The other night we went along to a French comedy night, which you might think an oxymoron. I’m misleading you a little actually, it was a New York comedy gig, though the usual compère was away (perhaps he was in New York, or maybe he was hanging from his own rafter in order never to have to go through this piteous fucking charade again). A scatologically obsessed young man from Marseilles stepped into the breach while we all stepped unwittingly into the proverbial turd.
The guy spent most of the night talking about his own shit – at least when he wasn’t introducing other shit comedians; the king of the single entendre he might have been, though he was charm personified compared with the two Americans who took to the stage. One, a woman, shouted a lot and made offensive jokes about the Japanese and the homeless, while the other, a man, shouted a lot and demonstrated how comedy for some is therapy; where he not on stage he’d be ripping the wings off flies or strapping Semtex to infants in a crèche somewhere and screaming: “lose the tanks or this place blows!”
I’ll say one thing for them though, it takes some nerve to stand up and try to be funny in a room full of different nationalities. I’m with Eddie Izzard when he said there is no such thing as a national sense of humour – stuff is either funny or it isn’t – but when your audience is made up of those who speak English as a first or second or even third language, it must be problematic trying to take everyone with you. Or perhaps if you shout into the microphone loudly enough you’ll not know or care whether they’re with you or not. You must need a thick skin for comedy, because I would take it very personally and feel quite hurt if I saw someone in the audience pulling the kind of faces I do when they’re delivering their material. If I drew a pie chart there’d be an array of emotions; affronted 11%, angry 4%, hostile 16%, embarrassed 17%, bored 20%, insulted 17%, murderous 10%, distracted 3%, amused 2%…
Get ready to clear your throat: I’ve often thought about having a go at comedy, though you have to be a really fucked up individual to do it properly, which makes me think I could do quite well. That said, there’s a special indefinable chemistry the person has to have with the audience, a quality, a drive, a confidence and an indefinable thing I just don’t think I have, whatever it is. Perhaps this elusive je ne sais quoi I’m searching for is the ability to be funny. I’m no fan of the guy, but I saw Frankie Boyle once, and his preternatural capacity to take a room and slay everyone in it was spellbinding. It was an absolute master class in how to be an utter cunt and get away with it. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially if you live in a place where the word ‘comédien’ actually means ‘actor’. Can you see what these people are up against? If they had any sense they’d stay at home.