Keith Allen (Not Me! I’m A Fireman)

NME 28th August, 1982

Humour In Uniform
Albany, Deptford

Keith Allen has a cult reputation to keep up. Hailed in some quarters as the Alternative Comedian Who Didn’t Sell Out, on stage he’s certainly possessed of a dour menacing mania. In real life too – I’ve seen the little fellow skulking in the cloakroom of the Fridge and the foyer of the Barracuda, and making a meal of staring, very hard, at the punters.
Keith, though, is no more a threat than a lot of the new comics (Alexi Sayle, Tony Allen etc) from whom his champions seek to dissociate him. His stand-up confreres tell what are ultimately nice cosy jokes about social workers and Stoke Newington trendies, instead of the more traditional mother-in-law ones.
Keith, dressed mock aggressively in ACR/It Ain’t Half Hot Mum jungle gear, has his batch of easy targets too – Channel 4, The Clash etc. Nothing particularly wrong with this: some laughs all round, but don’t let’s get the laughter out of proportion: it is very marginal (Alternative) and more from the brain than the belly. And very safe: jokes – sorry, “improvised bullshit” – about 3-litre Fords as “dick compensators” are bound to go down well in front of a liberal audience thick with its anti-sexist credentials.
Even so, when hecklers aren’t flummoxing him with requests for Dave Allen, Allen does stay in the mind.
Perhaps he’ll find a way of investing somewhat narrow concerns with a bit more vision and accessibility. It’s not a question of the Farceur watering himself down (he’s not particularly uncompromising anyway), but rather of watering a pretty arid comic landscape.
For a start he could get rid of the tedious backing band and endless musical jokes, and jazzy cabaret versions of ‘White Riot’ and Lol Coxhill causing embarrassment with his idea of a Viv Stanshall monologue.
Allen, of course, would probably reply that embarrassment is an essential weapon in the joker’s armoury, both a way of subverting the notion of comic spot-on timing and a way of laying bare the essentially sado-masochistic relationship between performer and audience.
Yawn, I left early.

Paul Tickell

keith allen


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