This week’s Observer debate took great offence at Ben Elton’s new sitcom The Wright Way and decided to ask, “At 53, is he too old to cut it?” I argued that comedians can be funny — sometimes even funnier — when they get older. Especially Joan Rivers. Comedy critic Bruce Dessau argued that most of them tend to produce their ground-breaking work when they are younger and then peak around forty. This was exciting news for anyone who sees me in the next ten weeks. Then it’s my fortieth birthday. After that? Goodbye, hilarity.
I think I was the only person they could find who would defend Ben Elton, even though I did not go very far down the route of defending The Wright Way and its jokes regarding proud erections. I’m not really trying to defend Ben Elton himself here (he’s more than capable of doing that on his own). I’m just wondering why people get so upset when they don’t find something funny. OK, so it’s not to your taste! It doesn’t mean no-one else will like it. It’s like what Tina Fey says comparing women in comedy to dim sum. “I don’t like Chinese food. Doesn’t mean I write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
Talking to Bath Short Story Award about Helen Dunmore, Bulgakov and making voodoo dolls of people who have rejected you.
In TW11 magazine doing stand-up for Oxfam Get Together for International Women’s Day.
Talking to Bath Life about Ben’s Cookies, Amitav Ghosh and jumpsuits.
Talking to Laugh Out London about The Night I Died, standing on a wet cardboard stage in Croydon and Rich Fulcher repeatedly saying, “You look Chinese.”
Talking to Run Riot about Upstairs Downton: The Improvised Episode (latest news: the show will be at The Hive at Heroes of the Free Fringe in Edinburgh from 2 to 25 August).
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row about The Wright Way, Ben Elton’s new sitcom about a health and safety officer, and The Job Lot, a new ITV “dramedy” set in a job centre. My response confused some listeners. I said I laughed out loud at the slapstick of The Wright Way but, ultimately, was not crazy about it: despite tight writing and some bravura acting performances, it does feel old-fashioned. (Which some people will love. It will find fans amongst Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys aficionados.) The Job Lot, on the other hand, has something fresh and different about it. There’s a feel of the best of The Office with a dash of The Thick of It thrown in. Plus it has its own morose, claustrophobic tone. No big laughs and yet possibly the better comedy. I know. It makes no sense.
Interviewed by Elise Rayner for BBC Bristol about Upstairs Downton: The Improvised Episode and our imminent visit to Bristol. We’re at the Windmill Hill Social Club at 6pm on Sunday 14 April. Tickets here. Conversation turned INEVITABLY to the Guardian Downton blog and the possible re-emergence of Melty-Face Patrick. I can’t help thinking that the more we talk about this, the more likely it is to happen. COME ON, UNCLE JULIAN. BRING BACK PATRICK! Maybe Edith will make it up the aisle after all… And if it doesn’t happen in real life, we can always make it happen via the power of improvisation.
Much joy at the judging of the Teddington Red Nose Day Shop Window competition! I took the competition EXTREMELY seriously and was VERY rude about anyone who (a) used low quality balloons (“lacking in imagination”) (b) had a discreet and tasteful display (“good taste is not in the spirit of Red Nose Day”) and (c) just stuck a red nose in their window (“some contestants were just plain lazy”). I was MERCILESS towards the candidates who stuck a red nose inside a fire extinguisher and considered this a “display”. “Next year please try harder.” The winner? TEDS Childrenswear of 97 High Street, who raised over £400 for Comic Relief.
Today Woman’s Hour asked ahead of Comic Relief: “Feminist comedy: what’s funny?” Listen Again here from 31 mins 40 secs. I would suggest this is not a wise question to ask. Feminism + comedy = disaster. Feminism = good subject for comedy. Feminism itself = not funny.
The report comes from What the Frock in Bristol at The Square (nice venue) where there was a crowd of about 80 for an evening featuring six female comedians, including me. The interviews were done in the bar before the gig and the crowd was very vociferous: “I don’t go to comedy because it’s very male-driven.” “I don’t think Miranda is a great role model.” “The guy tripping over the pavement, that’s my kind of humour.” “The male-bashing side of it is very amusing. But swearing… It becomes not amusing.” No pressure, then.
The Bridget Christie interview is lovely here. “Feminist comedy? It’s a hard sell. People are embarrassed and suspicious.” “I don’t care about fish. I’m a feminist.” I really want to meet the book shop man who made regular visits to the Women’s Section for his important business. Bridget Christie: “The Women’s Section stunk of farts. It was the least popular area of the book shop. It was symbolic to me.”
Looking forward to two events celebrating the eve of International Women’s Day next Thurs 7 March. First, I’m at the new St James’s Theatre with Funny Women, hosting a panel about “the place of women in society and how our humour defines us.” Discussing “the place of women in society” sounds like it could turn dangerously unfunny. So I will be careful to focus on the second bit. Or wear something silly that people can laugh at. Like a sequinned playsuit, perhaps.
Later the same night I’m heading over to Greenwich for Oxfam’s Touch of Glamour Night at the Trafalgar Tavern. There will be a catwalk show and free manicures! And you get a free cupcake. I promise not to monopolise any of these offers. Actually I don’t. I will trample people to get to the manicurists and the cupcakes. But in a sisterly way. I will also try to be “inventive and hilarious” after having been billed as such. NO PRESSURE.
Very excited to be interviewed for Run Riot by Katie Antoniou ahead of next weeks Impro Fest 2013: one venue, seven days, nineteen shows. I’m performing at the launch night on Monday 25 Feb and then we’re doing a full show of Upstairs Downton on Saturday 2 March, 7.30pm.