In 2014 I would like to either do enough stand up to justify the label, or stop calling myself one. In 2013 all I did was host a panel show once, which barely counts as anything! On top of that I haven’t had any new material for a few years.
With this in mind on my way home from work I came up with an observational comedy routine. It’s got a lot of different uses and I think it would be suitable for a wide range of stand up comedians. I thought I would document its gestation here as way to start blogging again.
It started with a thought. All comedy starts with a thought. You too can be a comedian, you just have to have a thought about something. Ideally it should be something that is widely recognisable to your target audience, whilst remaining novel enough that they won’t get the punchline before you are halfway there.
Thus ‘have you noticed that that the ruling party in our nation are scumbags’ is recognizable, but not novel. (incidentally, this has been a dominant thought for me which perhaps explains a dearth in new material. I digress).
Today I had a thought which could be novel enough to be recognizable (it’s pretty banal, and to be honest, could already be in the material of a high-profile comedian, if it is then please believe me, I didn’t know)
Here it is
‘Isn’t it annoying how clothing retailers write ‘shop’ when they mean ‘buy’ as if the two words are interchangeable.’
So, far, so banal. Here’s that thought transformed into an observational comedy bit.
‘I’ve been doing a lot of online shopping recently. I much prefer online shopping – no mirrors, no despair, no skinny 16 year laughing and pointing (This bit is good for self depreciating lady comedians. FAT! We all hate being fat don’t we) So I went on this website and it told me to ‘Shop Dresses’. I was a bit confused so I checked a couple of other sites and they told me to ‘Shop trousers’ and ‘Shop Skirts’. One website even asked me to ‘shop the collection’.
Anyway, I did what they said, packed all my shirts, skirts and dresses and took them down to the local police station.I said ‘I’ve come to shop dresses, I’m not sure what they’ve done, but the internet has told me to shop dresses so here I am’
The police officer said: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, what do you mean ‘shop dresses this aint a dress shop luv’.
So I replied: ‘I’m here to shop dresses, you know, grass them up’
He said: ‘I don’t know why you want to grass up your dresses darlin, that’ll ruin them.’
And then I was arrested for taking the church collection plate.
So that’s an observational comedy bit, probably for a middle of the road mainstream observational comedian. With a few minor alterations this bit could be used by a middlebrow radio 4 Edinburgh Fringe comedian. The trick is, to mask the fact that you are actually doing a mediocre observational comedy bit, by using it to slag off observational comedians who are probably more popular and rich than you.
Observational comedy routine 2, Radio 4 version.
‘ I’ve been watching a lot of observational comedy lately, you know – your Jimmy Carrs, your Peter Kayes and your Micheal Macintyres (yes, you are doing a joke about grammar, whilst using bad grammar! so clever! Is that funny? I don’t know it’s probably funny)So I wrote some of my own. You’ll like it, it’s about grammar (ruin the punchline before you start! SO OUT THERE. Also radio 4 types love grammar).
So I’ve been doing a lot of the old online shopping (oh yeah, MAXX your accent up)
So I went on this website and it told me to ‘Shop Dresses’. I was a bit confused so I checked a couple of other sites and they told me to ‘Shop trousers’ and ‘Shop Skirts’. One website even asked me to ‘shop the collection’.
Anyway, I did what they said, packed all my shirts, skirts and dresses and took them down to the local police station.
I said ‘I’ve come to shop dresses, I’m not sure what they’ve done, but the internet has told me to shop dresses so here I am’
Police officer said ‘Allo Allo Allo (you add this bit in because it makes it seem more exaggerated and like a lazy comedian telling a joke. Remember, your aim is to mock other comedians as well as make a joke. You are so clever)
That’s what they say isn’t it, police (you could pronounce this PO-leese like in the wire, all good radio 4 types like the wire)
Did you know, where that originates from? Till 1875 if a police (bad grammar again!MAVERICK) said hello once, he had to say it 2 more times legally. I saw that on that show, the one that’s a boring version of Wikipedia, you know – the one with the king on it. QI.
Anyway where was I? (you absent-mindedly went on a riff! Except you didn’t, you planned every word, but they will still fall for it, and then..maybe.. Love you?)
Back to the joke.
The police said: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, what do you mean ‘shop dresses this aint a dress shop luv’.
‘I’m here to shop dresses, you know, grass them up’ – Grass them up! Because, like the word shop, it has 2 meanings (yes explain the joke, you can get more out of it if you just hang out and explain it)
He said :‘I don’t know why you want to grass up your dresses darlin, that’ll ruin them.’
And then I was arrested for taking the church collection plate. Do you remember before, when I said I was even asked to ‘shop the collection’, well that could also be a church collection plate! It’s a call back.(If there’s no laughs here at your big punch-line spin it out a bit, make a self depreciatory comment).
Observational comedy routine 3. Introspective and political.
So neither of those options is particularly political, and let’s face it we all ought to be talking about politics all the time given that we are probably heading into environmental apocalypse whilst everyone in Britain is thrown back into the Victorian era and beyond.
So how do you make a banal routine like that political?
Basically do the same joke, but add in a thinky bit at the beginning about society not being into obvious consumption any more and why language might have changed. That sounds a bit boring, but political comedy often is, you can probably get away with it if you are ‘thought provoking’ enough.
Then proceed with the above routine, with perhaps a slightly less smug tone.
Finish off the routine with a topical bit about police murder. For example :-
‘That didn’t really happen of course, that’s just weird. But then, I guess it is really weird being a police officer. It must be weird learning the new rules, and the new laws that are different from what civilians have to follow. If you mis-hear what an MP says then you can face arrest or lose your job, but generally it’s ok to beat people to death or shoot unarmed guys in cars. For us, blackness would generally not be a good reason to shoot someone.. but for them…’.
And that’s how you shoehorn some politics in. There’s still no politics in your joke, but luckily your joke was about the police so it was close enough connected to get away with it.
Personally I am not comfortable with the ending of that bit as a white person, I would worry that it’s a bit ‘hey the police are racist, I’ve pointed it out, so I can’t possibly be racist’ as well as making a joke out of police violence, which I am much less likely to suffer, which seems like a crappy thing to do. So I probably wouldn’t end up including that. I would end up worrying about that last bit a lot, also because you know – not mentioning the fact that Mark Duggan was black seems to erase the racist nature of the incident, but still it could be quite triggering to make comedy out of something I am less likely to suffer from because of white privilege. Also it’s not entirely accurate – in the US white non-cops have shot unarmed, non aggressive black people and gotten away with it.
Well that’s enough for tonight. You can probably guess that my cynicism combined with a fear of oppressing people from a stage platform, prevents me from writing much new materials.