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This programme contains very strong language.
I'm gagging to get on. I'm like a greyhound in a trap.
It actually is like being able to fly.
Stand-up is such an opportunity to tell the truth.
You can say whatever you want.
You're selling your ideas and your thoughts.
They want a human connection with you.
Stand-up comedy is such a powerful medium, because you feel,
if it's done properly, you're laughing and you're evolving.
As an art form, it is the only art form
where you can immediately feel the responses of it.
You just say what you feel, you connect and bring the audience in.
A kind of wave comes,
and when it gets to a certain point I step onto it like a surfer.
As soon as you get one taste of it, I was ready to give up everything.
That is a magic feeling. You can do whatever you want with all this.
Then you've got to come off.
You want to be back on stage again.
Someone referred to it as the joke coke.
It's a good description, because it can be addictive.
Like sometimes when you come off stage after an amazing gig,
you're just like, "Let's do that again, I want to go back on."
CLAPPING SPEEDS UP
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Don't take this personally. Born in Chelsea, Holland Park school...
-I've never been so offended in my life.
-Aren't you a bit of a fraud, really?
(IN ACCENT) I talk like this for some reason because I thought it was funny.
I thought the concept of an energetic
but slightly unfocused Middle Eastern accent
was something that would get me started off quite well.
-Most of the time, you've got that look on your face.
-A lot of the time, yeah.
I feel I'm smiling.
People don't say, "Cheer up, it might never happen,"
but that happened all through my life.
I was just given this face that doesn't smile very much.
My school was Haberdashers' Aske's School in Elstree,
-a minor public school.
-Such an underprivileged background.
There we go. Although, of course,
Haberdashers' is a strange locus of comedy, because I went there,
Sacha Baron Cohen went there, Matt Lucas went there
and that is to do, obviously, with young, slightly cocky, Jews.
It's very rare to have a very good-looking stand-up,
because they can already be in the centre.
You just wonder what the need was,
because you've already got that. We're already looking at you.
It's a brilliant thing. It's just this bit before.
It's the uncertainty of not knowing the audience
but as soon as I'm on there tonight I'll be fine.
It's my fault for running around like an idiot.
If I was deadpan, this wouldn't happen.
And this is where I start pacing, running through each bit of my set.
I go on with the stopwatch with my bottle of water.
As I go on, hit that, put it down with my water. No-one notices.
Then every time I have to drink my water, which is loads because I sweat all the way through,
I can have a sneaky check of the time and no-one knows.
Did you have this need to perform from very early on in your life?
Yeah, I did, yeah, and subsequently found out
when I was in the drinks clinic
trying to rid myself of certain things, they said
"That's why you were a comedian. You were a born alcoholic.
"You wanted to be centre of attention,
"and your job is the easiest way of getting it."
-My dad, I think, having been a pop singer...
Aspired... I think he saw showbiz as it is -
the great escape for the working classes.
So, yeah, his advice to me was not
"get a trade" and all the things that my other mates' dads were saying,
it was "get on the bandwagon".
How are we doing sound check-wise?
The individual jokes are easy to remember.
the problem with it is remembering the order,
you know, 250 jokes in an hour and a half.
Stand-up comedy is maybe a personality disorder that you can do for a living.
I don't think that's a bad description of it.
There is an element of self-analysis involved,
of poring over your own life, which might not be too healthy.
You can have really bad things happen in your life,
and all you're thinking is,
"Well, this could be the end of an Edinburgh show."
OK, two minutes. Thanks.
Right, we're going to go on stage now.
Are we doing it? It's happening, it's happening, it's happening.
See you in a little while.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
How are we doing? Are we well?
You know from the first joke roughly how it's going to go.
Hello, good to have you here. I know, it's mortifying, isn't it,
cos everyone can see you. Sorry we had to start the show "on time".
Smiling is no good to a comedian.
It's about volume. I must get my volume.
-What do you do for a living, if you don't mind me asking?
-I'm a nurse.
You're a nurse. Fantastic.
In the old days, they used to get applause, but not any more.
Now everyone around here is thinking "Ooh, MRSA."
I'll go on and talk about where I've been, what I've been doing, what's going on, what I've noticed.
And then go on about how difficult I find life with women.
I went and got myself married a while ago again,
because odd numbers are good for me.
And she's a nice girl, with a flat head to put your pint.
I think OK, we've got the joke,
and then I do it literally in front of the mirror.
And I will keep doing it until it will make me laugh
and then I go, "Ha! That's it."
"You're being racist!" "About who?" "Those white people over there!"
"Which one in particular?"
"I don't know, they all look the same to me."
Why I always wear suits on stage is,
I like the nothingness of it to be taken seriously.
Are you not sick and tired
of hearing about Harry "fuckface" Potter?
It's a huge feeling of kind of sharing with the audience
your view of the world and the reward from that is they get you.
Whereas acting is all about character, I think for me,
stand-up is about attitude, and that informs everything you do onstage.
The weirdest thing about being a comedian is,
when you walk out into that light,
'you're saying that you're the funniest man in the room.'
The first line or two are very, very important, you know.
Just to get it that little bit off the floor.
I feel particularly splendy today. I do.
No, today, ladies and gentlemen, I finished my first novel.
It's taken me a long time to read a book, but there you go.
'I've always tried very hard to be as funny as ordinary people are,'
just ordinary guys, the way welders used to do it in the Clyde,
just make you laugh round the fire
when you were toasting your sandwiches.
There were a lot of funny guys, you know, not telling jokes,
just having a go at the foreman, the conditions, whatever it was.
I always thought, "God, I want to be as funny as that,
"how do you get as funny as that?"
I was a phenomenally late starter for a comedian.
I did my first gig when I was 30.
When you lived in the West Midlands in the 1970s,
showbiz seemed like a long way away
and so it didn't really seem like an option
to do anything of that nature.
So I was happy being a sort of stand-up comedian at school
or in the factory or in the pub.
