Old-style bigots like Bernard Manning, Jim Davidson and Roy Chubby Brown have recently been joined by a new, and more worrying group. ‘There are these people mostly from middle-class, university backgrounds,‘ agrees Hardy, ‘who are now saying, “It’s so boring this liberal-left consensus which runs society. I want to shock and outrage these smug bastards who write for the Guardian and research programmes for Channel 4.” They think that it’s really naughty and impish and wild; they think that they’re doing something shocking when all they’re doing is bolstering up the establishment. I don’t worry too much about Manning’s and Chubby Brown’s generation because they’re all going to die. But I am more concerned that they seem to be being replaced.‘
Hardy will be making his usual appearance in the Edinburgh Festival ‘for a few days, make a few quid and then fuck off back to London’, but his first visit to Scotland this year will be to Ferryfest. ‘I wasn’t booked for the main festival,’ says Hardy with little noticeable regret, ‘so I’m now on the boat. It’s a bit like the Trade Unions’ Conference; I used to play the main hall, now I’m in the fringe caucus with all of the people who’ve been expelled.’
This doesn’t sound like the ideal environment for a communist comedian to be bringing up a child. A new wave of right-wing comics are on the scene, Eastern Europe is running to capitalism with open wallets and daddy isn’t even invited to entertain Norman Willis any more. Jeremy, as usual, is unphased. ‘I’m writing a column in the Guardian now. Well. I’ve not actually written it yet. I’ve been sitting at the word processor every day for the last two weeks and every day I cut out what I’ve written the day before. So I’ve been doing that, poking around, doing a bit of shopping. I had a bad haircut so I’m hoping that will grow out.’
Such are the trials for 1991’s revolutionary socialists.
Jeremy Hardy is at The Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Sat 18 and Sun 19 May.
— hen you first start in comedy, you’re just trying to make people laugh. Sex and drugs and alcohol is really funny to a group of people who are on se . . . I mean, on drugs, on alcohol and looking for sex. As I get older, I increasingly don’t want to talk about juvenile stuff.’ .
Jimmy Tingle hasn’t talked like a juvenile for a long time now. Bearing on your shoulders the title of ‘America’s finest political satirist’ tends to make you grow up fast. Tingle dispensed with the ‘crowd-pleasing stuff’ some five years ago and has never looked back. His comedy is still the comedy of observation, but congressmen, presidents and Stealth bombers have taken the place of throwing up in alleys and failures in the bedroom. ‘I don’t know why,’ says Tingle, ‘it’s just the way I developed, I love developing ideas on stage and making them funny, I suppose. Making facts funny.’
Although it is how he has made his name,
the tag of political comedian doesn’t appeal to Tingle. ‘I think I do a lot more than just politics,’ he claims. ‘Social commentary is a better term, more descriptive and accurate because I talk about a lot ofdifferent things and it’s not all specifically politics. And when you call yourself a political satirist I think it connotates that you know everything about all politics all over the world and that’s certainly not true.’
Tingle has attempted to rectify that deficiency, though; even going to the lengths of doing shows in Nicaragua at the height of the Contra war in 1988. ‘I had never been to the Third World before. I’d never seen people wounded from war before. I’d never been in a country in which, because of economic boycott, bandaids, food, medical supplies, pens, papers. pencils, batteries. lightbulbs, toilet paper— everything— was in such short supply. It was very interesting. It gives you a sense of the family of man type of thing — their needs are the same as my needs.’
Ofcourse, an American going to Nicaragua in the time of Reagan’s presidency was committing an act almost tantamount to treason. And Tingle’s open Opposition to the Gulf war, his support for defendants in censorship trials and his lambasting of government policy on homelessness and poverty has earned him the title ‘radical’. Does he see himself as such?
a “ To some people _ , m what I say might ‘ appear radical, but to me it’siust common sense”
‘I see myself trying to find the truth and the truth lies somewhere in between the right and left, I suppose,’ says Tingle sounding like an archetypal Boston liberal. ‘I have a problem with labels. If you’re left wing you support everything the left says and ifyou’re right wing you have to support everything
the right says, you know what I’m saying. There are a lot ofgrey areas. And so it can be limiting to be put in one group. To some people what I say might appear radical, but to me it’s just common sense.’
For all his attacks on the problems endemic in US society, Tingle himself has never fallen victim to the censors. It’s a state of affairs which. naturally, he hopes is here to stay in order that he can continue to explore the underbelly of his nation’s consciousness. ‘Basically that’s how I make my living. What are they going to do next, start stopping people from being funny? There are huge problems and the government’s gotta take some ofthe responsibility. That’s where the targets are and I think the public realise that. With Reagan, there’s easy stuffto do like making fun of the way he speaks or his hair. The stuff of substance is always harder, but it’s much more rewarding. You run the risk of being called a preacher and being on a soapbox, but I think it’s worth it and anyway I try to do stuff that still has a pay-offin the form oflaughter.’
Jimmy Tingle plays Mayfest at the Moir Hall, Glasgow, Thurs 23—Fri24 May. 4
The List l7—3UMay 199119