Magazine article New Internationalist

Comedy for a Cause

Magazine article New Internationalist

Comedy for a Cause

Article excerpt

As a comedian, my favourite gigs are benefit gigs. OK, so they're unpaid, but for someone like me who spends much of their time being professionally immature, these shows offer a rare opportunity to do something worthwhile with my questionable 'skills'.

The great thing about them is they're organized by political activists, not showbiz impresarios, so they tend to have a quirky, homespun feel. Slick, soulless commercialism is replaced by lo-fi, big-hearted amateurism.

Inevitably, this fingers-crossed/neverdone-it-before/how-hard-can-it-be model of showbusiness does occasionally result in the odd glitch. Here are just three of the pitfalls that have befallen me:

Pitfall 1 - no microphone

This took place at a quiz night for a local anti-cuts group, where they were raising funds by selling booze in a mildly nefarious and speakeasy-ish manner through a raffle.

The idea was that you bought a ticket, handed it to someone else, and then got a polystyrene cup of warm wine thrust at you. This ruse apparently side-stepped the rules, allowing the promoters to sell cheap grog.

A fantastic idea, were it not for the fact that all the effort put into identifying and exploiting loopholes in the licensing laws meant that the people in charge took their eye off the ball microphone-wise. Now, the microphone is a pretty crucial tool in a comedian's trade; without one you're just a bloke shouting in the corner of a room. Which, as luck would have it, is something your average leftie seems to quite enjoy.

Pitfall 2 - no seats

As well as shouting, activists seem to have no problem with standing up, as proved at a benefit gig I once did at a fire station. …

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