It was very much humour is a saving grace,
that was the message I got, growing up.
So, whenever I felt marginalised at school or even
when I was an adolescent growing up and everyone was copping off
at parties and they had girlfriends and no-one was interested in me,
there was some culture week going on
and I did a sketch and the teacher said,
"Let's put it on in front of the school." And I just remember
the laughs was like an avalanche of noise, I just remember thinking,
"I quite like this!"
And it wasn't so much the feeling of the laughter,
it was afterwards, having sixth-formers patting me on the head,
saying, "That was really funny, mate, I didn't see that one coming."
We left around just before the revolution of '79.
I would have been almost four,
and I was six when the revolution happened.
What my mum and my dad did then to shield us children
was to make light of it and to laugh about it -
my dad is a comedian and a writer, satirist.
Everyone used to come up to me and go, "Oh, your dad's so funny, are you as funny as your dad?"
So, for myself and my brother, the sort of measure of being,
you know, an acceptable human being was on how funny you could be.
There was no comedy clubs at all then,
just working man's clubs, stag shows, that was where an agent would phone you up -
"I want you to do three on Friday night, two on Thursday, four Wednesday,
"write them all down." You'd do three a night and get fifteen quid a time.
You were doing old jokes that people tell you in the pub.
The trick that I used to be quite good at was painting a sort of picture,
using different accents and painting a picture in people's minds
and the fact I could do Irish accents and this cartoon West Indian accent,
I stuck with what I knew and just picked the best jokes
that I'd heard and strung them together.
My Auntie Margaret took me to the theatre.
I was only eight or nine.
We would go and see Liberace and people like that,
but they would always have a comedian to end the first half.
They didn't call them stand-up comedians,
they called them front-of-cloth comedians
because you stood...they stood right on the edge of the stage with the curtain at the back -
their job was to keep you interested while they changed the scenery back there.
I used to just wait and wait for these guys to come out.
There was an English comedian called Bentley who did the Empire circuits,
the Glasgow Empire, and I just couldn't wait,
I saw Max Wall, I saw all these wonderful guys.
That's when I thought I would like to be a comedian.
We're going to play the final game, called Junos and Jeffers.
Have you ever played Junos and Jeffers?
You know, where you stand and say, JUNO what happened to so-and-so?
JEFFER see anything of so-and-so?
As a kid, I loved, loved Groucho Marx.
I love you, I love you anyhow.
I don't think you'd love me if I were poor.
I might, but I'd keep my mouth shut.
I loved the idea of just being able to do those completely crisp,
all lean meat, one-liners. No storytelling or anything,
I'm not interested in those...you know, there's always a great storyteller. No, that bang!
I feel you are the most able statesman in all Fredonia.
Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself.
You better beat it. I hear they're gonna tear you down and put up an office building.
You can leave a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff.
If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.
You haven't stopped talking since I came here. You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.
For me it starts with Grouch Marx, really, which is...
suddenly you've got someone who's... you know, he's dressed in this
kind of slapstick way, but he's doing very, very modern comedy,
a very modern persona, it's arch, it's knowing, it breaks the camera wall.
Promise me you'll follow in the footsteps of my husband.
How do you like that? I haven't been in the job five minutes and already she's making advances to me.
Not that I care, but where is your husband?
Why, he's dead.
I'll bet he's just using that as an excuse.
-I was with him till the very end.
-No wonder he passed away.
Bob Hope, a brilliant comedian. Bob Hope, absolutely brilliant.
A lot of people tell me that when a big star comes to New York
they're besieged by autograph hounds, that's what they tell me.
Well, we have a GI audience, with all servicemen -
don't throw the camera on them, they may be AWOL - but I wanna tell you...
You need to have a sense of what works in front of a crowd.
It's not just shouting, it's not just "Look at me, look at me."
but you get a good instinct for what a crowd is like, as an animal.
No, please... Who cued that, who cued that?
I've often said that comedy is about jokes
rather than about character and plot and all that stuff.
Basically because I've written a couple of sit-coms
and I'm rubbish at character and plot, so I'm keen to push the stuff
I'm good at as being what comedy's all about!
An Irishman on a building site, eating a big piece of Gorgonzola.
You won't get 45 minutes each way and a band at half-time.
Come into a restaurant and he said, what's on the menu?
Don't mess about, they've been playing for money!
There's a great divide in comedy when you stop being able to just tell jokes,
just learn all these and I'm going to go out and go, "Murphy and Casey walked into a bar..."
You look at old tapes of Dave Allen and they're jokes, they are JOKES jokes.
And then, the basis became more and more personal as they came along.
A lot of people ask me, why do I drink during the show?
And is it because I need the drink to get through the show?
I can tell you now, the reason I drink
is it does, sitting here, get very hot.
A tremendous amount of lights,
and the only reason I have the drink is basically to keep cool.
I want to make it quite clear that I am not reliant on alcohol
to get me through... GET AWAY FROM THAT!
How do you think I get through the show?
Dave Allen could tell a story, and within that story he would use
the framework of that story to then digress into various observations.
It's really nice to watch that sort of relaxed,
you know, drink there and fag on the go, here's what I think about shit.
A very important part of the Irish way of life is death.
If anyone else, anywhere in the world dies, that's kind of it.
But in Ireland, when someone dies, we lay them out and watch them for a couple of days.
There is a sense that Irish comics tend to be predominately storytellers,
We tend to pick a topic and run with it for a while.
And the terrible thing about dying over there is you miss your own wake.
The best day of your life.
You've paid for everything and you can't join in.
You build up something that's long and feels organic,
and feels like one train of thought.
"Mary, are you there, darling, are you there?"
And she goes, "I'm here, love, I'm here beside you."
"I'm going, I'm going."
She says, "I know... Don't hang about, now."
It's like putting a stone in running water,
and the water takes the edges off it and smooths it out.
"Mary, before I go, I'm gonna ask you the question, tell me now,
"that skinny little runt standing at the end of the bed, is he really my son?"
