crew will be coming overlo present the best in Spanish culture from fireworks to flamenco. painting to puppet opera. And you‘ll be relieved to hearthat bull fighting. Black Lace songs and kiss-me-quick sombreros are all seriously under-represented. There's a greaterteeling of confidence at the Festival
now that an endowment fund has been established and Lothian Region has pledged its support. 'Until now we've been like nervous Nellies.’ says Dunlop with characteristic primary school-speak, ‘staggering from one yearto the next.‘ Now it is looking like they can plan ahead with much more certainty. Forthis yearthey have lined up a rich programme of events including an expanded selection of dance (notably the Bremner Theatre's sado-masochistic Macbeth). theatre from Japan. Russia and Argentina. and major names in musictrom Stephane Grappelli to Ravi Shankar. And in case you're wondering about the tourist-friendly chap in the kill on the front otthe programme. he is part ota major exhibition of tartan confirmed too late for inclusion inside the brochure. but now scheduled to show inthe marvellous Upper Library Hall in the University of Edinburgh's Old College. South Bridge. (Mark Fisher).
You wouldn't have known it from his performance atthe SECC earlier this month. but
Stevie Wonder is gearing up to follow in the footsteps of
' (successful). Sonny Bono
and Hunter Thompson (also-rans) in running for public office in 1993. To be specific. he‘s after the post of mayor of Detroit. the birthplace of the music of which. Michael Jackson and
2'I‘he List 1‘) May— 1 June 198‘)