Rape Jokes

Originally published in The Stage

Nov 2014

 

There has been much discussion in comedy circles recently about the rise of sexist material peddled by young male stand ups and especially the rape ‘jokes’ that have become increasingly common. Enter comic Dapper Laughs with his profoundly misogynistic ITV 2 show ‘On the Pull.’ He was caught on camera at a live gig defending it thus: ‘If it was a guide to rape, I would have done one five-minute episode, come on and go, “Oi oi, I’m Dapper Laughs, go down the shops, get some rope, bit of duct tape, rape the bitch, well done, see you later”.’

 

To add further glory to his repertoire Mr Laughs was then heard telling a female audience member she was ‘gagging for a rape’ before adding ‘do you want to come backstage after, yeah? Bring two of your mates, you’ll need them’.

 

I find this all rather depressing and I blame the gateway drug that is comedians like Jimmy Carr, whose material includes the lines – “What do nine out of 10 people enjoy? Gang rape…..” Or “What’s the difference between football and rape? Women don’t like football” And so on and so on.

Whilst I agree that comedy should sometimes be transgressive and I am not in favour of censorship, I find these routines pathetic and lamentable, making brutality a joke, at a time when British police fail to record one in four sex crimes.

Sexual assault is the only kind of violent assault for which the victim — not the assailant — feels guilty and is routinely blamed, overtly or by implication. These  Carr/Dapper style jokes risk normalizing the idea of violence against women in the minds of some of their audience.

Elsewhere on the net the comedian Andrew Lawrence wrote an apologia for UKIP and went on to criticise “panel shows like Mock The Week where aging, balding, fat men, ethnic comedians and women-posing-as-comedians, sit congratulating themselves on how enlightened they are about the fact that UKIP are ridiculous and pathetic.” Following complaints from other comedians he observed that “Increasingly the print media in this country is being dominated by militant pseudo-feminists.” (maybe he has a point here –Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, the Barclay brothers and Paul Dacre are feminazi bra-burners to a man).

I noticed that one of the more than 1500 people (nearly all men) who ‘liked’ Lawrence’s original blog was a comic I have known for 30 years – one of the original batch of ‘alternative’ comedians who reacted against the sexist old school comics. I emailed to him to ask if he meant to ‘like’ Lawrence’s piece and his reply was “Yes. I just LOVE being naughty!” And he then sent me an old Benny Hill routine…

So  I am cast as the grim-faced naysayer who frowns at the boys having their innocent fun. Well then so be it. Once again I feel like making an apology to all the women of the world on behalf of my dismal gender. And a merry Christmas to you too vicar.

 

 

Laugharne

Stage – Laugharne

 

The first ridiculous thing about it is its name. Laugharne starts with the word ‘laugh’ but is pronounced as one syllable, ‘Larn’, despite having an absurd 9 letters. I asked my audience in the Millennium Hall if they could think of another place that could match that. ‘Luton’, shouted one woman, failing on all counts.

 

Then there is its location; it sounds like it should be in Ireland but my train ticket took me to Swansea, then Carmarthen where I was picked up and driven the last fifteen miles to the village-sized town. It is situated beautifully on the estuary of the River Taf and, unless you are planning to drown yourself in the quicksands or your Satnav is badly awry, you do not pass through it on the way to anywhere else – ‘We never had evolution in Laugharne,’ explained one local.

 

If the name rings a bell that is because it was, for several years, home to Dylan Thomas and his family, and is thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub, which the Welch poet describes in Under Milk Wood.

As a teenager I was obsessed with Thomas’ boozy lyricism so I was intrigued to hang out there

 

The meagre population is swollen frequently by visitors to the festivals that take place in Laugharne every year.  Which is how I found myself there 2 weekends ago as part of a series of events which referenced some anniversary of Thomas and included Keith Allen talking conspiracy theories with David Icke and Phil Jupitus DJ-ing in the local pub.

 

Like Llareggub (‘bugger all’ backwards – good gag Dylan) the town is full of colourful characters; in the space of about 2 hours I met a man who installs Richard Branson’s billiard tables on his island of Necker, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction who gave me a fag, Roy who sits in the same spot in the same pub every day from 10 til 5 and another wild-haired dude who claimed, quite plausibly, to be 700 years old.

 

I spent a happy hour sitting in ‘the boathouse’, where Thomas lived and wrote from 1949 until his untimely death in new York in 1953, explored the large crumbling castle that gazes out towards the ocean and conducted the following conversation with a man in the graveyard where Dylan is buried.

 

Old lady: Good morning

Me: Good morning. Though, technically, that should be ‘good afternoon’.

Ol:  Really? What time is it?

Me:  Five o’clock.

 

The day after my show (very well thanks, since you ask) I rose at dawn and sat on a bench overlooking the broad watery sands and sky. I was immediately accosted by a woman with a clipboard doing a survey which posed the question, ‘how could your stay have been improved?’ My only thought was, ‘by not having to answer a questionnaire when I just want to enjoy the view.’

 

In the end I was pleased to be heading to London so I could find some peace and quiet at last. Festival season is upon us – make sure you get to at least one before the leaves start to fall.

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

 

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Arthur Smith Talacharn2014

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Arthur Smith Talacharn2014

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

Photographs Copyright Emyr Young

 

Strange Gigs

 

 

 

 

Picture from: http://bit.ly/NjTfat

Picture from:
http://bit.ly/NjTfat

With Boycott & Aggers

No doubt we all consider other lives we might have led. What if I had accepted that offer to train as a teacher when I was 24 and appeared to have few other prospects? Maybe I would now be a head teacher in, say, South Yorkshire with a wife who is a nurse and a regular part in the village panto?