She says, "He is. Honest to God, he is your son."
And he goes...
And she goes, "Thank God he didn't ask about the other three."
One of the things a stand-up wants to create is a coherent stance.
When you're writing, you want it to appear that this is definitely you, it's your personality.
The test is often, with the comic, when they're knocked off the script.
The script, they're just the bullets and you're the gun.
You know, you have to be the funny thing.
A lot of the time, you have to be the fall guy.
You know, you have to be the weak link in the story.
If it's about being bad at sex,
you're the one who's being bad at it,
you're not the guy observing somebody being bad at it,
and the story mustn't be, "Oh, I was great, but she was awful."
The funniest stories are always about inadequacy.
I think the insecurity's very important.
I think, without it, there's no human being there.
I'm not really interested in seeing comedians who just come out,
confident and loud in a shiny suit.
I don't know where the human being is in that person,
I don't know where their fear is,
I want to know about their... I want to know who they are.
In stand-up there should be no restrictions between what you're feeling,
what you're saying to your friends, to yourself, and what you say to the audience.
So, by going in front of the audience with only a few bullet points,
you end up just having to say these things -
you're desperate for something to connect with someone.
The truth is usually what connects them, usually what's funny.
What you've come for tonight is not a honed, good, funny show.
Don't have that expectation.
You're here for me to try out stuff for people in the future who have paid more.
Right, let's begin.
I shouldn't be asking them to write the jokes for me, but...
I've got an awkward relationship with my father.
My dad says, "Let's have a chat." Can't just talk to me. "Let's have a chat."
It has to be this formalised thing where I go over,
sit down next to him... And here's how he begins our chat.
"So...?" That's not a question, is it?
I don't know what to do about that now.
I'm going to give it... I'm going to say, "Tick, with better audience."
Look, what have you paid? Six or seven pounds?
Yeah. Fuck you. Cos...
I'm quite famous.
My mum would say, "You should really give them what they want.
"They'd love to hear your stories about show business, and they'd love to hear..."
It's not interesting. They might, and they might laugh for an hour.
"Oh, my God, he's so funny, we're laughing, we're laughing."
And afterwards, they'd go home and go, "He just sort of spoke about pop music."
Whereas, I think, what I do, they might not laugh as much...
but they go home thinking, "Well, that was interesting!"
So, I was in Amsterdam, which is sort of a sexualised place anyway.
But I was thinking about sex just about the whole time I was there,
just about the whole three days I was there,
apart from maybe 25 minutes in the Anne Frank museum.
And I was there for an hour.
"That's a nice cupboard."
I'm not so interested in saying, "Haven't we all got toasters?
"Oh, yeah, we've all got toasters. Yeah, we like toast." It's not...
So? I can't bear the celebrations of the mundane.
I'm more interested... I'm more interested in saying,
you know, "The world seems mundane, the world seems rigid and stiff,
"and here's what's really going on."
I've realised, whatever problem I have with another person...
I've been alive long enough now to realise that those people are recurring characters -
different people, but just the same thing cropping up again and again.
So I've made a list of the recurring characters in my life,
because I'm odd.
This one... This is the annoying... OK.
"The beautiful humourless boy who I fancy a lot
"but who I'm also very angry with for being so beautiful
"and not laughing when I say clearly funny things."
I get quite angry in this section.
It can't all be funny for seven pounds!
Do you just want laughs or do you want more than laughs?
-Much, much more.
Sometimes I'm annoyed they're laughing. I think, "Why are you laughing?
"You should be asking me if I'm all right."
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I'm quite lonely. Let's start with that.
Nothing can be done about it, people of Dublin.
Nothing can be done.
I bought a new flat about two years ago. In this flat,
in the bathroom, there are two sinks.
I thought that would bring me some joy.
It is a constant reminder.
And so what I've had to do - this is what I'm doing now in my life,
I'm actually doing this - I'm using both sinks.
I now every day brush my teeth in the left sink
and in the right one mainly cry.
Do you ever worry that you're revealing too much of yourself when you do this?
No, the opposite. I always think,
"Have I really said the actual truth of this situation here?
"Or did I just get a laugh with that?" And that's safe, to stay there.
I always think there's somewhere deeper to go and somewhere more interesting.
I really wanted to change myself a lot last year cos I felt I wasn't getting enough sex.
And it's a fun thing to do, it's a shame not to have more of it.
And the reason I wasn't achieving the getting of more sex
was because I would see someone at a party that I really liked,
and I'd think, "Gosh, he seems just about perfect. Who knows what could happen?
"I could end up spending the rest of my life with him."
And what I would do every time to woo him,
to pursue him, to make him see that I was the one for him,
is I would go home and hope that I saw him again.
Because for me to go up to someone and say,
"Hello, what's your name?"... Perfectly lovely question.
"Hello, what's your name?" Nothing wrong with that question.
It's a delightful curious question, but, to me, it would definitely come out like,
(NERDY) "Hello, what's your name?"
When you go through your life
and the ups and downs and the traumas,
do you ever think when you've had a particularly bad day, or a bad experience, do you think,
"Oh, well, there's some material there at least?"
Almost too quickly. It's almost upsetting...
how quick it can become material.
I recently went through a break-up,
and I'm already talking about it.
And it's... I was talking about it three days after it happened.
Is that a consolation of any kind, do you think?
It is eventually.
But I'm kind of...
I'm annoyed that it is sometimes, because it means I'm not feeling things fully.
And that's part of what's wrong with me.
So while people talk about stand-up being therapy, it can be the opposite sometimes,
because it stops you from fully immersing yourself in the pain,
because you can fix it quickly, it's almost magic.
And because you're outside observing it, very rapidly...
Yeah, I'm outside all the time. I'm outside of it.
I'm not in there, feeling hurt, feeling angry,
feeling upset. I'm looking at this idiot,
who should be crying or is crying,
and sort of making fun of him. And it's me! It's me.
