Comedy and Poetry

From the NME, 4 December 1982

This is from when stand up comedy was moving away from ‘alternative cabaret’ and leaving poetry to it’s own devices.
They took the audiences we took the integrity, or something.
The Young Ones completely leveled TV comedy when it was first shown, and it was magnificent.



One thought on “Comedy and Poetry

  1. teethingwells Post author

    From Porky the Poet – This is interesting as the comic strip mob were mostly ex-drama school types with the exception of Alexei and Arnold. The next wave of cabaret types Paul (Martin) Merton, Joan Collins Fan Club, Tony Allen, Jenny Eclair (poet), Jeremy Hardy, John Hegley (poet) and the Popticians, Julie Baloo and an overall much more diverse bunch of performers. I managed to get in to the next wave alongside Jo Brand, Jack Dee, Mark Thomas, Skint Video, Linda Smith, Mark Hurst, Alan Davies and many more, all of us working regularly on the CAST/New Variety circuit, which Roland and Claire Muldoon kept incredibly varied and vital. As I recall, most of this third wave of performers had day jobs or had just come out of university. These were the days when a bill of four acts would usually be something like a juggler or magician, poet, a stand up and a music act. Malcolm Hardee adopted a similarly ad hoc and diverse booking policy at Up The Creek. Same for Ivor at The Red Rose. Apples and Snakes used to book stand ups regularly. (As you know, one of the more galling things during the performance poetry documentary on BBC4 was them showing a photo of me Lamar and Sean Hughes, and *all* of us started out as poets, but it wasn’t mentioned.) The first woman I saw doing comedy was Joolz Deby at an Apples and Snakes gig. Admittedly, it was sandwiched between some harrowing imagery in her poems. Quite the roller coaster. But is was seeing her that made me realise you could do a bit of both. The change for me happened when I tried to get more gigs and started to be told quite bluntly “we don’t book poets…” I stick to my view that the best stand up has a poetry to it and correspondingly the best performance poetry has wit and speed of thought. The poets who make the big money do it with guitars not gags. On balance I’d rather watch a bad poet than a bad stand up. And I’ve been both.


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