Whatever other job I might have done I doubt it would be as varied and faintly ridiculous as the one that is being a comedian. As evidence of this let me list 5 of the gigs I did in the January that has recently floated off down the swollen river.

January 19.   Arthur Smith’s walking tour of Soho. I meet my audience in Soho gardens and take them off round the thronging streets where they pass a man in a tree, a couple snogging vigorously at every street corner they pass, a chorus line singing ‘Happy days’, a man dressed as a banana and, er, Paul Merton. I had planned the first 2 of these but the others have arisen by chance. Back in the gardens I signify the end of the walk by dancing dervishly in my new silver onesie.

Jan 22nd.       I have agreed to do a ten minute spot at the Comedy Cafe in London for an audience of French people. Thus I must deliver my set en francais. As it turns out  je me debrouille.

 Jan 23rd.      A late booking this, but one that intrigues. I journey to Birmingham Symphony Hall to join Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew to talk about cricket and the disastrous Ashes tour that is just dwindling to a dismal halt. I try out a few shots in front of Sir Geoffrey who is suitably unimpressed…..

Jan 24th        MC-ing a comedy night in my local school (Ravenstone Primary School) for the parents, many of whom I have passed in Balham as they hurry to collect their kids. Tonight, however, they are all pissed and extremely aimiable. They make a great crowd and me and the other 2 comics (Ivo Graham and Jo Caulfield) all have a brilliant gig. It is nice to have a 2-minute walk home after too.

Jan 26th      Compering the NATYs – the New Act of the Year Awards in the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. This is the oldest and most respected of the New Act competitions and the list of its finalists contains many names of comics who have since become famous. There is a superbly wide selection of styles but most of the audience agree with the judges’ choice for the coveted title, ‘Top of the Bill’ (the word ‘winner’ seems to have banned), Alasdair Beckett-King, a suave stand up with some killer lines.

Jan 28th    Lunchtime finds me in the downstairs bar at the Prince of Wales theatre where I do a turn to kick off the Critic’s Circle Theatre Awards. There are some distinguished actors and all the number one critics who nod sagely when I say that being a theatre critic these days is like having Kim Jong-Un as your nephew.

 

So that was January. In February my itinerary is more predictable – I am doing Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Two) at the Soho theatre from Feb 16th for 2 weeks and, although that Yorkshire panto would no doubt have been fun, I am pleased to be a stand up comic with all its ludicrous adventures. Not too long to the bluebells now….

 

Happyness

“Happiness….”, sang John Lennon in 1968, “is a warm gun.” But what Lennon didn’t know was that, in fact, Happyness is a new comedy festival that takes place in Inverness over the May bank holiday. I have just returned from its golden shores and am brushing the heather from my hair as I type (Auld Heather was quite a gal)

Happyness (the name was suggested I gather by Bill Bailey) is the brainchild of that formidable Femme de Comedie Karen Koren, mother of the Gilded Balloon, one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s great venues. Looking no doubt at the Kilkenny and the Machynlleth comedy festivals she has decided that Inverness could make a great addition to the comedy buff’s calendar – like those 2 areas of outstanding natural beauty Inverness is a handsome old town full of historical incident, surrounded by sumptuous mountains and lakes, with a canny, urbane populace.

It is true that the audiences were small but those people that did turn up to the dozens of shows on offer were appreciative and pleasingly vocal. I have no doubt that there will be larger numbers next year and that in five years time the town will be teeming with comedy lovers keen to laugh and to enjoy the fabulous landscapes.

My own sojourn began badly with a brutal dawn flight from Luton airport where I realised I had left my mobile phone at home. On arrival in Scotland however the sun was out and I was warmly welcomed by Karen’s tireless team of  attractive henchwomen so it was not long before I was feelin da happyness.

I was billeted at a hotel in the centre of town on the banks of the River Ness with all the other comedians, which gave a great opportunity to catch up with old muckers (big hellos to Jenni Éclair, Fred Macaulay, Janey Godley and Michael Redmond) and to take a look at some of the younger comics doing their stuff – I was especially impressed by Bec Hill, an Australian who draws her act as she does it, Daniel Simonsen a Norwegian master of Nordic gloom and Cornish comedy rap dudes Hedlov and Passman. As at the Machynlleth festival I was reminded of my early days at the Edinburgh fringe when all the performers would congregate at the Gilded Balloon after their shows, comparing notes and bitching about other comedians.

I MC-ed a couple of shows, did a turn at another and took over the Inverness open top bus tour for the afternoon. Some of the passengers were evidently expecting a more conventional tour and looked surprised when I talked about the laird of Poundland, revealed that the Loch Ness monster had been a double agent during the war and did a spot of Highland dancing on a roundabout.

Between gigs I pulled on my walking boots and took to the hills clutching my new OS map, stumbling through bogs, clambering up crags and gazing across at the dreamy horizon of not-so-distant mountains with their silvery highlights of snow. No mobile meant I was not distracted from the view by the need to take a photo of it or ring someone up to describe it.

As I passed a bush 2 deer stumbled out looking rather, er, sheepish. Inspired by the warm Scottish air, the prospect of summer and the certainty of the guffaws in the town far below me, I leapt onto one of the deer and rode it magnificently across the glens.  Hey you can’t say I didn’t – you weren’t there. But be there next year if you dare.

http://happy-ness.co.uk/