'One of the brightest comic talents'
to come from America in years,
an offbeat comedian, successful screenwriter et cetera,
and a very powerful sex symbol, signed...signed Woody Allen.
And here he is, Mr Woody Allen.
'I don't even know how I would exist as a performer at all
'if Woody Allen hadn't invented it.'
I don't know what the precedent is, other than him, for being an insecure, anxious person on a stage.
I do not go to dentists.
I don't like doctors.
Well, let me start this at the very beginning, I like doctors
but I once had a pain in my chestal area
and I was convinced that it was heartburn,
because I was married at the time
and my wife used to cook for me all the time with those Nazi recipes, you know.
Chicken Himmler for dinner every night.
And I didn't want to spend 25 dollars to go to the doctor
and have it reaffirmed that I had heartburn.
Cos it wasn't worth it.
But a friend of mine at that time got a pain in the exact same spot
and I figured if I could get him to go to the doctor
I could figure out what's wrong with me.
For me, a lot of stand-up is about creating a grotesque,
if you like, of identifying what it is about you
that will make people laugh and then exploiting that, if you like.
Woody Allen's doing hysterically funny stand-up about..
conniving stories out of nothing, out of surrealism,
out of being the nerdy Jewish guy who everyone starts to recognise.
If the audience are convinced what you're saying is true, they'll laugh.
If they get a sense that it's not true, they won't laugh.
So I talk him into it and he goes. Cost him 25 dollars.
He's got heartburn.
And I feel fabulous because I beat the doctor out of 25 dollars.
And I call my friend two days later and he died.
I check into the hospital immediately, I have tests run
and X-rays. It costs me 150 dollars.
I had heartburn.
I'm furious now. I run to my friend's mother,
and I say, "Did he suffer much?"
She says, "No, it was quick. A car hit him and that was it."
'The Jewish tradition wins, in stand-up comedy.'
Make a list of great American stand-ups and it's Jewish, Jewish, Jewish, Jewish.
Being Jewish tends to not really be about religion.
One is more likely to worship Woody Allen than God.
And so it's really a cultural voice
that one is always either channelling or trying to find,
and in America, through the way that those...from Groucho Marx through to Woody Allen -
they have defined comedy.
This is a different type of show than you ever saw before.
That's why everyone in the world is getting excited.
This is a one-man show, which disturbs a lot of people.
A lot of people say, "Who is one Jew to make such a comfortable living?"
All great things throughout history were accomplished by one person working alone.
Michelangelo. The greatest painter, in my opinion, who ever lived was Michelangelo.
Because he painted the whole Sistine Chapel all by himself.
It took him 30 years, because the man was a schmuck.
It was overwhelmingly hot in New York
and all the Jews went to the Catskills.
That was like the French Riviera to the Jews on the Lower East Side.
As soon as it became warm,
the heat was unbearable in the summer.
There was very few people had air conditioning.
Everybody was sweating. It was unbearable.
So everybody knew the Catskill Mountains were the only place to go.
That was it. That's where all the Jews were.
By the time I was 18, I said to myself,
"I could probably become a social director in the mountains."
I wasn't thinking of being a professional entertainer,
but there was such a thing in the mountains -
almost every hotel, regardless of how small they were, even if they had 12 people,
they hired a social director to entertain the people day and night in the hotel.
I worked at a place called the Butler Lodge.
Any and every comic that I can think of that came out of New York
probably did some gigs in the Borscht Belt.
I remember I got up and I did my opening.
What was your opening?
Good evening, ladies and Jews. Er...
I met a beautiful girl last night,
but she was skinny. I mean, this was a very thin girl.
I took her to a restaurant - she was so thin
that the maitre d' said, "Check your umbrella, sir?"
And I... You know, that was my opening.
-And the minute I did it, I heard...
So I just cupped my ear and listened very closely.
"Oh, English, English. Oy, English."
They were so unhappy and I had no idea.
I had one or two Yiddish jokes - I forget what they were -
and I did them and they cheered
as if we had won World War Two or something, you know?
Just... They understood it.
When you started to perform or tell jokes,
did Jewish humour come out of that, or the humour that they shared?
There's certain things that might be peculiarly Jewish about certain kinds of humour.
The self-effacing humour, the comedy about being persecuted,
rejected, an outcast, plays on words or thoughts, ideas,
and very seldom doing the physical crazy comedy that the Gentiles do.
When a Gentile walks into a restaurant, they're very nervous,
they walk in like, "How do you do? May I sit down?
"How long should I wait? Nine years, why not?
"Nine years is OK." You ever see how a Jew walks into a restaurant?
Like a partner. "Hello!
"Let me see my table!"
All small groups - you know, the Irish, the Jews -
all small groups evolve a particular kind of comedy
out of their persecution.
The Jews have done it particularly well,
perhaps because they've been more universally persecuted than anybody else.
And partly what you do is you get mastery over your...
You get mastery over your fate by making fun of yourself.
And when you make fun of yours....
I've often described it as a form of masochism.
When a masochist knows that there's trouble coming, he organises it.
No matter which table you show 'em -
"You call this a table for a man like me?
"I don't sit so close to a wall, so far from a window.
"My wife don't like to face this way, I don't like to face that way, we don't like to face this way."
You anticipate what's coming, you make a joke out of what's coming, you've won.
You're in charge and you've won, as it were, intellectually.
I mean, Jews love that, particularly.
It takes them three hours to pick out a table, then they start a whole new fight.
"Why is it so draughty here?"
'Because there were so many Jews, I guess, in entertainment,
'I grew up with British Jewish jokes.'
The Two Ronnies, the end of the world has happened,
and the religions...
There's only the Jews and the Mormons left
and they're going to join together as a religion
and their headquarters is going to be in Salt Beef City.
You know, that's a proper hardcore Jewish joke.
A joke when it's well told is not confined. It's not confined to the group.
That's mainly what you want it to do. Can you make it leap out,
can you make it leap over the wall of your community into everybody?
