Comedy: A newsworthy stand-up
Saturday 17 January 1998
Kevin Day acknowledges that his style of topical, political stand-up is currently as trendy as voting Tory. "It's not considered fashionable," he sighs. "Straight stand-up - one man or woman with a mike - is seen as passe."
As with so much in life, the answer to this problem is to blame the Conservatives. "Everyone knew the last government had run its course," Day reckons, "so everyone was fed up with being reminded about it. That's why surreal comedy came in. Now the new government is in its honeymoon period, and anyway, the Labour Party is so good at controlling its MPs that they just don't do daft things like the other lot did. Also, people don't know who they are. If you have to pass round notes to explain a joke, that rather spoils it."
Now a highly experienced performer, Day jokes that "my wife says I'm more relaxed on stage than I am off it. If she wants a decent conversation, she puts a fake mike in front of me."
Nevertheless, he is slightly depressed by the uniformity of up-and-coming stand-ups. "I do get frustrated because I love the craft of comedy," he confirms, "and all the new comedians these days seem to be budding Eddie Izzards or Harry Hills. Eddie and Harry are excellent, but it's very easy to do their style badly. People think all you have to do is mumble a bit and say, `And then they all died' to get huge laughs. They just don't do topical material. It sounds a terrible old-man thing to say, but younger people's humour tends towards the wacky. They haven't yet become cynical and bitter enough to do other stuff."
Day remains hopeful that political comedy will have its day again. "It may come back in eventually," he surmises. "People will recognise that words are important. I think it's more satisfying to listen to someone like Mark Thomas or Jeremy Hardy delivering opinions. I'm a puritan - I like to see a comedian who makes me think as well as laugh. Unfortunately, a lot of comedians are deciding there are easier ways of getting laughs."
He needn't worry. Day has a flourishing radio career and is a regular on television panel-games. He is honest enough to admit, however, that he still yearns to be a household name. "Any performer who says they don't crave fame and fortune is lying," he laughs. "Of course I'd sacrifice my integrity for fame and fortune. I do sometimes crave being pestered in supermarkets. When I do occasionally get recognised, I'm desperately praying that they think it's me and not Nick Hancock."
Kevin Day appears with Jenny Eclair, Lee Mack, Roger D and Jon Reed at the Hackney Empire, London, E8 (0181-985 2424) tonight
You can catch the last gasp of Harry Hill's monumental national tour if you're prepared to travel a bit this week. The man who has got every student in the land rabbiting on about badger parades and wearing several pens in their jacket pockets for no discernible reason plays at Cambridge Corn Exchange (01223 357851) 21 Jan, Southampton Guildhall (01703 632601) 22 Jan, and Southend Cliffs Pavilion (01702 351135) 23 Jan
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