Edinburgh's streets and bars are heaving with some of the most dysfunctional and, frankly, repellent members of our society. Tom Wales analyses the comic personality
COMEDIANS eh? Donchaluvem? The naughty nutters, the cute scallywaggs, the adorably witty little nipping satirists. Take it from me, girls find them irresistible: "Comedian, darling?" "Oh go on then, just the one." Who, while drinking their way through an Edinburgh Festival, has not raised their eyes from a pint in the Pleasance courtyard to see crowds of pneumatic, overexcited young women scrumming around the comedian of the moment, poised for lusty attack?

The occasional browser of Cosmo reader surveys will nod sagely at this point; "It's the sense of humour you know; drives the ladies wild, apparently." To which I reply simply: balls. The attraction of the modern comedian revolves around the idea that not only is he funny but that he also has a deep, misunderstood, brooding quality to his nature; in other words, he is an artist. This image doctoring is reinforced by comedians' essays into the world of serious literature; I commend to your attention the recent fictional outings of David Baddiel, Ardal O'Hanlon and Sean Hughes, none of which were (intentionally) funny. No longer content to entertain, Mr Standup wants psychoses and neuroses and he wants the nice big stage and the microphone so that he can tell you all about how damaged he is. I would say comedy is the new therapy except a) if the comedian gets cured he is out of a job b) people pay to listen to him, not the other way round c) if he plays his cards right he usually gets to sleep with one of his "therapists" after the show.

Nasty pieces of work, the lot of them, and not without reason; a career in comedy tends to have unsavoury origins. For educational purposes I shall provide you with three possible routes to power:; three prototypes for the men behind the myth, if you like.

Our first prototype comedian is The Joker. He who is now the mike-meister was once an unprepossessing little runt who spent his early years having the playground thugs sit on his head and take turns to fart into his ear. Being The Joker stopped him getting beaten up, but he didn't want to be The Joker, he wanted to be the poignant loner weirdo who would later grow up to be the Rock Star. When some fool hit on the "comedy is the new rock 'n' roll" idea it was the best day of The Joker's life; he became officially cool. This is why while the rock stars are all busy buying houses in St John's Wood and playing golf, The Jokers are doing the best they can to behave like rock stars; drugs, booze, bad behaviour and wall-to-wall groupie sex action. They do it now because no way would any girl would have let them within trans-Siberian distance of her underpants before they were famous. The Rock Star got it out of his system early on; The Joker didn't have a chance, now he's making up for lost time.

Standup comedians were once described as actors who couldn't bear to wait until the end of a play for the applause; comedy prototype two is The Selfish Luvvie. An Australian comedian once detailed for me his career path to date. "I started off as an actor, but me and a couple of friends got fed up being ordered around by a director and we didn't like having to learn lines that other people had written. We wanted more control over the show, so we started a three-man improv outfit. It went well, but soon I got fed up with having to share the stage with two other guys, so I decided to go solo. There's not much demand for one-man improv outfits, so I ditched that and became a standup comedian." There you have it in a nutshell; the Selfish Luvvie wants credit for writing, directing and acting in a show, he wants all the applause for himself, and he wants it all the way through the show. If a normal luvvie is chicken soup, the Selfish Luvvie is consomme; essence of luvvie: disgusting.

Our final prototype is the normal bloke, who some ill fated night is pushed on stage and stands in front of the mike for the first time. Painful as the experience almost certainly is, he discovers one thing. Up there, under the lights, he can say anything he wants; once on stage he is beyond criticism; it's comedy, see? He has a new, brave, performing persona which allows him to ignore the rules of society. He says he is there to challenge the status quo but actually he is just an ego with a microphone letting rip at paraplegics, women, foreigners; indeed anyone he wouldn't be allowed to attack off stage, because it gives him a buzz. There's a name for people who feel the rules of normal society don't apply to them: they're called psychopaths.

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