And the great ones can.
Good evening, my people!
And you know, Omid is a very powerful name in Iran.
You know, Omid means "hope".
It's just a shame that Djalili means "less".
Does being an immigrant give you an advantage, do you think?
I don't know if it gives me an advantage. If a lot of great comedy comes from pain,
I think certainly I've had my fair share of pain as a child
and as an adolescent and the confusion I've had. I'd gone from being quite proud to be Iranian
to suddenly all the images coming out of Iran of people like slapping their heads
and there was a very strong violent feeling from Iran,
Islamic fundamentalism, and it was a negative image,
so starting off doing comedy
and talking about my Iranian culture seemed quite healing.
Ayatollah Khomeini - he wrote a book about what you can do
and what you can't do in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iranians, back me up on this.
Page one, page one says the sweat of a man -
that's the sweat of a man -
who has had sexual intercourse with a pig is impure.
That's the big one.
A lot of Iranians would then say, "Why are you making fun of your culture?"
And there were so-called Iranian "intellectuals" who would say,
"You should talk about our great 3,000-year civilisation, the Persian empire.
"Why you making fun of our culture?"
And so I stopped using that particular cab firm.
Someone said, "Oi, in the Middle East, have you got an institution like the Samaritans?"
I said, "What do you mean?" "If you're depressed, want to kill yourself, who do you call?"
I said, "Of course we've got the Samar... We don't call it the Samaritans.
"In the Middle East, we call it a recruiting centre."
People call up saying, "I want to kill myself!"
"There's a bus leaving in ten minutes.
"Could I have your waist size, please?"
That's so wrong, but so funny.
I think just by talking about Iran in a comedic context
was quite a powerful thing. Because I think the British psyche is,
if you make fun of yourself you must be all right,
so if there's an Iranian representing Iranians and they can be ironic, they must be OK.
'They all seem to operate en bloc.
'They're either a good crowd or a bad crowd.'
Even, "Oh, they were a bit slow. They were a bit sl...."
These people have got varying educational abil...
How can they all be a bit slow on the jokes?
Often when you play in old theatres there's that hole in the curtain
that actors have put in there to have a look at what the crowd's like.
And if you look out and there's six fat blokes in football shirts,
you're thinking, "Oh, well, maybe I won't do my Bernard Levin material."
Is this taking you back, madam?
'Do you ever get nervous?'
Terrified. Still do. I mean, really terrified.
I have to not drink the night before.
You know, don't get drunk, for heaven's sake, don't have a hangover.
"Why are you hitting your dog?"
"You won't believe it, Officer, he fucking ate my tax disc."
'Unless I've been doing the show ten or 12 times'
I'll be really, really nervous, you know.
Dry mouth, dry sicks, shaking.
what am I fucking talking about?
'I get very anxious. I've even sought help about it.'
You know, I went to see some shrinks about it
and got pills and things for it. And it was getting out of control,
because the biggest symptom is you just forget everything.
Before I left New York to come here, I was.... MAN SHOUTS
Fucking boom! He walked right into it.
I know there was a time at the beginning, I was so...
so shit scared of hecklers.
You've got a cock in your mouth, sir, I suggest you take it out.
Then we can hear what you're saying.
But now I think it's important to... not be open to it in the sense that you encourage it,
but if people shout things they want to communicate,
it's because they want to say something to you and it's very good to just listen.
I think as a comedian it's not about just getting...
You've got two channels in your head. One is to do your material
and then the other one is to live in the moment, so if someone wants to say something, let them say it.
What's the difference between heckling and a dialogue with your audience?
-A dialogue? I don't want a dialogue.
-I talk, they laugh.
How do you deal with the hecklers?
One of my chaps goes over and has a word in his ear.
-Sounds scary to me!
-Well, it is scary, yeah, but you've gotta stop it.
It's no good shouting with 'em. If that guy's heckling me, no-one else can hear what he's saying.
I'll be wasting my time trying to think of a smart-arse answer to him.
All that people will see is the top of my head.
I tell all the young comics who speak to me, "Don't do hecklers."
I loathe hecklers. I haven't one good syllable to say about hecklers.
When you've come out of the club circuit and all that
and you're in the concert hall and you're good at what you do,
you're a storyteller, they should be gone.
There's an element of manners should take over.
Right, the ticket's dear,
it's a different venue,
people have had a bath to come here.
Sit down, shut up and listen.
Hello! How are we doing?
-That's a good start
if you can answer the basic questions.
This is a wee try-out show for Stand Up For The Week,
so if the jokes are funny on a boat, they're funny on the telly.
I always like to have a look at the audience
to see whether there's people that might fit certain routines.
If it's a small room and there's only five people there
and their faces are right in front of you,
that's when it's the most terrifying,
because as soon as something doesn't work,
you know about it instantly
cos you've got five people staring at you in silence and that is...
I find that terrifying.
Give it up for Jack Whitehall!
Good evening, everyone! Are we well?
Yeah, thanks very much for coming out to see the show.
As Kevin said earlier, there's football on,
which is good, as a comic, cos I instantly get a gauge
of exactly who we've got in the audience.
All the men who did art and drama at school
and then women that are thoroughly in control of their relationships.
"I might stay in, watch the Champions League with the lads."
"No, you won't! You'll be coming with me to the boat
"cos I've got your dick in my fucking handbag."
You've just arrived, you know, out of your teens into this scenario.
You've been sort of really...
-You gave up university.
-History of art. You gave it about three minutes and then moved on.
I'd already started doing stand-up on stage and I'd got the bug.
Every lecture that I sat in, everything that I thought was like, "Why would I want to do this?
"I've been on the stage, I've done stand-up. That is the most amazing thing, this is boring.
What I like about Britain's Got Talent
is you see these little rural versions of it.
The best one I've ever seen - Yeovil's Got Talent.
Massive poster on a town hall.
Last year's winner were a set of twins.
I asked a woman in a pub what was their talent.
"Spitting image of each other but they were a different person."
