As controversial as it may be – I’ll start as I mean to go on - there’s little that I find more depressing than bad, feeble stand-up, based on what’s presumed to startle, and ultimately revealing nothing but an ugly desperation.
Our Freshers’ week comedy was not so complete a failure as some examples I have had the misfortune of being witness to, but I still left with the inability to engage with the world, and an intense feeling of disappointment - there’s nothing more alienating than being surrounded by laughter, unable to empathise.
I’ve begun to detect a kind of stand-up rubric, made up of introducing yourself fully, giving a wholesome profile of your ‘mad’ character, challenging your audience, making sure to assert your intellectual superiority, before rounding off the endless hilarity with a fairly boring anecdote supplemented with outrageous embellishments.
The first performer of the night was slow, but received steady appreciation, and ended with a sweet and protracted joke about mistaking a ten-year-old boy for his girlfriend in the swimming pool. As predictable as the punch line was, the delivery was endearing, he was making himself laugh and appeared to be having fun.
Our headliner, Craig Campbell, followed my comedy framework precisely, including a nice story about poo. In all he covered, poo, morphine and driving, with a particular emphasis on driving. Perhaps I was too sober to comprehend his particular brand of humour - I found it boorishly macho, brazen, and with an irritating propensity for “fuck right” and “fuck yeah, man”.
Comedy has the capacity to spotlight unhappiness in a way that tragedy is unable to do, and yet I couldn’t help but feel as if was watching an unimaginative madman exorcise all his resentments and irritability on stage.
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