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Is Stand-Up in the English-Speaking World Increasingly Conservative?

Started by tribalfusion, September 18, 2023, 07:03:48 PM

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Deano

If you look at Sadowitz - his act doesn't really work any more, because you don't need comics to "say the unsayable", because people are just saying that on Twitter. There was something exciting about seeing live stand-up because it could be so transgressive, you would hear people say stuff that just wasn't said anywhere else, it would be shocking, thought provoking, maybe upsetting. That doesn't happen anymore. Doesn't matter what Sadowitz says, 50 more shocking statements have been made on Twitter during the hour of his show, and the Twitter lot aren't even joking.

I think the same applies to radical left comedy. Mark Thomas, Jeremy Hardy and so on were really just funny left wing speakers. I discovered the politics of socialism through seeing them, because you certainly didn't see it anywhere else. I'm 39 - so grew up under New Labour - the media never really explained that there was actual politics to the left of that. But social media and the internet (and Corbyn) has changed that now too. You do now see radical left ideas discussed. You still have to go looking for them, but it's not a burden that comedy has to shoulder any more.

The rise of those left wing acts through the 90s I think were absolutely a result of those to the left of Blair having nowhere left to go.

tribalfusion

Quote from: Deano on September 19, 2023, 05:15:54 PMIf you look at Sadowitz - his act doesn't really work any more, because you don't need comics to "say the unsayable", because people are just saying that on Twitter. There was something exciting about seeing live stand-up because it could be so transgressive, you would hear people say stuff that just wasn't said anywhere else, it would be shocking, thought provoking, maybe upsetting. That doesn't happen anymore. Doesn't matter what Sadowitz says, 50 more shocking statements have been made on Twitter during the hour of his show, and the Twitter lot aren't even joking.

I think the same applies to radical left comedy. Mark Thomas, Jeremy Hardy and so on were really just funny left wing speakers. I discovered the politics of socialism through seeing them, because you certainly didn't see it anywhere else. I'm 39 - so grew up under New Labour - the media never really explained that there was actual politics to the left of that. But social media and the internet (and Corbyn) has changed that now too. You do now see radical left ideas discussed. You still have to go looking for them, but it's not a burden that comedy has to shoulder any more.

The rise of those left wing acts through the 90s I think were absolutely a result of those to the left of Blair having nowhere left to go.

Agreed 100% about Sadowitz. I'm curious, however; you note that a left beyond that of New Labour became more prominent in more recent years, and it's something which I also noted in this thread (along with the surge of popularity enjoyed by the DSA, Sanders, AOC and others in the US as well).

Why do you suppose that would result in fewer left comedians emerging as opposed to more? Wouldn't there be MORE of an audience for people who consciously share that worldview today than previously?

Deano

Because Mark Thomas' audience weren't comedy fans, they were leftists with no home? I don't know how true that is. But I think there's something to it. Jeremy Hardy was hilarious but also made some really interesting points that, unless you joined your local socialist party, you wouldn't hear elsewhere. Whereas now you can read them on The Canary.

These sort of acts would mock the government, but then also offer some optimism in terms of "well this is what us socialists would do". Whereas now you get acts like Nish, who I think is brilliant, but it's a lot more bleak because it's "well this is shit, the politicians are shit, but we're all fucked because we got as close to genuine reform as we're every going to get with Corbyn and now it's done".

Maybe that's part of it too. It's so bad that it's not really funny anymore.

bgmnts

Quote from: Deano on September 19, 2023, 05:15:54 PMIf you look at Sadowitz - his act doesn't really work any more, because you don't need comics to "say the unsayable", because people are just saying that on Twitter. There was something exciting about seeing live stand-up because it could be so transgressive, you would hear people say stuff that just wasn't said anywhere else, it would be shocking, thought provoking, maybe upsetting. That doesn't happen anymore. Doesn't matter what Sadowitz says, 50 more shocking statements have been made on Twitter during the hour of his show, and the Twitter lot aren't even joking.

Yeah but it's on twitter so who gives a shit? Most of the people typing that kind of stuff would never say it in real life in front of an audience would they? I still think it has something of an impact.

tribalfusion

Quote from: bgmnts on September 20, 2023, 02:13:50 PMYeah but it's on twitter so who gives a shit? Most of the people typing that kind of stuff would never say it in real life in front of an audience would they? I still think it has something of an impact.


That's largely true however, since it has been brought up again, perhaps it should be pointed out that Sadowitz has very little relevance in terms of the left and comedy more broadly. Sadowitz doesn't have new ideological fellow travelers helping to clear more terrain for his worldview, thereby encouraging more Sadowitz style comedians to give it a go. It's still pretty much just Jerry for better or for worse.

