‘I could no sooner go out and spray guys’ groins than I could
climb Mount Everest. ltiust wouldnae be me. But ityou’re sexy and tunny, then that’s too
much power.’ Claire Hemphill.
My mother-in-law. .
. ooh no. don’t titterMissus!
As the Funny Farm prepares to reap a cash crop for Comic Relief. Mark Fisher examines the standing of
It‘s fresh. It‘s young. It's happening. It's now. It’s in basement bars. lt's late at night. It’s a wee bitty dangerous. And it makes you laugh.
Comedy. they say. is revolutionary. It‘s the underdog biting back. the clown poking fun at the king. the cracked mirror that mirrors the cracks. Fast talk for fast living. So much for Terry and Jane.
'l'ake Ben Elton. I first saw motorrnouth when hardly anyone had heard of him. l le was dead trendy and dead funny. So he remained for several years. Now he shocks a handful of his two million viewers by flourishing the word ‘condom‘ and you laugh twice during his show on a good night. But he's no longer at the cutting edge. And it's not really his fault.
To survive. comedy must constantly reinvent itself like a manic amoeba desperate to please. Comedy is forever squeezing itself into new pairs of ludicrous dungarees. silly noses and ridiculous accents. Yesterday's alternative is today’s mainstream. Last year‘s baby-in-a-liquidiser one-liner is this year‘s Rottweiler quip. Same had taste. different way oftelling it.
But is true comedy so selective of its audience. so pure in its purpose. that when it leaves the fuggy back-street clubs. it also loses its punch? It's not what they think down on the Funny Farm. although the comedy collective‘s teaming up with old-timers like Johnnie Beattie in S'I'V's new series ('l'hursdays 10.35pm ) could prove to stretch the point. ‘lt’s reallystrange.‘ says smooth-shaven writer and stand-up. David Cosgrove. ‘I played a community hall out in [)enny. 'l‘hirty people turned up for me. Stu Who‘.’ and Bruce Morton. There were wee women in hats. people in wheelchairs. and hardly any young people. All the lights were on. there were no spotlights. there was a foot high stage and a bizarre sterile atmosphere. We were standing
backstage. worrying about our sets. but we decided not to change anything and they had a ball. They loved it.‘
The Funny Farm may be today’s alternative. but it has quickly discovered that good comedy travels. The priority now. is to establish a viable circuit in Scotland to support the eager young comics. Not since the Five Past Eight Show has there been such opportunities to see live comedy in Glasgow. The Comic Club. The Shelter. Cavern Comics. The Kitkat Club and soon Glasgow‘s Glasgow. vie both with each other and with the odd bar and theatre to provide the best in new comedy. But to survive financially and practically — all have limited amounts of material — the comedians need more out-of—town venues like Paisley‘s Bar Point to keep the wisecraeks coming.
(iold Bier has been first in on the act. having teamed-up with comedy entrepreneur Karen Koren in a sponsorship deal that's been bringing stars of the London circuit to play alongside Scottish comics. Edinburgh‘s (iilded Balloon and (ilasgow‘s Shelter continue to benefit from these increasingly frequent ‘Core 'l'ours'. as do Inverness. Aberdeen and Dundee. ‘ln lnverness.’ says mild-mannered stand-up (iordon Robertson. ‘they‘d never seen alternative comedy before. It was astonishing the reactions that people got.‘
More developments like this and it could he the end of the days when comedians are forced to mimic Billy Connolly. Craig Ferguson and Arnold Brown and move to London. ‘I do want to move back as soon as I can.‘ Craig Ferguson says. ‘but right now. it‘s either living in London or spending half my time on the plane.‘ The new wave ofeornedians is already invading the healthy London circuit — and being Scottish has a built-in kudos — but only regular employment outside the capital can
ensure that these remain only occasional sorties. Halfway (0 Paradise star. Bruce Morton. hirnselfabout to launch into a one-man Scottish mini-tour. worries that an onslaught of London comedians will deny opportunities to homegrown talent. but his old chums at the Funny Farm don‘t doubt that a busy circuit can only do them good. ‘We‘ve got no right to say to a new comic. you can‘t come up here. when some of us are going down there on a regular basis.‘ adds (Jordon Robertson.
Whatever the outcome. things look promising for comedy audiences and performers for at least the next year. But when S'I'V ship in the Old Folks' llomes as the audience for Laugh/mes. a forthcoming BSB alternative quiz show. and package tour operator. Thompson. announces a welcome shift in favour of ‘non-racist and non-sexist‘
B'l‘he List 9 - 22 March 19‘)“