Where are the really, really un-cool comics?

I’ve just knocked back two whole series of Peep Show, and I’m raising a solitary glass of Ribena to the onscreen distress, discomfiture and other disses of David Mitchell. What a total dork. What a guy.

In principle it’s no surprise for comedy to be filled with people who don’t seem to get on well with reality: comedy is famously a place for exposing your vulnerabilities, testing your boundaries and so on, but British comedy (in my obviously baseless, biased and probably irrelevant opinion) seems to be particularly based around the public parading of shame and embarrassment. From Del Boy falling through the bar to Alan Partridge stabbing himself in the foot and Fry and Laurie’s Hedge Sketch, British comedy has a moment of mortification for pretty much any taste. There’s a BUT, though.

These people are pretending. They’re not one hundred percent inside those idiots they portray: maybe they’ve had moments of standing in the shoes of the incompetent, but not a life sentence. David Jason’s been in lots of other things, playing lots of different people. He’s not really a proper custard-case. Alan Partridge? I’ve seen Steve Coogan on Parky’s sofa, all leaning back and laughing, like people do when they’re perfectly normal, and not a loser, so I’m not going to believe he’s one of us. Fry and Laurie: who plays the social incompetent? Exactly. Doctor Bloody House himself. Doctor I’m-so-clever-I-get-lonely, Doctor You-all-forgive-me-for-being-an-egomaniac-because-you-fantasise-about-getting-in-my-pants House, Mister Sark of Astic, a genuine stottering invertebrate? Don’t make me laugh. No, really. Don’t, because it isn’t FAIR. These guys can stop. It’s just an act, they’re not in fact, embarrassed to be themselves. They get to knock off and go back to being cool. They’re like the posh girlfriend Jarvis Cocker sings to in ‘Common People’, who plays poverty for kicks, because in reality she has a choice.

If I was a completely different kind of person, I could now sound off about it being actually quite like pretending to be a member of any other socially disadvantaged group just for the sake of a bit of entertainment at their expense, and that discussion would go on and on until someone mentioned Hitler, and then I’d get blamed because this is my blog and I started it. And I’ve just written ‘Hitler’ anyway, so it is, definitely, now, my fault. But I’m not that kind of person, despite the Hitler comment; I’m the kind of person who just smiles and wonders what it is, whether I have really made another gaffe and I won’t realise it until I wake up in the night surreptitiously using my fingers to smooth out my upper lip to stop myself from cringing in the dark, or whether they are laughing with me. They never ever ever bloody are. Even David Bloody Mitchell betrays us on the panel shows. Okay, they’re scripted, but still – and there have been interviews, too, in which he’s come across as treacherously well-balanced.

I know that these comedy characters, just like film heroes and wizards and baddies, are not real. They’re based on real qualities, though, that we all have in life to some degree. Heroic people in the real world aren’t like in the movies, but we admire them. Real evil and selfish people aren’t movie–character bad, but we try to avoid them if we can get away with it without there being a scene. Why is it then, that if you’re afraid of other people and you tend to want to apologise for your skin and everything in it, that’s not, in life, a scaled-down version of the funny and charming movie version, but instead just, well, somewhere between pitiable and contemptible, depending on the charitableness of the cooler onlooker. Like, for example, comedians, who can see straight through us, take us off to perfection and then flick back to relaxed amiability. Bum-beans and reprobates.

So, what do we do? I can hardly join up with my own kind. ‘Flake Pride’ isn’t going to happen, because I’m as ashamed of them as I am of me, and they feel exactly the same way. I think. Obviously I haven’t asked, but there’s no union and you can’t select ‘Sad Sack’ on the census forms. So we just laugh. After all, it is funny. Social incompetents trying to get through life and cocking it up is funny. Even I can see that.

Maybe some of them are really lonely, bored, hoping to make a connection with someone else who doesn’t ‘get’ the world. Maybe it’s all of the comedians and most of the laughers, and there are no really cool people at all. Maybe we’re ALL uncool, and in the closet about it, hiding our true gawk behind successful performances, to varying degrees (which would explain Mr Mitchell’s apparently laid-back style on camera and allow me to return to thinking he’s The Real Thing). I think this is probably a ridiculously over-optimistic idea/hope/fantasy, but I’m going to cling to it like a barnacle to the first rock it finds, not knowing if there will ever be another. If anybody else wants to cling to my rock with me, you’re more than welcome: out yourself as socially incompetent and, if we can get more than three, then I’m up for a Flake Pride march in November (reliable weather, and we look good in coats). Maybe David Mitchell would open for us.


About alexandraengland

4 responses to “Where are the really, really un-cool comics?

  • Michele Nicholls

    If you qualify as a social incompetent, then there’s absolutely no hope for the rest of us. You’re the most socially competent of the lot of us, in my opinion (I don’t case if you didn’t ask for it, I’m incapable of following social rules, so you get it anyway) Take your head out of that bag, and see how much more pitiful the rest of us are!

  • alexandraengland

    Leave my bag? Are you NUTS!? Yeah sure, just jump off the rock, like I’m going to find a better one. The rock, the bag… If I was as socially competent as you claim, why would I have my head in this bag?

  • alex :)

    Seen Josie Long? Mark Watson? Tim Key? Silly divvy shit just got real.
    Admittedly, they’re probably fairly competent at some aspects of existing, to be making a living out of the comic, but I sometimes also get the feeling that they do what they do precisely because it’s massive and awkward and it scares the living bejesus out of them. They consciously harness their possible foibles for the wider mirthfulness. And I like that. Owning it. Plus the gimpy and earnest optimism of the whole thing. Nice.

    Nice blog, by the way. Dropped in from Bad Science. Thank you for having me.


    ps. You should know that I typoed “competent” (comptetent) just now. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the bold step to actually leaving it that way for ironic effect. Instead I dedicated a whole post script. Bye.

  • ravey davey gravey

    so where is alexandra (the stage hand of mid-wales opera) now ?

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