FROM THE DESK OF THE OFFICERS OF THE COMMON INTEREST:
Greetings Uncritical Thinker!
That joyful sound you heard on the 20th of March 2018 was the dying gasp of UK civil liberty. On that day a moral and political destitute named Mark Meechan, AKA “Count Dankula,” was convicted in a Scottish court of the crime of being “grossly offensive online,” having trained his pet pug to Sieg Heil, and then shared a video of it with his eight subscribers on YouTube. As if that wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to categorize the upload as comedy. I guess you could say that he was being pugnacious! (We can do jokes too.)
Meechan’s sentencing on April 23 marks the end of the dangerous everything-being-legal-unless-officially-banned era, and ushers in a glorious new age of everything-being-illegal-unless-we-specifically-allowed-it.
This nationwide Safe Space may appear to be a minefield, but those who adhere to good, sensible, progressive principles (defend free speech, suppress hate speech, fight the power, champion state social objectives, avoid micro-aggressions and stomp the intolerant—while not offending anyone) should probably be able to safely navigate it. All transgressors will be considered collateral damage on the road to human betterment. (You can’t make a cake without spilling some blood, as we like to say!)
You may think online you are anonymous, you can create fake profiles and
no-one can trace you. That’s wrong! The messages you type and send can be traced back to you.
The same laws apply to online messages, images and videos. What you post now can affect you later in life.
— Police Scotland (@policescotland) March 21, 2018
And now that censorship has officially defined the parameters of comedy, we Officers of the Common Interest cordially submit to you, the aspiring comic, our top ten tips (rules, really) for being a safe stand-up. (Comedians who are on television have already proven themselves reliable organs of the liberal consensus thus need not read any further.) See you at the Apollo!
HOW TO BE A SAFE STAND-UP:
1. LOOK THE PART
A safe stand-up should always wear a non-threatening outfit, such as a graphic T shirt featuring an ironic 80s cartoon character. Optimus Prime, He-Man, and Lion-O are all acceptable—BUT—why not consider Arcee? She-Ra? Cheetharah?
Demonstrate to the audience that you are down with Herstory and enjoy the satisfying thrill of moral superiority.
2. AVOID PUNCH LINES
The issue with punch lines is that they are part of jokes, and because someone always has to be the butt of a joke you risk offending them, the penalty for which is imprisonment. Try something different and open with a little audience participation. We recommend:
YOU: Knock knock.
AUDIENCE: Who’s there?
YOU: Female empowerment.
Clever comics subvert expectations. The audience was poised for a gag but instead you showed them how righteous your politics are, which is even better.
3. NEVER QUESTION ANYTHING THAT MATTERS
A comedy club is not the venue to ask challenging questions. For instance, “Why would Assad use poison gas on his own people a week after the US said that it’s no longer seeking regime change in Syria?” is not a subject for private conversation, let alone Jongleurs on a Friday night. A more suitable question might be:
“What do you get when you cross a fish with a dog?”
“I don’t know, but it can’t be any dumber than a Brexiter.”
Now you’re on fire.
4. DON’T WORK TOO HARD TO BE FUNNY
Because you’re on a roll you can afford to take your foot off the gas. A good safe stand-up is always looking for an opportunity to coast. With the audience won over, and still in stitches from the previous joke, cut corners by revisiting the same theme but in a less imaginative way:
“No, I really do think Brexit’s going to work out for the best.”
With the crowd screaming with laughter, holding their sides, treat yourself to a refreshing sip of your ethically sourced bottled water.
5. REMEMBER TO TELL SOME ACTUAL JOKES
Because comedy is inclusive now, actual jokes are frowned upon because not everybody can write them. Alas, at some point during your comedy performance you will unfortunately be expected to open your mouth and say something vaguely resembling a structured set-up and punch line—but without landing yourself in the clink for offending someone. To help you traverse this perilous tightrope, we recommend stealing gags from the Baby Centre’s Silly Jokes for Children collection. This one should go down a treat:
“Why did the girl smear peanut butter on the road? To go with the traffic jam!”
6. SHOW ANY PANEL SHOW PRODUCERS IN THE AUDIENCE THAT YOU CAN DO TOPICAL STUFF
“I guess you could say that he was being pugnacious!”
7. STUDY JACK WHITEHALL
It’s not the way Whitehall tries to manufacture mirth by employing camp mannerisms and jumping up and down a lot that we encourage you to study (although you should add this to your arsenal). It is his pioneering in the school of ‘if I make a straight statement in a stupid enough voice, the audience will think I’m telling a joke.’ Student: meet Master:
8. HAVE A BETTER TIME THAN YOUR AUDIENCE
Watch Jack Whitehall again.
9. BE READY TO BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS
In the highly unlikely event of the above steps not resulting in a hilarious comedy performance it will be necessary for you to rescue yourself with some genuinely smart, funny material. To avoid the expense of paying comedy writers we recommend you steal jokes from a great comic who is dead and can’t sue you. Remember to reword anything that would offend modern audiences, and cover your tracks by changing the punch lines to reflect current year cosmopolitan talking points. Richard Pryor is one stand-up whose work transfers seamlessly:
“White folks get a ticket they go ‘hey officer, glad to be of help. [PEOPLE OF COLOUR] got to be like ‘I am reaching in my pocket for my licence! Because I don’t want to be no accident!’ [AND THAT’S WHY WE NEED A CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE.]”
10. DON’T BOTHER TO THINK OF A CLOSER
Don’t create work for yourself by trying to develop big laugh-out-loud closing bits. You’re not Bill Hicks, nor do you want to be. The job of a safe stand-up is to say things that get applause. With that in mind:
Dropping the mike and walking off stage will give a comedy audience the impression they have just witnessed genius.