Your friendly blogger has an innate allergic reaction to branding, formulae, mantras. Whether it’s the constant repetition of changed … forever [v last week’s entry] or 17.4 million voters or Radio Three’s repetition of New Generation Artist’s Scheme, he reacts negatively, possibly as an instinctive form of defence against their constant drip drip drip. Worryingly this is maybe what the plot of Quatermass and the Pit is getting at and you will be heaving telekinetic rocks at your correspondent when the next cull comes round (very soon, I fear).
While attending a number of Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows, from the stars of stage and telly, to the up-and-coming (or down-and-unlikely-to-come) stars of tomorrow, the formulaic aspects seem so jarring and jading and, for this outsider freak, spoil the pleasure. Don’t regular audiences ever tire of the performer’s own voice bidding them welcome him or her to the stage or the faux enthusiastic holler of How ya doin’, Edinburgh? Are you well? ?
OK, some, especially Paul Foot, play with those conventions a little, but from that intro to the naked callbacks and on to the claim that you’ve been a lovely audience, I’ve been Jolly Jim Jardine, and goodnight. it all feels like the same old same unoriginal.
Some years ago an encounter with some comics and other entertainers in an Edinburgh pub led to the idea of doing a double act with a more experienced performer (no names, no pack drill). This led to threats of violence, but also to the idea of a double act split over two venues. The conceit that grew from this was that Lowe and Jardine (let us say, for ’tis not a real person) have agreed to do a double act, written it and booked places for it, but a fight over top billing has led to a breakdown in communication, and the booking of two venues. After an exchange via mobile phones, each would stubbornly go on with his half of the set, which would have to be written (like a concentrated Ayckbourn idea) so that either set would be funny but only seeing both (in either order) would reveal the full humour. About five minutes got written before shiny things once again distracted your loyal simpleton.
This year’s ‘big’ idea is to piss about with the aforementioned conventions. The first idea was to play the inexperienced comic, with a card, read from in a desultory fashion, at each point acting out the realisation that the actions haven’t matched the intent; eg walking to the front of the stage before reading, Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage … oh.
But then it seemed it might be fun to do the whole damn thing in reverse. Either reversing the sense — from an opening, I’m going to be Dai Lowe, you’re going to be a wonderful audience, through to Gentlemen and ladies, did you have a good time? Please say goodbye to Dai Lowe — or actually doing the usual stuff but in reverse order (ending of course with the explanation of why it’s being done so, just before saying, Please welcome to the stage …).
This leads to the question of writing routines or gags than can start with the punchline and still amuse — and adding a few call-forwards in the early stages. You might think that they just become callbacks again, but not if the extended use of the theme comes some time after the brief (and probably baffling) ‘reference’ nearer the end — or should that be start?
Many a comic would blanche at the very idea of the above blog post. Most pros are miserable buggers in real life, terrified that anything funny they say might get nicked, and that’s a much bigger worry if it’s a whole concept getting purloined. But I’m a solitary, slow-moving, lazy bastard, who will never get round to realising either notion — so if somebody can make one work, they’re welcome to it.
I’d appreciate a comp though, when the show’s in town.