That's not strictly a talent, is it?
I'm completely out of my comfort zone when trying out new material.
I'll be overtly aggressive in my delivery
and sort of oversell them and often swear a lot as well
without meaning to, and you sort of use all these things to veil
the fact that you're not confident in the joke yet.
Some of the shows I like are getting ruined.
Midsomer Murders - I fucking love Midsomer Murders. I can't watch it now, cos if I do I'm a racist.
They say they need to get more black people in the village in Midsomer.
Well, that's a tough gig, isn't it? Being the first black person there.
Every time there's a murder, getting hauled in for questioning.
"Do you know why you're here?" "Because I'm black?"
"Yes. Do you have an alibi? Where were you when the murder happened?"
"I was being held in a cell for last episode's murder, which happened when I was on holiday."
If they don't laugh at something, you cut it and never do it again,
so, you know, it's completely in their hands.
They edit it for you, really.
There's a lot of crosses or a maybe.
When you first start, the most frustrating thing as an act
is when people say to you,
"Oh, good. You had some very nice jokes but you haven't found your voice yet."
And it's so frustrating because you know that they're right
and you know that to find your voice is, you know,
the most important thing as a comic, but also one of the hardest things.
The task was to write something where you imagine the world as if it were different.
You could redesign the world in any way you chose and it can be anything.
It can be silly, political.
Let's hear it for Dave.
I was watching the other day...
Recently, the local elections have happened and the Eurovision Song Contest has happened.
And I felt it'd be much better if they did the election coverage
much more like the Eurovision Song Contest.
"Hello, Sunderland South, can you hear me?"
"Hello, Huw! Yes, you're doing a brilliant job.
"It's been a great show this evening."
Methods will vary from comedian to comedian
and actually the best method
is the one that...that grows organically out of your own personality, in a way.
Liberal Democrats, eight points. Liberal Democrats, eight points.
Les Democrats Liberales, huit points.
I put the students on stage in front of an audience a lot.
They perform for the first time ten days into the module.
They start and ten days later they're in front of an audience of 200 people.
I like the pause gag in the, you know...
Cos they always do that and, you know, if you were building a longer piece
you could certainly play on that and, in fact,
it's the sort of thing where you could pause for a bit,
then go, "They always pause like that, don't they?"
There's three basic strands of comic theory, OK.
There's theory that emphasises aggression and superiority.
You know, you laugh AT somebody.
I was filling in a form for a friend the other day and I said, "What's your postcode?"
She said, "Charlie Tango Two, Seven November Hotel."
I said, "What?!"
She went, "Can you just repeat it back to me
"so I know you've got it down right?"
"Cock Twat Two, Seven Knob Head." Get out.
There's a comedy which is about incongruity -
that's another theoretical strand.
It's about absurdity, the unexpected.
I think the human body is a missed opportunity, I think.
For example, two holes that do pretty much the same thing.
I think one of them
smells traditional things like breakfast in the morning,
coffee, kippers, farts...
That kinda thing, like noses usually smell.
The other side could smell emotions.
And then the third one is release of tension.
The classic theorist would be Freud
and Freud argued that there are two kinds of jokes.
Innocent jokes which are just playful and fun
and then tendentious jokes which have a deeper kind of psychological purpose.
You don't have to buy that hook, line and sinker
to realise that a difficult or edgy subject
is going to create a certain tension in the audience.
And having created that tension, if your punchline is funny,
the laugh is bigger.
I went to Blackpool. I was looking for rooms and an old lady came to the door,
a nice lady, a little bit some more, not quite so much and then perhaps.
And that's all I want - just a little encouragement.
If you go back 60 or 70 years and listen to recordings
of Max Miller, he has to find how explicit his innuendo can go
before it's too explicit,
and his skill was being able to walk that tightrope.
Shall I start it off? Shall I start it off?
-I'll start it off and you'll creep in, won't you?
-I'll creep in.
# I started courting a smashing fan dancer
# To marry her, that was my plan
# Now it's all off with the smashing fan dancer
# She fell down and damaged her fan... #
When he talked about the fan dancer who fell down and damaged her fan,
there's 19 seconds of outraged laughter!
You can tell there was some serious tension being released there.
And normally the response to that is, "I think I've found your level."
Thanks very much!
Can I make you my sort of moral guide for tonight?
You don't have to do anything.
If there's a joke I'm worried about, I can... Is that OK?
Thanks. That'll be good.
Let me start with this one.
I've often wondered, Jean, right,
if when a new paedophile comes to town, right...
Bear with me, right.
Does he seek out one of the older, more experienced local paedophiles, you know?
And say, "Where's the best places round here to pick up kids?"
And does the old paedophile say, "Well...
"..swings and roundabouts, really."
Have I gone under the wire with that one, do you think?
Jean's not sure.
I think I've got away with it, just slightly.
'I did a gig on the night of Princess Diana's funeral.'
The manager said, "Do you want to start with a minute's silence?"
I said, "No, I'll integrate my own silences through the act like I always do."
But I went on and, you know, I said stuff like,
"Elton John... I watched the funeral today.
"Elton John, you know, he should have done I'm Still Standing.
"I just sold the flower shop. I'm really upset about that.
"I put all my money in landmines."
It was all that kind of... You know? And they seemed...
There seemed to be a great sense of release in the audience.
"Maybe it's OK to laugh about... He's not joking about her death."
The most common question after a show is, "What's the most offensive joke?"
Now, I don't think I can tell you the most offensive joke.
I think offence is taken, not given. That is how it tends to work. Different people take offence
at different things. So I can't tell you what the most offensive joke is.
But we could see.
I would never do jokes about Jesus Christ
but I think doing jokes about Christians is fine.
You can do jokes about Jews
but to have a go at maybe the Torah
or things that Jews really feel they hold sacred,
I think you're just causing offence.
I've got a friend that recently had an abortion.
But on the positive side...
slimmer of the month!
Well, that got a few of you.
