Guest Blog: End the Apparent Apartheid in Comedy!
Chris said "When I was growing up, working class comedians with broad appeal ruled ok! People like Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise and Benny Hill were always on TV. The comedy wasn't high brow, there were no long words, you didn't have to think about it to ‘get it', it was just funny and funny is funny whatever your social background. But since the rise of the facism known as political correctness, which is ever more choking free speech and expression and since the rise of alternative comedy in the 80s, working class comedians have been forced out and replaced with middle class and university educated comedians. Consequently, comedy in this Country has become completely dominated by the middle classes. The British public is force fed middle class and university educated comedy by TV producers, agents and bookers who are middle class and university educated themselves which, in a lot of instances, simply isn't funny. They only promote or push the style of comedy and comedians that appeals to them, as opposed to promoting comedians with a far broader appeal. As such, a comedy 'closed shop' has been created whereby in almost all cases, if you aren't a middle class comedian, or if you aren't a university educated comedian, then it is virtually impossible to get a break, get on TV or be accepted on the comedy club circuit. This comedy elitism and what can only be described as bigotry really, is displayed nowhere more than at The Edinburgh Festival. It's unfair and it simply has to stop".
Chris went on to say: "An article appeared in Chortle recently that echoed the struggles that a lot of working class comedians or comedians from the mainstream circuit have had, in trying to get recognition or be accepted by those people who control comedy in this country today. The article stated quite rightly that the old inverted middle class snobbery or middle class bigotry argument is churned out and used to shoot down anyone who even dares to suggest that 'Britcom' has become dominated by the middle classes, but the fact is that it has."
Chris added, "As it states in the article and as I have discovered myself, have you ever considered what it must be like for an uneducated, naturally gifted comedian/comic actor to catch a break these days?"
I can tell you, virtually impossible.
I have been a professional comedian for twenty years and played to all types of audiences in all types of venues. I have successfully played the comedy circuit in Hollywood, played on one of the biggest shows there with a US comedy superstar, Dane Cook, was offered a fifty date tour of the states by TV comedian Bobby Lee and yet in my own country, despite having done all that under my own steam and without any big fanfare or hype, I am still ignored and shut out over here on the comedy club circuit and in the main, have only been offered unpaid, open mic spots or unpaid spots on gong shows. It's almost like you have to try and be, and speak like, a middle class comedian to get on because the powers that be deem working class comedy as beneath them because to them, it's not intellectually challenging enough. I have found that you have to talk about things that appeal to the middle classes, in a style that appeals to them, in order to be accepted".
Another article that was written following Sam Friedman’s study on comedy showed that whilst middle class interviewees who took part in the study would not directly mention comedians such as Bernard Manning, Chubby Brown or Jim Davidson as working class, they often made strong negative judgments about their fans as “bigoted” or “thick”.
Chris said "This is also very true and I have experienced this first hand too. However, though I haven't been to university I am far from 'thick', or uneducated. At the end of the day you don't take on, oppose for six years and defeat in the highest court in the land, a multi-million pound local authority and the biggest housing developer in the country if you're thick or uneducated do you? I'm not ignorant or racist either, which you also get branded as if you so much as bring race into your act. I think middle class comedians like Peter Cook and Eddie Izzard are very funny yet I find these working class comedians, in particular the late Bernard Manning, very funny too. People say that Manning and Brown are racist or offensive, but they were/are doing the same type of humour as Jim Jeffries or Frankie Boyle only thirty years before them! Why is it then that working class comedians like Manning or Brown are classed as bigotted or racist and are castigated and ostracized, yet middle class comedians like Jeffries or Boyle who do the same type of material are classed as daring or ironic and are applauded and accepted? The hypocrisy is staggering".
Chris went on "It's about time that this comedy elitism and the mainstream/alternative categorization of comedy, by those in control of comedy in this country stopped, because categorising comedy in this manner is creating a comedy apartheid, and it is so small minded and ridiculous. Comedy has become so narrow, there is such little variation. Comedians have become clones of each other. In the main they all sound the same, have the same kind of accents, same kind of delivery, have very similar styles, talk about similar things and because they all seem to be shooting from the same direction, working class comedians have now become alternative! Middle class comedy has its place but it shouldn't be the only comedy that is foisted on the huge number, dare I say it majority of people in this country, who haven’t been to university or aren't middle class. I aim to go to Edinburgh as a working class comedian who is proud to be so. I hope that people come to see me not to judge me or seek some kind of high brow comedy lesson that flies over the heads of the majority, but just to let themselves go and have a laugh without having to think too much"
- Chris McGlade
Chris McGlade is back doing stand-up after beating his local authority and Persimmon Homes in the Supreme Court and changing British law in the process. In 2004, after playing the Rock Comedy show with US comedian Dane Cook, the Hollywood comedy circuit beckoned but Chris fought the system in the North East of England for six years instead.
You can catch Chris' free show Chris McGlade... The Bad Lad Lands at Edinburgh Football Club, 5-17 August at 19.15.