Comedy: Loud and dangerous
Saturday 28 March 1998
This level of passion certainly makes for an incendiary stage-show. "Even people who thoroughly enjoy it say it's intense," Cognito admits. "The theatre is one of the few times when you have to shut up and listen. If you don't, I'm going to jump on you."
Back after two years away from the circuit writing a book called A Comedian's Tale, Cognito has lost none of his fervour. Here, for instance, is his opinion of most other stand-ups: "I used to think comedians had freedom of speech and a responsibility to say things that others wouldn't. But a lot of comedians have abrogated that responsibility. During the Thatcher years, most of them just took the money and ran."
Waving his metaphorical banner, he acknowledges that he is that most unfashionable of things, a political comedian. "I'm all for a revolution. I'm an anarchist. Strong people need no leaders. I don't have a codified political stance, but the wrong people are in power. They wouldn't be there if they weren't the wrong people."
In his new show, Ian Cognito's Ukelele, he focuses on "what it is like to be a man these days. It's not as much fun as it used to be. Plenty of people are writing about male angst as we try to find ourselves. Suicide is one of the top three killers of men aged between 16 and 25. With the demise of religion, we're all having trouble finding out what we're all about. I can plough the furrow of what it's like to be unlucky and unfavoured. I speak up for that type of person."
A difficult and dangerous stage presence - in the past he has been banned from the Comedy Store and was knocked out after insulting another comedian's wife - Cognito is still hard to ignore, a raging bull goaded by a flaming sense of injustice. "I haven't sold out - there's not many of us left that haven't. That's why I got into alternative comedy in the first place. I'm not afraid to use the word 'alternative'. It's like those people who are taking the tobacco companies to court. I want to take the Establishment to court for getting me hooked on alternative comedy and then not delivering."
'Ian Cognito's Ukulele' is at the Union Chapel Project Studio Theatre, Compton Ave, London, N1 (0171-226 1686) tonight and tomorrow
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