You can do a very, very funny, humane...
or taboo-breaking, in an interesting way, joke about cancer,
or you can do a really kind of brutal, unfunny, mean one.
It's not the subject - it's the joke.
If men fall asleep directly after sex,
why is it so difficult to catch a rapist?
There are very few subjects that you could say,
"That is absolutely not a subject for comedy.
"You absolutely cannot talk about that."
Because if it's treated intelligently
and met with intelligence in its audience, it can ve...
You know, you can find ways of discussing almost anything.
No-one offended. Right, let's bring out the big guns. Hitler and Pol Pot.
Let's try and see the good in the bad. Both Hitler and Pol Pot
managed to conduct an awful lot of medical research
without hurting any animals.
LAUGHTER AND GROANING
I put it to you, if you're not even a little bit offended,
you haven't really understood that.
When people complain about comedians being rude or offensive,
to me they missed the point entirely. That's the function.
The function of a comedian is to reinvigorate us with rudery.
I am the only person who could be called an intellectual who would go to Chubby Brown
and find him funny. Of this I am not ashamed.
COMPERE: The outrageous Roy "Chubby" Brown!
WHISTLING AND APPLAUSE
Hello! Are you all right in the shitty seats?
Is that the wife?
Have you fucked her?
There's some lovely women in this room tonight
but I'm not a ladies' man - I only have a four-inch cock.
And some girls don't like it that thick, do they?
The foulest, filthiest stuff you'd ever heard, and people adored it.
It was... It was disgusting about women,
and who were the people who loved it most? Women.
But it finished when she came out of the pier, it was over.
We licensed it to happen there, and then stop.
You should always marry an ugly woman, oh, yeah.
Cos if you marry a bonny girl and she leaves you,
you're heartbroken, right?
You marry an ugly girl and she leaves you, who gives a fuck?
Comedy is there to say, "This is the world, this is who we are.
"We are beasts. Rejoice in the fact that we are beasts."
What function...? What, in the end, what function do we have?
We copulate, we propagate - that's it.
COMPERE: Bernard Manning!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I used to go and watch Bernard Manning in Manchester, in his club.
You were a fool to have gone in there
if you knew you would be offended.
You went there in order to be offended.
A fella said, "I feel under the weather, Doctor."
He said, "I'll give you an examination." He said, "You've got VD."
He said, "Must have come off a lavatory seat." He said, "You must have chewed it - it's in your gums."
Bernard Manning was a pure joke teller,
and he told jokes as well as anybody has ever told jokes,
but he would get massive cheers from his audience
every time he said anything hateful or racist,
and it's uncomfortable, because you kind of go, "Why?
"Why would you need to do that?"
Bloke says to his mate, "I'm going bleedin' mad here with pains.
"I've got them piles," he said. "Oh," he said, "it's fucking awful."
-Went to the hospital Monday morning, there.
-"Come in. Come in, please."
"What can I do for you, please, sir?"
He said, "You can shift these piles if you can. I'm going through bleedin' agony."
"Oh," he said, "piles are very, very painful. Very painful indeed.
"Will you come right in, sir? Come in, please.
"Take your trousers off. Bend right over, please.
"Oh, dear," he said, "would you pull your bollocks up?
"There's no light getting through here."
"Oh, dear, dear, dear, dear.
"Well," he says,
"I can't do nothing for your piles,
-"but you're going on a long journey."
You've only got to talk about political correctness,
to my audience, and they think it's hysterical.
Have you seen when the black people turn up
and win all the fucking medals?
The 100 yards, there's always nine black people
and a fucking Russian.
What is the point of that fucking Russian?
There's no point, is there? "Take your marks...."
The Russian -
-"Check the meerkat.com..."
-You haven't really changed, have you?
-Of course I have.
-I don't do jokes anymore and I have changed.
But you're saying that, Alan, but you haven't seen me.
-It's true I haven't seen you, but when...
-That's all my life, people say that -
-"Oh, you're that bloke who does..."
-No, but I don't say that. What I say is I'm just...
I'm saying, are you true to who you are? Rather than trying to accommodate...
Yeah, I am true to who I am now.
People look at me as if I am that fossil that was from the '70s
and should have stayed there.
But I have a job to do and there's still millions and millions of people
that want to see comedians of a certain age.
So, Jim Davidson or Ben Elton? Where do you stand?
Jim Davidson any time. Jim Davidson any time,
and that doesn't mean I have to like Jim Davidson particularly.
Ben Elton was like the end of comedy for a period.
Ben Elton tried to make comedy out of what wasn't funny.
He thought you could clean up comedy.
There's no point in cleaning up comedy - that's not what it's for.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!
And welcome to this, the first of our new series,
which is now called FRIDAY Night Live.
The title has changed but very little else has.
Little else has changed in the world. We have the same Government, although we had an election,
Mrs Thatcher stormed parliament for a third time. Careful -
if she wins it again, they'll have to let her keep it.
I was about 12 and Ben Elton came on the scene,
and I can't even explain... I almost get teary thinking about it.
I just felt like I had found my yellow brick road.
You know, he was the Wizard of Oz.
I have to be honest with you.
I nearly didn't make it to the show tonight.
I nearly did not get here. I almost got flummoxed at the very start of leaving my home, you see.
I leave my house... Oh yeah, by the way, I've got a house. Yeah, I own a house.
"Oh, my God! The hypocrisy of it," screams a certain newspaper.
"Interested in a welfare state and he's got somewhere to sleep?
"Hypocrite - he ought to sleep in a cardboard box.
"If he supports the National Health Service, why doesn't he cut his head off and kill himself, then?"
I was obsessive about Ben Elton, and he was political,
and what he said made sense to me.
All the stuff that people were saying about Thatcher, all the anger -
suddenly it was in funny form, and I could relate to it and I got it.
It was exciting and exhilarating at the beginning, because he was saying about Thatcher
what other people were not.
It died away when he would stand on the stage and you'd think,
"Hang on - this is a speech to a trade union.
"This is no longer funny." The unforgivable thing, I think,
for a comedian, is that he steps out of comedy and enters,
you know, the sphere of current affairs or politics.
It's not just that it's not funny anymore -
it's just that he's forgotten that he's involved in a...
He has a dramatic function.
I found myself in The Comedy Store in London,
doing a topical comedy show called The Cutting Edge,
and lo and behold, two rows from the front, bang in the middle,
was none other than BBC comedy legend
It's rather off-putting, to be honest with you,
having his smiling, red, alcoholic face sat there.
But he listened to the show and he laughed,
and then he came to chat to me at the bar afterwards.
And I really have nothing in common with Jim Davidson.
I mean, I'm Asian, he's a supposed racist.
I'm gay, he's a supposed homophobe.
-But you liked him when you were there.
-He thought you did.
Well, they were all right, but it's like watching kids
playing at it, innit? "Hello, I'm Indian. I'm gay." You know?
Real obvious, awful, homophobic jokes.
I know, but then you were very, very rude about him, weren't you?
What? I only repeated what he said.
He called himself "the Indian poof" so that's what I referred to,
in speech marks. I spoke to "the Indian poof".
He called me an Indian poof.
How politically incorrect is that?
I'm a British-Asian poof, and it's not the same thing.
And he also called me a jealous socialist cunt.
When that guy walked on stage and said something about...
This is the guy before the Indian "poof".
Someone mentioned Jade Goody,
and he said, "I'm glad she's dead - she's a fucking racist." OK?
And then decided to take the piss out of a girl from Sweden,
and did all anti-Swedish material about porn and sucking dicks
and things like that that, you know, Swedish people in porn films do.
Now, talk about hypocrisy of those three unfunny...stuck-up...
Oh, they make me so angry.
I've had moments in the past where people have come up to me
and said, "I didn't like what you said with that."
And I always think it's a bit weaselly to go,
"Well, it's just a joke."
Intent is everything.
It's absolutely everything, and I'm sure you've had friends
who are gay, Jewish, black,
whatever separates them from everybody else.
I have friends of all of those types and I'm merciless with them.
And they are with me.
But then someone else'll step in and say something,
-and the room'll go cold. You go...
-SUCKS IN BREATH
"I don't like that." And sometimes it's extremely difficult
to tell where they differed from what you said.
But it's the intent,
and you have a built-in ear for the ring of truth,
and a comedian must have it,
or he becomes just another fascist, or just another racist,
just another sexist. You have to tread very lightly, you know?
Well, I tend to crash through it
like a man crashing through the long grass,
because that's where all the fun lies.
In our childhood we have all these dysfunctions
and they kind of...meld together and they form a formula -
an individual formula drives us to be whatever it is...we're driven to be.
For comedians it's definitely, like, any kind of humiliation.
You know? I know for me...
I was raped by a doctor,
which is, erm...
..you know, so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.
LAUGHTER AND SOME APPLAUSE
I think audiences should be offended or pushed and pulled.
I think that's a job of a comic - to make them rethink things.
I mean, if you're not offended by the end of a comedy show, you didn't get your money's worth.
I always think, like, I should get on and if I want to have kids I just...
You know, once you hit 30, you know, you've got to decide fast,
cos it can be difficult to conceive, it can be dangerous.
I mean, the best time to have a baby is when you're a black teenager. But...
There's a lot of racism and sexism and homophobia
that's wrapped up in irony,
and it's sort of like, really, if you take the irony away,
those jokes could be done by racists, sexists and homophobes,
-and the irony... Irony's a very thin material.
And it rips and tears very easily, so I feel like
the comics who are trading in irony have to have responsibility.
Some responsibility around the fact that I don't know
that everybody's receiving this ironically.
Are there any black people here tonight? Smile - I can't see you. Anybody?
Are there any radical Muslim fundamentalists in tonight?
If there are, raise both hooks and then back to your cell.
I like that they're not sure what's going to happen next.
I never want an audience to be able to predict
what they're going to feel watching me.
I want them on the edge of their seat, no matter the subject matter. That way they listen.
I'm part Jew and I love the Jews. I love that in this country you can say "Jew."
What a relief. Nobody minds, right?
In America, "That's racist - you're going to burn." You won't burn for saying "Jew."
You only burn in hell if you ARE a Jew, right?
Read the fucking Koran.
Comedy is meant to be confrontational. That's the whole point.
Why do paedophiles always have beards and glasses?
What is it about that look
that children find so sexy?
I liked that tour that Prince Charles took Camilla on in India,
last year. Proper rural India as well.
You know that half the people that turned up were going,
"Diana's really let herself go."
Does anyone else think that Camilla is almost exactly
what Diana would have looked like if she'd survived the crash?
I can find things very funny and offensive in equal measure.
I don't think there's anything wrong with being, "Ha-ha-ha!
"Don't say that ever again."
I think... I feel like, as a comic,
trading in jokes, there's a lot of times where I find comics
who I think their jokes are really well written and crafted, but I don't think they're...
I think their jokes are doing bad things, or not helping people, you know?
But every comic is not in this for the same reason.
See, if there's a riot in Delhi,
how do you know?
Millions of people in the streets, stuff burning, screaming...
Could be a riot, could be a wedding.
The result is the same -
I don't think that you realise that the joke you're making,
even though it's covered in irony, can be received by people
in ways that they don't perceive the irony -
they just support the point.
Like, I don't want to be labelled as straight, or labelled as gay.
I just want people to look at me and see ME,
you know, as white. And...
I don't care if you think I'm racist. I just want you to think I'm thin.
American is the mother tongue of stand-up comedy.
When they killed Bin Laden,
he had three wives, 23 children.
Do you know who called the SEALs?
I know comedians, they've got a 13-word joke
and they will struggle to cut it down to eight words.
I feel I should come out and go,
"There's an Englishman, there's an Irishman and there was a Scottish man..."
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