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Mark Fisher looks forward to the return of Jeremy Hardy and listens to a handful of comedy tapes.
You can accuse Jeremy Hardy of many things — being hilariously funny is the one i prefer -- but his recent radio series brought forth one particularly unexpected charge froru a vexed listener. They were seething!‘ says Hardy. delighted with his Radio Four mail-bag. ‘All the complaints were things that didn‘t trouble me ~ things like bad language. having a bad voice for radio. which is true -— but I had one letter front somebody who said I was black. which was quite interesting. They said that was fair enough. but 1 needed to work on my accent.‘
Ironically. what appeals to Hardy about radio is its imaginative power. It might lead his listeners to make assumptions about his race. but it also encourages them to go on a tuore involving journey than does the spoon-feeding they get from TV. ‘lt‘s a ruuch tnore adventurous medium.‘ he says. ‘Television is like virtual reality — you can veg out in front ofthe telly — whereas radio you‘ve got to sit down and listen. It sounds pompous. but l think radio is a more intelligent medium. because you‘re not being bombarded with visual stimuli. I do like visual gags. but l‘tu tuore keen on words.‘
His current stage set. which he is showing off on four Scottish Fools Paradise dates. is made up of favourite bits from the radio series plus unbroadcastable out-takes and topical digressions. His reputation as a left-wing tub-thumper is not exactly accidental — he is as open as he is funny about his politics — but neither does it do full justice to the scope of his material which happily encompasses everything from suburban angst to matemal relationships. ‘I think you can criticise me fora lot ofthings.‘ he says. ‘but I don‘t think I'm that poleruical. l‘m quite affable on stage.‘
It‘s probably this affability. his reasonable way of looking at the world. that gives his political gags
; their bite. The style gurus might tell us that political
5 humour is passe but. now that the sense of despair
that followed the last election has cooled. Hardy is finding that his political material is going down
' better than ever. ‘Now the Tories have gone completely psychotic and far worse than it was under Thatcher. this anarchic. nihilistic incompetence. people are so angry and because the opposition is
completely crap. they look to entertaimuent for the
: opposition. it‘s a bit of a weird situation. but 1 find myself watching Rory Bretuner on television because I want him to say certain things bold. political statements.'
Hardy is right that some of the roost persuasive
lines ofargumeut against the status quo over the last
fifteen years have come not from politicians but from stand-up comedians. It‘s a characteristic that gives many comics extra edge and topicality. but if there is
a problem in this area. it is that such material cart
quickly date. This is certainly a draw-back with
several of the tapes newly released by the specialist
comedy label Laughing Stock. Whether it‘s Ben
Elton on Live I989 (£7.49) making light of an unheard of politician called John Major. or Bill Hicks on Relentless (£5.99) referring to some .»\merican public figure who meant nothing to us in the first
Jeremy Hardy: not black place. it is the specific topical references that leave us cold. Happily. there are enough targets of a broader nature -— Jo Brand (Lire. £5.99) on football. Hicks on smoking. Elton on train travel — to keep us chuckling along. though for as long as this stuff has been designed for a live audience we are inevitably left at a distance.
My aversion to those in-llight entertainment channels you get on aeroplanes makes rue instinctively wary of comedy compilation tapes (Just
for Lang/rs. £5.99. frorn the Montreal festival and
Best oft/re Balls. £7.49. froru the Amnesty beneﬁts are released here). though anyone wanting an aide me’nunre of Alexi Sayle. limo Philips or French and Saunders would do well to check them out. I guess
; my real problem with these tapes. though. is that however acerbic i might find Bill Hicks. however
charming Michael Bentine (The Original Goon. £7.49) or however wry Victoria Wood. I feel no need to listen to their material tuore than once. I‘d sooner get down to Jeremy Hardy (or John Hegley the week after) at the ()ld Athenaeum or the Music Box and enjoy good comedy in its natural habitat.
.lerenrv Hardy. Fun/s Paradise. ()ld x‘ltltenaeuln. Glasgow. and Music Box. Edinburgh. Sat 4 Dee.
Wildcat strikes again
‘can you tell me what sort of things : we can expect to see in it?’ I ask ' Michael Marta, the star of the show. ‘Well,’ he replies, ‘I honestly don’t know.’
Which seems fair enough - this is a g Wildcat production, and to do 3 smoothing which could easily be
40 The List 3—16 December 1993
: described would probably go against its funding remit. It might make
interviews a bit brief but it does create an undeniable frisson during the performances, when each character plays about ten instruments,
" ; dances, sings and acts.
Their sprawling, crazed, lioy Castle-
on-speed-style of show is even more j anarchic than unusual this Christmas, i since Wildcat has decided to do a
series of late night post-panto revue shows at the Tron in Glasgow. What
will happen no-one knows (‘We turn up
on Monday morning for rehearsals and go through the material,’ says Marta, not sure what that material is yet) but
the show promises work from Peter McDougall and Ian Paterson. ‘l’d confirm that with the office,’ he adds. ‘lt’s quite an unusual gig,’ continues Marra, not afraid of understatement. It’s an unusual title too - Annus llorribilis (or How Did We Get Into This
I Horrible llole!), and one of the its is ‘ crossed out, so it’s rude as well. All
good iconoclastic stuff, with sketches and songs from Dave Anderson and David Maclennan. Or at least, that’s what it might be about . . . (Stephen Chester)
Annus llorribilis, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 12 Dec-Sat 8 Jan.