Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A message to Banksy: Stop reading newspapers.

Have you seen Trevor Griffiths’ play ‘Comedians’? It’s very good. It’s all about a group of wannabe stand-up comics who start off by taking a lead from their teacher and concentrating on original, humane observational comedy.

The closer they get to their big chance, the more they abandon their original tack in favour of lower-risk approaches – appealing to the baser instincts of their audiences.

So you get lots of Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman jokes and a hint of Paki-bashing thrown in for good measure.

In ‘Comedians’ the comics become simple cheerleaders because they lack confidence in their own perceptions. Like Jeremy Hardy, they try and work out what their audiences want to hear, and give it to them in a form that they will recognise. Hardy does his reasearch, I suspect, by reading the letters page of The Guardian. (I admit, btw, that I've gone on about this before).

I mention this because I’ve just read Charlie Brooker writing about Banksy.

I’m not completely with Brooker on this in the same way as I wouldn’t dismiss Hardy out of hand because of his pilgerish world-view. I think Banksy is funny, audacious and talented. Some of his juxtapositions (such as Flowerchucker - above) are brilliant IMHO. The problem people like this is that they lose the confidence in their own messages. They believe that they have to explain where all of their messages are pointing to instead of trusting their audiences.

The moment that they start to soliloquise, they have to invoke narratives that they think people will recognise. And they think they can understand what people think by reading about it in newspapers.

The clowns.

By the way, apropos of nothing, I like Mel Brooks’ definition of comedy:

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."

No comments: