What do Pringles, apologising unnecessarily, queueing and Yorkshire Puddings all have in common? The answer: they are all quintessentially British things, without which we would inevitably perish. As it happens, I have just finished half a can of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles while writing this because it’s never just the one, is it? Unless you are a psychopath, in which case, it is relatively safe to assume you are beyond help. Another item to be added to the above list, filed under essential, is the ability to laugh at ourselves. British people, irrespective of social standing, class or background, are absolutely united by self-deprecation, deadpan delivery and scathing sarcasm. Brits are known for laughing in the face of adversity and pushing the boundaries. Gallows humour, setting farts alight, passing out from alcohol, and making a tit of yourself are all rites of passage for the British. Monty Python and The Holy Grail’s popularity speaks for itself. Only in Britain, could you make entertainment out of clanging together coconut halves to substitute actual horses and refer to a severed limb as a “sharp scratch”. Peep Show, another cult classic, epitomises British satire.
Now, more than ever, we need a reason to laugh. We need comedy, we need live entertainment- just as much, if not more so, than a lukewarm beer served in a plastic pint glass, dependent on the thermometer reading of course. Humour is such a tonic, and without widespread financial support from the government, philanthropists and consumers alike, the live comedy scene is in grave danger – with a new study suggesting that over three-quarters of comedy venues are at risk of permanent closure, as reported in The Guardian. The most recent government update has now clarified that live comedy will be included within the £1.5 billion pledge for the arts. However, the future of stand-up comedy remains uncertain, and even with the easing of social distancing measures. Inevitably, punters will be hesitant to flock once more to buzzing comedy clubs on a Tuesday night, beverage in hand, feeling self-congratulatory for choosing a seat at the back of the audience. While many comedians have utilised online resources, the communal indulgence of a shared joke is lost in translation. There seems to be something quite sad about giggling alone into your laptop, three glasses of Pinot down – or so I’ve heard, anyway… Stand-up comedy provides an invaluable form of escapism for the masses – without which the grim reality of job losses, illness and the confines of the living room becomes all too stark. During a global pandemic, we need all the comic relief we can get. We need the unity comedy brings. Humour is a practical, tried-and-tested coping mechanism for a plethora of everyday situations. These range from, for example, swigging a bottle of water in a hungover state, only to discover a few gulps later that you’re inadvertently drinking vodka at 9am. Perhaps you have eagerly risen at 4am and only once in the departure lounge do you realise that your flight is not for two weeks. We’ve all been there…We need to laugh; otherwise, we will cry – perhaps uncontrollably. Humour is versatile, robust and reliable – all elements, some sceptics may argue, the government authorities currently lack.
The cancellation of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, for the first time in its 73 years of history, had a devastating impact upon the performers, organisers, punters and the economy alike, as the world’s biggest arts festival. The economy has been left reeling from the colossal financial blow, estimated to be a £1.5 million budget deficit as reported by The Guardian. In response to Covid-19’s curse on comedy, talented individuals and industry professionals have devised new campaigns, such as the Live Comedy Association – to act as an innovative network. Top of the agenda for the Live Comedy Association is presenting a united front and facilitating fundraising to generate desperately needed support for live comedy. The comedy industry is under a tremendous amount of pressure to not only survive, but to flourish, during Covid-19 and thereafter to ensure that live comedy has the last laugh in the face of austerity. Despite government pledges for emergency funding, this is no time for complacency as the industry is a long way off financial stability, and not every job or small business can be saved. The future of live comedy is no joke. Those hit the hardest will not be the household names we cherish, – instead, the force will be felt by the budding artists who worked tirelessly to break into this competitive industry. In the communal spirit that characterises live comedy, we need to rally together to save the industry in the hopes that the nightmarish implications of Covid-19 will merely serve as comedic fodder for future live sets – think of all the new material! We will look back and laugh. Oh, how we will laugh.
To see how you can support the live industry, go to: https://livecomedyassociation.co.uk/about
By Lucy Summerton
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