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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Thursday March 09 2006

Laat Sunday evening some friends took me to a Comedy Club.  The “99”, just off Leicester Square.  I really enjoyed it.

The 99 is a small place, or is a comedy club which takes place or took place that night in a small place, whichever.  (A link would probably only confuse, as I am so confused about what the 99 Club actually is, but I think this gig would once have been on this list.) There were only about fifty or sixty people in the audience.  I like that.  I have either a strong sense of my own individuality or a fragile ego, whichever, and do not like the feeling of being swallowed up in a football stadium type crowd.  (This may be part of why I prefer sport on television to live sport, and also of course why I am a libertarian.  But let that pass.)

I liked the comedians, of whom there were five.  Two blokes, two women, and then a final bloke.  As the evening went on, I liked them more and more, although whether this was because I was enjoying myself, or because I am heterosexual, or because they were arranged in ascending order of likability, I cannot say.

Only the final one, the pick of the bunch, an Aussie bloke living in London, made me laugh out loud.  But there is more to comedy than being made to laugh out loud, important though that is.  Comedy is as much about entertaining dinner chat as it is about, you know, comedy.  Smiling is often sufficient.  All the first four made me smile, especially the second lady.

Finally, and above all, I fancy myself as a potential stand-up comic, and to do that you must watch conedy, a lot, good bad and medium.  This may be a total delusion on my part, but that is beside my point.  I identify with comics, even – especially – when they are struggling, as all of the first four comics that night were, from time to time.

Finally finally, it was cheap, and it would have been pretty cheap even if we had not blagged our way in for nothing.  I really like that.

It is interesting how much of an interplay there is just now between stand-up comedy and politics, with comics appearing on Question Time, and politicians desperately trying to juice up their images by appearing on stupid quiz shows.  What gives?

I think that what gives is that rhetoric, the art of holding and audience in the palm of your hand and then stroke it and juggling with it, is now far more intensely studied by comedians than it is by politicians.  It is the comedians who now spend night after night addressing great crowds of people and relying entirely on their own gift of the gab to avoid being shouted at a pelted with rubbish, not the politicians.  The politicians are more likely to be ploughing through reports or clossetted with advisers discussing their preferred policies or perhaps concocting another report.  Comedians thrive only if they can say the right things in public.  For many politicians, for the first decade or two, it is enough to avoid saying the wrong things in public.

This creates an odd circumstance at the point where minor politicians are seeking to become major politicians.  Suddenly, their ineptness at rhetoric, if ineptness it be, is revealed for all to see, or not as the case may be.  Comedians, on the other hand, never get to be comedians at all if they can’t do rhetoric, because rhetoric is what they do.

The trouble with the comedians, of course, is that, often, all that they do is rhetoric.  They can hold audiences in the palms of their hands, but they cannot really know what to say of a political nature, because that they have not really thought about.  They know the form, but not the content.  And the politicians know the content, but not the form.

Perhaps a super-stellar career in politics would now consist of doing a stint of stand-up comedy, while simultaneously studying those reports, policies, etc.  I loathe and detest everything that the comedian Mark Steel believes in and argues for.  He is an unreconstructed socialist.  But, as a political career builder, I have to respect the guy.  Although, as I understand his politics, they are so freakishly left wing that he only really fits in in things like the BBC and the Open University.

There’s more involved in political effectiveness than this, but putting rhetorical expertise back into politics – bridging the gap between the crafts of comedy and of politics – would be a definite start.  I know I know.  A libertarian is not supposed to be in favour of politics being effective.  But, more broadly defined - i.e. not necessarily wanting to steal money from anyone, but instead arguing that such things should stop - politics is what libertarians do, even if they say they don’t.

I am still suffering dreadfully from being semi-unplugged. More about that by me here.  But the good news is, I’ve just heard, more cheap comedy tonight.  Someone called Nick Revell (sp?), I think my friend said.