Friday, 2 November 2007

Rules is rules

"I've got a surprise for you," read the text message from Katie. At the time I was sitting at home, feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Or, in her words, acting like a complete pantywaist.

Anyway, in my sleep-deprived state I didn't respond - I was just dropping off for the first shut-eye I'd had in about 36 hours. And in any case, messages like that can normally be translated as "I've spent some money - but I got you something too so you can't bitch at me."

So when she got home later that day, I got a pleasant surprise. Well, she'd spent money, so no great shocks there. But she'd managed to get tickets to see Al Murray in Birmingham tonight.

I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy, from the old-school to the edgy. In terms of big names, in the last year I've seen Jack Dee and Ross Noble, with Bill Bailey due later this month. These all have very different styles, all completely distinct from each other. But I also enjoy seeing lesser-known comics at places like the Glee Club and Jongleurs in town. In fact, I think the "unknowns" can be more entertaining in many ways; there's something about not being a household name that means they can take more risks.

For those of you that don't know Al Murray, his on-stage persona as the Pub Landlord is a xenophobic reactionary little-Englander. His audience participation is a key part of the show (worrying, as we'll be four rows from the front). His character thinks and says things that people tend not to think and say in this day and age. Nothing deeply offensive - more like typical banter - he says things that are completely ridiculous, but that's where the comedy is. The point hammered home is that the character is faintly desperate. Slightly pathetic, even.

Of course, it's a cleverly observed act - by all accounts, Murray in real life is a charming and erudite man. But I've long wondered whether everyone in the audience sees this as an act, and whether there are some followers who secretly think,"You know, he's got a point."

Listen to me - I'm over-analysing this massively. Whilst some that believe stand-up comedy must always say something deeply profound, I think it'll be healthy to just go out and laugh - and not think about things too hard. More often than not, funny is funny. I'm sure I will enjoy myself tonight, I just need to look out for the Daily Mail readers in the bar afterwards.

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