In contrast, mainstream breakthroughs for the left (Corbyn, Sanders, AOC etc.) would seem encouraging to those wanting to see more of that sort of perspective in other areas. It would seem to suggest that an audience for people coming from those ideological commitments exist in far larger numbers than was often commonly supposed.



 


sevendaughters

I saw Sadowitz on the recent go-around and idk it struck me for all the paranoia and bluster and dodgy stuff there was a mind in there genuinely worried about how things like racialisation (as one example) keep people apart and distracted by the wrong thing, not saying he's right or wrong, but it felt like an analysis closer to actual leftism than nearly anything I've seen by a comic aged under 40 of late.

Mr Vegetables

The leftist comedy young people make is all on TikTok now, where it is invisible to you

Deano

Quote from: tribalfusion on September 20, 2023, 03:41:35 PMThat's largely true however, since it has been brought up again, perhaps it should be pointed out that Sadowitz has very little relevance in terms of the left and comedy more broadly. Sadowitz doesn't have new ideological fellow travelers helping to clear more terrain for his worldview, thereby encouraging more Sadowitz style comedians to give it a go. It's still pretty much just Jerry for better or for worse.

In contrast, mainstream breakthroughs for the left (Corbyn, Sanders, AOC etc.) would seem encouraging to those wanting to see more of that sort of perspective in other areas. It would seem to suggest that an audience for people coming from those ideological commitments exist in far larger numbers than was often commonly supposed.

I wasn't comparing the two in content. The point was that, at least for me in the early 2000s, some of the excitement of live comedy involved being exposed to things that you wouldn't normally see or hear. The whole "saying the unsayable" schtick. Sadowitz is one example of that, but even stuff like early Jim Jeffries and Brendon Burns, they'd be out to shock. For me, Jeremy Hardy etc. also fit into that category because talking about socialist was also "shocking" at the time, in that it wasn't heard elsewhere. That felt exciting too.

I think all of that has gone away because absolutely nothing is shocking to hear anymore.

tribalfusion

Quote from: Mr Vegetables on September 20, 2023, 11:51:20 PMThe leftist comedy young people make is all on TikTok now, where it is invisible to you

I'm not sure why you think material on TikTok would be invisible to anyone much less to me in particular but perhaps you could share some  examples of the leftist stand up comedy on there you have in mind which you specifically think is invisible to others?

tribalfusion

Quote from: Deano on September 20, 2023, 12:01:11 PMBecause Mark Thomas' audience weren't comedy fans, they were leftists with no home? I don't know how true that is. But I think there's something to it. Jeremy Hardy was hilarious but also made some really interesting points that, unless you joined your local socialist party, you wouldn't hear elsewhere. Whereas now you can read them on The Canary.

These sort of acts would mock the government, but then also offer some optimism in terms of "well this is what us socialists would do". Whereas now you get acts like Nish, who I think is brilliant, but it's a lot more bleak because it's "well this is shit, the politicians are shit, but we're all fucked because we got as close to genuine reform as we're every going to get with Corbyn and now it's done".

Maybe that's part of it too. It's so bad that it's not really funny anymore.


It's noteworthy that from your 2 examples, Thomas is certainly considerably more radical than Kumar in a variety of ways.

Kumar is often mentioned in these contacts as a current topical comedian about politics (as he should be) but he's also more mainstream as well, even if at the progressive edge of the mainstream as it currently stands in UK comedy.

I'm not sure that one can say that Thomas' crowd weren't also comedy fans. I'd also add other significant comedy figures from previous generations like Sayle and Rob Newman have been pretty explicitly anticapitalist.




Quote from: tribalfusion on October 05, 2023, 02:53:17 PMI'm not sure why you think material on TikTok would be invisible to anyone much less to me in particular but perhaps you could share some  examples of the leftist stand up comedy on there you have in mind which you specifically think is invisible to others?

if it wasn't invisible to you then you would have seen it. qed.

PlanktonSideburns


Goldentony

I once got locked out of my flat and rang my incredibly old and well off landlord to let me in and he was annoyed because he was at a Mark Thomas gig

Deano

Quote from: tribalfusion on October 05, 2023, 03:04:14 PMIt's noteworthy that from your 2 examples, Thomas is certainly considerably more radical than Kumar in a variety of ways.

Kumar is often mentioned in these contacts as a current topical comedian about politics (as he should be) but he's also more mainstream as well, even if at the progressive edge of the mainstream as it currently stands in UK comedy.

I'm not sure that one can say that Thomas' crowd weren't also comedy fans. I'd also add other significant comedy figures from previous generations like Sayle and Rob Newman have been pretty explicitly anticapitalist.
I don't mean not comedy fans in a negative way... I just mean I came to socialism through comedy in the 90s/00s and I'm sure other people must have gone the opposite way.

