Reading an article from The Telegraph about The Hunt for Tony Blair has set the cogs in my brain a-whirrin’. Apparently next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Channel 4 as a broadcasting entity, as well as the first ever Comic Strip Presents film, Five Go Mad in Dorset. It’s been a while since they were last on the air, but new recruit Stephen Mangan claims that the team’s style of spiky satirical comedy could be due for a comeback: “Comedy follows the political scene. In the Eighties you had Thatcher, a deeply divisive figure. You had riots in Toxteth; it was a very turbulent time… Blair came in and for a while seemed to unite the country. Now that it’s all started to fall apart, and we’re entering a more turbulent political time, I think you’ll see more sparky political comedy.” Lord, I hope so.
The foundations of the original Comic Strip line-up were laid when stalwart writer/director Peter Richardson assembled a motley crew of unknown stand-ups to perform in a Soho strip club at the start of the 80s. Since then those comics have become household names, while Richardson has remained a fairly obscure figure: “I’ve never been rich in my life, but I’ve been able to do most of what I’ve wanted to do, which has made me very happy. I think the danger is you become complacent… When we set out we were the guerrillas of new wave humour. Therefore it was our duty to cause trouble. And we’re still trying to upset people as much as we can.” Hurrah!
Of course, I’m too old to be considered a “Young Turk” now, and I’m probably too timid and polite to ever really upset the establishment with my writing, but I still admire and envy those who use Art to unsettle their audiences, and challenge preconceptions. From a spiritual perspective I know that it’s unhealthy to indulge in overly negative and critical thinking… but sometimes you need a creative vent for the distress and outrage that can’t be salved through meditation and philosophy. Sadly, when I was younger and still of interest to potential producers, I didn’t have anything to say for myself as a writer… now that I have a more practiced style, and a clearer sense of what I want to communicate through my comedy, the opportunities have all dried up, and I’m reduced to posting bitter, envious rants about the ambitious-but-distinctly-bourgeois whipper-snappers who’ve already lapped me. Gah!