Nowadays people talk about alternative comedians, political comedians, stand up comedians, sketch comedians and sitcom writers. Back in the late nineteen seventies, when the Pythons were inventing surreal sketch comedy and Peter Cook reigned over British entertainment like a lush laughter genius, there were only humorists. Actually this paragraph is built from lies, or at least was until I began to hack at them with the shiny hatchet of truth just now, well, then, but I enjoy how it sits on the screen, all serious and knowing, so lets ignore that and continue.
Faced with a wonderful political scandal involving a secretly gay political leader, his alleged lover, an assassination plot and a judge whose obvious bias perfectly encapsulated the prejudices of the British class system; Peter Cook set to work, crafting – on the very day of the verdict – a brilliant indictment of the leading instructions provided presiding judges to their juries.
In the television age, the age of persuasion, it’s surprising how little we think about the timeliness of performed comedy. Bloggers may be quick to humorous ripost, and (usually tepid) radio news sketch and panel shows offer a ribald commentary on current events – but it’s rare to see comedy performance, especially character based comedy performance, tackle issues as they happen. The skill required to balance timeliness with an avoidance of overt liable, and the sheer gall necessary to become part of the debate are apparently lacking.
This might be an interesting pool to play in, especially for Piranhas.