Bourgyste

Yes, because a left-wing comedian is now a political pundit yelling at Trump or Braverman

Red82

Had that Owen Jones in the back of my cab once. They say he's a lone voice on The Guardian.

Sebastian Cobb

The equivalent show to the Daily Mash thing that Nish Kumar presented from the 90's was the Friday Night Armastice and while Schneider and Iannucci both revealed themselves to be melts who shat their pants at an alternative to the stuff they were supposed to be so against, I'd say the show probably did have more bite, but yet also, thanks to fewer options, much more mainstream reach as well.

thenoise

Quote from: Goldentony on October 08, 2023, 09:45:20 PMI once got locked out of my flat and rang my incredibly old and well off landlord to let me in and he was annoyed because he was at a Mark Thomas gig

We need rich comrades, how else are we going to buy our way into political power?

Famous Mortimer

Quote from: tribalfusion on September 18, 2023, 07:26:53 PMAs for material conditions being the driver, that would have been true for them or people like Alexei Sayle and Mark Thomas as well.
But material conditions have changed, though. There was a safety net that allowed people without rich parents to get into this world that just doesn't exist any more. Much the same as other jobs in entertainment - the number of people from genuinely working class backgrounds who have decent jobs at the BBC is vanishingly small (and will probably be the people from the generation you already mentioned).

So, these sorts of jobs are already self-selecting people from communities more likely to be conservative.

Sebastian Cobb

Yeah the 90's and early 00's had a pretty low barrier of entry for media people in a way it definitely doesn't now, largely down to the amount of channels cropping up due to sky/cable then even more so when digital broadcasting allowed them to cram even more in. But like everything it gets consolidated and streamlined in the end.

tribalfusion

Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on December 15, 2023, 08:04:33 PMYeah the 90's and early 00's had a pretty low barrier of entry for media people in a way it definitely doesn't now, largely down to the amount of channels cropping up due to sky/cable then even more so when digital broadcasting allowed them to cram even more in. But like everything it gets consolidated and streamlined in the end.

Stand up still has the lowest material barriers to entry of pretty much any art form. There are so many ways to get stand-up out without it requiring a major investment.

I'm not just referencing people who might have a show on HBO, the BBC or Netflix (someone here referenced TikTok but of course couldn't actually provide any examples).

I understand the general sentiment about careers, but it still seems odd that it's so hard for people to come up with names of comics under a certain age with sharply left of center political material.



13 schoolyards

Quote from: tribalfusion on December 15, 2023, 08:43:06 PMStand up still has the lowest material barriers to entry of pretty much any art form. There are so many ways to get stand-up out without it requiring a major investment.

I'm not just referencing people who might have a show on HBO, the BBC or Netflix (someone here referenced TikTok but of course couldn't actually provide any examples).

I understand the general sentiment about careers, but it still seems odd that it's so hard for people to come up with names of comics under a certain age with sharply left of center political material.


True, but being any good at stand-up still requires an investment, and for many people down the lower ends of the socio-economic spectrum the pressures of work (and then relationships / dating / having fun on top of that) really just doesn't leave time for putting in effort into an unpaid job.

Getting good at stand-up requires a fair amount of effort for a very uncertain return and unless you're extremely passionate about it - and possibly come from a background where success in the arts seems achievable, which increasingly isn't the case for the working class - it's a tough hill to climb.

So the people across the board who are making a go of stand up are the kind of people who believe individual hard work and effort is how you succeed in life, because in the current conditions it's the way you succeed in stand-up.

tribalfusion

Quote from: 13 schoolyards on December 16, 2023, 09:16:39 AMTrue, but being any good at stand-up still requires an investment, and for many people down the lower ends of the socio-economic spectrum the pressures of work (and then relationships / dating / having fun on top of that) really just doesn't leave time for putting in effort into an unpaid job.

Getting good at stand-up requires a fair amount of effort for a very uncertain return and unless you're extremely passionate about it - and possibly come from a background where success in the arts seems achievable, which increasingly isn't the case for the working class - it's a tough hill to climb.

So the people across the board who are making a go of stand up are the kind of people who believe individual hard work and effort is how you succeed in life, because in the current conditions it's the way you succeed in stand-up.

These pressures and constraints which you very rightly highlight are also present in other countries everywhere and always, some of which have even worse social conditions than the UK, and yet I've seen younger left of center comedians emerge there with more frequency than I have in the UK in recent years.

I could take 2 cases like those of the US and Argentina and easily point to more sharply left of center younger comedians and 'comedic commentators' emerging in recent years than what I've seen in the UK and both countries have very serious social problems and pressures.

In fact quite a few of the younger US comedians feted regularly on this website are members of the DSA and fundraise for it, something which would have been virtually unthinkable in the past.

After say Josie Long who is now in her 40s, it's hard to think of any younger comedians in the UK with open left political commitments of this kind.


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