There are few illnesses, problems or worries which abound in this small Island Nation of ours, that cannot be treated, or at least made bearable by laughter, by employing our innate sense of the ridiculous. We British know how to make the pompous appear truly sad, the pontificating exposed as charlatans; the duplicitous, the self-righteous shown as they truly are, which is both silly, pretentious and self-serving. But the basics of humour, of what truly makes us laugh, is, unfortunately; undefinable. My eldest brother, dead now some three years, was watching some comedy show on the telly, I cannot remember which one; and was rocking with laughter; but glancing at me as I sat, stone-faced; “Didn’t you catch that last bit? It was so funny!” My reply was simple; “I don’t get it. To me, that’s just not funny.” And that, folks, is what it is all about. If a comedian’s routine, if he successfully ‘delivers’ to enough people at the same time to make them laugh together; that’s it, he has found the Holy Grail.
Sometimes, it is just the way in which the comic delivers a scripted set written by others, for example the genius of a Tony Hancock in the ‘Blood Donor’ sketch, happy after he has had the routine test pin-prick on his finger; but incredulous when told he has to give a pint of his blood: “A pint! Thats nearly an armful!” With that single phrase,, at around 14.20 into the sketch; the broadcast audience fell apart all over Britain when those words were spoken.
Many, too many in my own humble opinion, rely on the rather strange trait of dressing up in women’s clothing, or as the term goes ‘in drag’ to deliver their routines and lines, Apart from meaningful side-glances and speaking in presumably exaggerated terms whilst delivering their louche, double-meaning and allegedly-comic routines, I presume that the audience is supposed to ‘get’ how ‘edgy, how daring’ their words, gestures and jokes really are, and applaud accordingly. One example of this strange ‘edgy’ comedy strain is the comedian Eddie Izzard. I have seen him doing a straighforward comedy monologue, and laughed almost continuously. His routine impersonating Lord Vader in the Death Star canteen is simple genius, and deserves all the applause he garners.
But when this man adopts the cross-dressing act, he leaves me not only stone-cold but puzzled. I am continually asking myself what is he trying to prove? One of the top comedians of the last century, Frankie Howerd, was quoted as saying, ‘once you know what makes your audience smile, or laugh; you have them’. Which is why I am still trying to figure out why Izzard was accompanying Jim Murphy in a campaign walk-around in Glasgow’s St. Enoch’s Square whilst dressed in a fetching black jacket and SKIRT, set off by a red and blue choker scarf. Never mind the neanderthals from Scottish Resistance, what about the ordinary Glasgie’ man? What do you think he would be thinking, in a city where, in a Scottish football match just a few years ago, one of the players ran out on to the field wearing gloves, and was promptly laughed off because he was suspected of being a homosexual?