These Short Sharp Shocks Will Make You Laugh and Cry

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

These Short Sharp Shocks Will Make You Laugh and Cry


Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

HOW many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?" A: "Whereas the party of the first part, hereafter referred to as 'Lawyer', and the party of the second part, hereafter referred to as 'Light Bulb', do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part (Light Bulb) shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, ie, the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entryway, terminating at a point just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination is at the option of the party of the second part (Light Bulb) and is not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties. The fee for fulfilling your written request for our legal opinion is [pounds sterling]20,000 plus expenses. Any delay in payment will result in litigation."

It's doubtful whether verbose legal gags like that would have gone down well in northern working men's clubs back in the Sixties. The comics who succeeded in that harsh environment were the knockabout, down-toearth ones who could pull funny faces, tell a few mother- in- law jokes, then finish off with a musical turn.

Granada used to scour the working men's clubs to bring us the hit-and-miss cast of The Comedians, and ITV is doing something similar on Comedy Cuts.

This time it has concentrated on the impecunious acts that book the scout huts and disused warehouses each summer at the Edinburgh Fringe. And thankfully, they ' ve completely ignored the precocious Oxbridge types who still seem to waltz into the BBC each year to share with us their "sideways look at life", even though they have no insight at all into the human condition, their pampered backgrounds and witless observations merely confirming Apuleius's dictum that " paupertas omnium artium repertrix" ("poverty is the discoverer of all arts").

With 50 comedians (most performing alone), the contributions had to be very short indeed, which led to some agreeably fast-paced and brutal gags. "If you're in prison and about to be raped, say 'Oh f**k, what a week, first Aids and now this,'" was the entire content of the first monologue, and if that didn't have easily shocked viewers reaching for the off button, it was followed by a spirited and very funny re-enactment of 9/11, using paper aeroplanes and Twin Towers built from Jenga blocks.

A sermon from Jim Jefferies contained some sharp observations on Jesus's early life as a carpenter (such as "he would have been preaching to a thousand people, and there'd always be one bastard saying 'He's the guy who built my gazebo'," a remark that caused his deaf signer to punch him), but my favourite moment came from Australian Brendon Burns. …

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