Magazine article The Spectator

Geoff Norcott, Britain's First 'Openly Conservative' Comedian

Magazine article The Spectator

Geoff Norcott, Britain's First 'Openly Conservative' Comedian

Article excerpt

Lloyd Evans meets Geoff Norcott, Britain's first 'openly Conservative' comedian

Geoff Norcott is lean, talkative, lightly bearded and intense. Britain's first 'openly Conservative' comedian has benefited enormously from the Brexit vote and he's popular with television producers who need a right-wing voice to balance out the left-leaning bias of most TV output. 'It's funny meeting TV types,' he tells me. 'They say, "We really want to hear alternative viewpoints." And I'm thinking, "By alternative you mean majority,"'

Norcott, 41, was raised on a south London estate. 'Both my parents were quite political. My dad was a trade unionist who got quite high up in the NEC [Labour's national executive committee] and my mum ran as a Lib Dem councillor. So I completed the holy trinity.'

As a child he disapproved of ill-disciplined neighbours. 'I was quite judgey about the kids that didn't go to school and weren't trying to better themselves. I remember one day particularly I came home from school and my mum was still in her dressing-gown, and I said, "For God's sake! Get dressed! Achieve something with your day", although she was a hardworking woman.' He still has 'a real issue' with dressing-gowns worn during daylight hours. 'Get up. Do something useful.'

For 15 years he played the club circuit without mentioning politics. 'Then I wanted to do something in comedy that I hadn't heard anyone else do. My wife said, "Well, you're a Tory, that's a bit weird, isn't it."' It began to pay off after David Cameron's surprise election victory in 2015. 'People were angry. And it became the jeopardy element: can you force people who instinctively think you're a terrible person to laugh at your jokes? There's something quite addictive about reluctant laughter.'

He began performing in his mid-twenties while working as a sales executive. 'For ITV. Quite big clients. Quite a boozy, laddish period, the late 1990s.' He also trained as a teacher and specialised in the toughest end of the profession: supply teaching. He explains with some relish how he asserted himself in inner-city schools.

'A classroom is a dangerous place. They're young kids. Some of them throw stuff. They're looking for an adult figure. I felt teenagers are quite basic creatures, they can be easily led. If they think you look sharp, they'll give you a level of respect. So I always used to wear a good suit, tie, clean-shaven. And being a strict teacher, it made them happy, not initially, but once they'd bounced off you a couple of times, to see where the lines were, they just relaxed, you could see them relax, "OK, this guy's going to control this environment."'

He regrets the 'democratisation' of the school system. 'The centrality of the student, the cult of the individual, it raised them up to an idea of themselves that teenagers aren't able to handle. They really like boundaries and walls.'

Some teachers were inexplicably deferential towards 'alpha male pupils'. He cites an example named 'Bennie'. 'When the teachers said his name, it was almost like they were in awe of him. "Where's Bennie? What's Bennie doing?" I thought, you're not supposed to be his mate.'

He identifies a specific problem with pastoral care offered to pupils about to leave school. 'There's a pathological desire to keep kids in school, get them their GCSEs, [which] means that the pastoral element goes up towards the end. …

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