I went to a small experimental theatre show in Los Angeles many years ago where young students were putting on their ‘work’. There comes a point in everyone’s life where they sit in a studio, theatre or gallery and stare at something that the middle class cognoscenti deem art and you recognise it as mental illness.
I recall watching an anorexic French girl with a geometrical blunt haircut throw broken plates at an empty box as she recited the bible. She was a mix between my mammy in an alcoholic induced rant and Joan of Arc in her ‘black period’. People cheered when she fled the room threatening to kill herself in broken English. I was seriously worried about her well being, I never mistook her emotional breakdown for art. Other people did. I saw her in the car park cutting herself with her broken pottery and I didn’t know if I should intervene or give the display an appraisal. I wrestled her to the ground to get the sharp object out of her hand. Turns out that was part of the show and people who had also followed her out shouted at me to stop ruining the finale.
The second act that day was watching what I can only describe as a homeless man eat sticky buns as he stood silently in his dirty coat that occasionally flashed open to reveal a very impressive erection. He was cheered on endlessly; people were very amazed at his avant garde display. I managed a smile and I was quite taken by his show, who can eat that many buns and maintain sexual tension? That turned out to be an actual homeless man who simply walked in and ate the buffet. I was then angry, because I enjoyed the show and I was duped and now there were no buns at the break.
Last week at a private comedy event I watched a young, very posh middle class guy attempt stand up comedy. His friends at the side of the room had assured him he was very funny and he should get up at this event and do the show. It was a horrible slow car crash of a comedy death, my kidneys hurt for him, and I watched all his young mates applaud him as he spoke clunky clumsy words that baffled everyone. No one in the main audience laughed; in fact they stared in silence as he carried on talking about Badgers and jam at length. “Is it just me or does everyone imagine that badgers are addicted to cheese?”
“Yes, it is JUST YOU” I wanted to scream. No one thinks that and by the way mate, that isn’t even funny.
He carried on ranting and came off to the sound of his own feet.
It was all very bizarre and smacked of too many nights watching The Mighty Boosh (a successful surreal comedy duo). When he reached the side of the stage, I rushed to offer him reassurance and kind words, but he ran like a king to his friends who all hand slapped and high-fived him. The audience were stunned and took some cajoling back into a decent funny vibe. He was crap at comedy, but in his mind he was amazing. The lack of laughter did nothing to convince him otherwise. He would go off later to the local bar with his wee middle class mates and regale them with stories about his successful comedy debut.
What I am saying is that I am not sure if I can now tell the difference between art and complete baloney….and is there one?
Comedy is defined by being funny. It is something that makes people laugh. I know this because I am a comedian.
I will never understand conceptual art, experimental theatre or even Picasso in his strange plate painting period. Squinty faces splattered on red odd shaped plates made me think of special people who get to do ceramic painting with their mouth as their limbs were missing.
I may be a total philistine but at least I know shit when I see it._