Wednesday, 30 June 2010
ANSWER TO A RIDDLE
ANSWER TO A RIDDLE
Well the Festival is almost over; unfortunately I haven’t had time to attend many events. However I did manage to get to the Merry Monk on Sunday night. It was a comedy evening and Andy Watson was half way through his act. This event was not listed on the back of the festival programme and I almost missed it
At last years’ festival we had two very able comics; unfortunately the audience was not appreciative. The stand ups tried every trick in the book. They didn’t know the Oakham audience and were struggling to find something to get locals to laugh at. The poor comics bombed on everything – and they were funny and very very good.
They tried celebrity culture – nothing, nada. They tried political culture, MPs expenses and you’d have thought that would have touched a cord, particularly in Oakham: nothing, nada. They tried environmental issues – nothing, nada. Having thrown out all their prepared scripts, which had a roaring crowd of people rolling in the aisles with paralytic laughter elsewhere, and bombed only in Oakham, they finally gave up in exasperation.
‘Tell me,’ one of the comedians said, ‘is this the sort of town where everyone is doing everyone else?’ Were they asking if we are inbred? I rather thought they were. Surprised? There are no buses out of Oakham at all on Sundays. Trains don’t run to Peterborough until 12.45 pm on a Sunday either. The last bus from Peterborough leaves at 4.40 on a weekday. Oakham is an anthropologists dream town – an inward looking tribal culture of uncivilised political elitism rules here. The police are in the pockets of local Councillors who may ignore the law with impunity and punish those who criticise the ruling elite, whilst they sit on and influence the Police Joint Action Group. In fact Cllr Dewis was able to assure us, at a recent Town Council meeting, that membership of the Police Joint Action Group was ‘by invitation only.’ What did Cllr Dewis mean? Was he saying that the whole system is so well organised that the police will not tolerate unknown representatives on the Police Joint Action Group? What a pretty state we have got ourselves into. Anyway back to comedy.
At last years’ festival, as I’ve already said, we had two very able stand up comics. The audience were seated in the garden of the Merry Monk, a small group of about four adults and two children came in and took front seats on the garden bench immediately in front of the ‘stage.’ The comic began warning the parents that their children’s vocabulary might widen considerably during the acts. Mum took this as an invitation to interact with the comics. She said that her little darlings were clever and already had a wide vocabulary, presumably having had glowing reports from literacy hour, and that her children’s dreams were fascinating. Oh dear!
Eventually the language became slightly bluer and Mum left. You could almost see the relief on the stand up comic’s face. Immediately two couples arrived and took the spare seats on the bench. Two stunning blonde girls and a couple of so-so men; the comic immediately alighted on his new material with glee.
When he’d asked: ‘Is this the sort of town where everyone is doing everyone else?’ I’d laughed like a drain. The comic had pointed at me and said: ‘Thank you for your honesty madam.’ This got a laugh and finally they knew they had to focus on the introspective citizens of Oakham, rather than on any wider political or cultural issues.
The couple on the right were milked for a few gentle laughs. The leggy blonde girls made their way out to the ladies loo to adjust their go-to-bed hairstyles and lipstick. Turning to the second male the comic gently asked: ‘And where did you two meet?’ The deadpan answer came winging back: ‘At the bar two minutes ago.’
‘Pity,’ said the comic, ‘you make a lovely couple. Why aren’t you a couple?’ The man in the audience answered: ‘My missus wouldn’t like it and to be honest mate I’ve already been there.’ A riot of laughter ensued. ‘Oh so you know each other?’ ‘Yes we’ve known each other a long time.’ The laughter began to die down. However, the man in the audience, slightly disconcerted by the unexplained hilarity which his perfectly straight remarks had attracted, felt he needed someone else in the camp into which he’d painted himself added: ‘And so’s my friend Adrian at the back.’ He pointed his thumb behind him.
The poor girl wandered back into the garden of the Merry Monk completely oblivious to the fact that she had been the butt of the first really good joke of the evening. Her escort was clearly disconcerted that his quite factual explanation of his relationship with the girl had created so much laughter. The comic in mock embarrassment cringed in front of the microphone: ‘I don’t know where to put myself.’ Any prepared material was thrown out and he concentrated for the rest of the evening on audience interaction. You couldn’t write this sort of material, it was gold dust. When all else fails concentrate on the audience.
The comedy circuit is a small world. When Andy Watson let it be known that he was coming to Oakham he probably received commiserations. Oakham is a now a notorious graveyard for stand up comics. Andy was told to forget his prepared material and focus down on the audience. Bad advice. We had four Aussie cricketing teachers from Brisbane in the audience. Andy Watson had a nervous laugh, which became increasingly worse and irritating as his act hit rock bottom. The Aussie teachers became vociferously abusive. The visiting Antipodeans were expecting a stand up comic with some prepared material they could relate to. Dissonance of cultures erupted in Andy Watson leaving the stage early. His counselling bill will probably exceed the small payment he accrued by a factor of ten.
Justified criticism of the ruling elite is never tolerated in Oakham. Martin Brookes has blogged a letter from Joy Everitt, Chairman of the Festival Committee, saying that she cannot accept Cllr Brookes as a Council representative on the Festival Committee. What, you may ask, did Martin Brookes do to start a whispering campaign against him?
At last years festival he took a picture of the then Mayor, Jan Fillingham, drinking in Cutts Close as she watched a band playing. Her party’s deck chairs were prominently placed centre stage in front of the bandstand. Martin Brookes took a picture of Jan Fillingham, Sue Tyers and friends with empty bottles and glasses at their feet. He also took a picture of the prominently displayed notice in Cutts Close saying that Cutts Close is a ‘designated area’ and the police have the right to stop drinkers consuming alcohol in the environs and vicinity of Cutts Close. He also displayed a local newspaper cutting in which Cllr Jan Fillingham, who has not attended Council meetings for six months, boasted that she had been part of the Council initiative to stop alcohol consumption in Cutts Close. He had merely been exercising his right to free speech and pointing out the hypocrisy of local Councillors on his Flickr’ account.
What happened? The local Council were involved in complaining to Flickr’ and got his account closed down. When Martin Brookes opened a blog instead, the Council wrote to him saying they were considering banning him from using the library facilities due to the nature of his blogs. Presumably they have tried to close down his blog and failed. A vendetta of extraordinary proportions has ensued. Unfortunately the police always refuse to take action against local Councillors and their friends and appear to do the bidding of local Councillors instead. I am told that leading citizens were allowed to continue drinking in Cutts Close this year during the ‘Churches Together’ event, yet a sober man drinking a beer was escorted off to pour his beer away. Such double standards are indicative of a tyrannical one party State. If the law applies it should apply to all. Not it seems in Oakham.
Oh yes, the answer to my riddle - previous post:
ANSWER: A Totalitarian Society is a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralised control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed.
One of the first casualties of a Totalitarian State is a sense of humour. When the ruling elite drink with impunity in Cutts Close and run a vendetta of such uncivilised proportions against a local Councillor outside their little cosy coterie, (Martin Brookes demands that Standing Orders are adhered to in Town Council meetings and proper procedures followed) we are no longer on the slippery road. We have embraced totalitarianism. I rather think that no more comics of any stature will be coming to Oakham. Sadly Oakham has become the graveyard of comedians and democracy.