When Bob Marley sang “Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Rights”, he was never singing about comedy, but in recent years “stand up” has grown to have only one connotation – the almost epidemic like plague of in your face comedians that have infiltrated almost every area of the media. A few decades ago it was DJs who were multiplying alarmingly, where anybody with a stack of twelve inch vinyl and a set of Technics Sl 1200 turntables could invent a persona and whilst their popularity remains, it’s comics who are burgeoning at an almost bacterial like rate.
We’ve nothing against a good belly laugh and the “stand up” tradition has given us some of the sharpest and subversive minds of the past half century – people like Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Moms Mabley, Joan Rivers, George Carlin and Bill Hicks – to name just a few. However as comedy festivals and talent quests like Triple J’s “Raw Comedy” proliferate, we are being swamped by an avalanche of bad gags and horribly predictable punchlines.
Comedy is not only a great diversion but a legitimate form of commentary on much of the nastiness and evil that exists in the world today but when it becomes trivial and trite it becomes as meaningless as a bunch of fart jokes at an old-style RSL smoko. Check out today’s TV and radio programs and you will soon see the extent to which the stand-up brigade have penetrated every level of light entertainment from mindless game shows through to news reviews, not to mention the many hours of TV devoted just to stand-up comics.
Fair enough you might say – these are funny, articulate people who bring a bit of much needed humour into our daily lives but do they really need to rotate regularly from one TV network to the other plundering every opportunity of idiotic banter up for grabs. Naturally much of the blame goes to the TV networks themselves who like safe, predictable, instantly recognisable celebrities. Unlike some celebs, signed exclusively to particular networks, the stand-ups appear to have a licence to move from one channel to another. Once you have exhausted your luck on Ten or Seven there’s always a show for you on ABC2 or a presenter gig on Foxtel.
Maybe we need to look beyond comedy festivals and talent quests to recruit our next generation of humourists and satirists. Where are the genuinely angry comedic activists like Italy’s Giuseppe Piero “Beppe” or the US’s Lewis Black? Where are the commentators prepared to put their careers on the line like Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce? Sometimes the best joke is the one greeted with an uneasy silence, not another shriek of almost Pavlovian laughter.
THE HIT LIST: This Thursday May 23rd, guitarist Tim Rollinson takes his dynamic trio along with special guest Phil Slater for a night of fired up jazz at the Kinetic Jazz Festival in St Lukes Hall in Stamore. One of this country’s leading guitarists, Rollinson is also one of the most innovative, pushing the boundaries of a wide range of styles within the broad church of jazz. Trumpeter Phil Slater adds a new dimension to the guitar trio format with the powerhouse rhythm section of Toby Hall on drums and Brett Hirst on bass. Check out all details at www.kineticjazz.com