The Evening News tells of The Underground Comedy Invasion, comics from Canada, who have been performing at the Three Tuns pub, who were stopped in the middle of a show by a senior member of staff and ejected, their Fringe run there canceled. Apparently they had told jokes about child abuse, which is certainly in bad taste, but part of humour, especially underground humour, is to broach subjects which we might often find uncomfortable and distasteful – one of my comedy heroes, the great George Carlin has always stood up for that principle, where he says bollocks to anyone telling him there is any subject he can’t make jokes about because the jokes are a way of talking about something, they don’t imply support for something or condoning it – in other words a joke about something doesn’t mean you are saying yeah, let’s do it for real, nor should a joke be confused with reality since telling a joke is not the same thing as doing something. And really, you agreed to host some underground comics for the Fringe then you act outraged when they tell jokes you don’t approve of??? Er, what a shock, distasteful humour in a Fringe stand-up show… Besides which, the altercation – seen on the video below – seems to have come about not when the comedians repeated the joke but when they tried to talk about how the management had told them not to repeat the joke – so telling the joke is a no-no and telling the audience that you aren’t allowed to tell a particular joke is also apparently a no-no, which regardless of the content of the original joke seems a bit damned stupid to me.
Obviously this short clip is taken out of context, but the staff member comes across rather badly in it, just steaming in to shut the comic up as he tries to explain he can’t tell a joke because he’s been ordered not to, while the staff member also seems to confuse the joke with reality, shouting at audience members (his customers!) do you want your kids fingered??? Er, no-one is doing anything to kids there, man, you were talking about a fucking joke – this is like the cobblers in the media when Chris Morris did his Brass Eye special on child abuse, where he was showing how attitudes in the public and media go crazy over anything to do with it, precluding discussion in favour of extreme reaction. I doubt any of the comics are really trying to promote child abuse, this is a comedy act using bad taste and uncomfortable subject matter, but then so do a lot of comics, its a legitimate area for comics to explore. And asking them not to cover a subject in your venue is the right of the manager, of course, but then trying to shut them up when they tell folk about being gagged is just being OTT. Jeez, if we banned every comedian who told a joke that might be offensive to someone we’d never tell a bloody joke again anywhere (another point Carlin makes well). You know, instead of being grossly offended, if I find a comic’s material to be offensive and/or unfunny I don’t demand their head, I just don’t laugh – let them stand there in silence on stage. Not gag them. Then tell them not to mention the gag and equate that with actual abuse.