ANGELA GREGORY: Where did all the great comics go?

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BY the time this column goes to print I’ll have seen comedian Jason Manford live at the Villa Marina and I’ll have written a review of his performance.

Until recently, a live comedy show would be something I would be looking forward to immensely.

In fact, when I first organised to go to see Jason, I was looking forward to it.

But things have changed.

No, I am not so shocked and appalled by his penchant for grubby online assignations with ladies who are not his wife that I feel compelled to snub him.

It’s more that comedy is beginning to bore me these days.

Or at least the constant stream of panel shows and Friday/Saturday night comedy-inspired vehicles are.

The thing is, they all star the same people or the same kinds of comedians who tell the same kinds of jokes and they’re getting a bit tired.

I’m not saying Jason Manford won’t be enjoyable but I’m certainly not excited about seeing him. Comedy used to carry almost the same buzz for me as a rock concert.

But now I think it has become too middle of the road.

It’s all a bit too Richard Clayderman.

Everyone’s busy trying to tell you how funny their trip to the shop this morning was.

And don’t get me started on those comedians who rely on an accent to get them rolling in the aisles.

The all-conquering Michael McIntyre is probably to blame, despite having been credited with bringing comedy back into the lives and on to the screen of the wider public with his Comedy Roadshow.

Comedy has become over-exposed and much of it has lost its edginess.

The days of alternative comedians on television seem to be over. Everyone’s trying to be Peter Kay without any success and comedy has suffered for it.

It has also suffered for the fact it has become an arena past-time.

Gone are the days when some of the biggest comedians could be found in the back rooms of a dingy student pub.

That’s not to say some of the best comedians can’t still be found in those back rooms but these days you’re having to pick through the hundreds of people who think they can do it ‘because John Bishop’s just a normal bloke isn’t he?’ to find the good ones.

They are there though, you just have to take a trip to the Edinburgh Festival, as I did last August.

It is a goldmine of talent – and trash too it has to be said – and the big name acts are the least of it.

I saw Sarah Millican (in a dingy basement room) and she was fantastic but it seems the middle of the road bug has bitten her and she is now making appearances on Loose Women. I despair.

There are definite exceptions to all of this – Johnny Vegas is one, as anyone who saw him at his hastily arranged benefit gig at The Venue a few years ago will testify. Bottle of beer anyone?

And the much-maligned Russell Brand is another. He has also paid a visit to the Villa with his unnerving Brand (sorry) of humour.

Add to that the unbelievable wit of Ross Noble – another Villa alumni – who is perhaps one of the most ramshackle and quickest people I have ever seen.

So it’s not all bad, there are still some innovative comedians out there.

Let’s just hope they don’t get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity that is pervading the genre at the moment.

And let’s hope Jason Manford proves me wrong.

You should definitely never judge a book by its cover.

You should also read an entire press release before laughing at it because of its title.

In the case of the latter, I’m referring to a press release I received from the Chief Minister’s office entitled ‘Guidance on Royal Wedding Street Parties’. Without reading on to discover government were simply offering helpful advice for people who might want to apply for a road closure to accommodate their party, I began the ridicule.

Obviously I was wondering how people renowned for being able to organise a party in a brewery (see how polite I am?) would dare to give advice on merriment etiquette.

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