If you yearn for the days when comedians had something important and meaningful to say, when comedy wasn’t just about panel game shows or comics finding quirky means of transport to do travelogues, there is a show for you this week.
Transatlantic Fury, a two night double header of savage political satire featuring British comedy legend Nick Revell and US firebrand Lee Camp, is at the Lantern Theatre this week.
Revell and Camp are fearless satirists who are more than mere anecdotes to the modern comedy environment. They represent the new activist comedy milieu that has harnessed the powers of the Internet, podcasting and YouTube to reclaim the activist heart of alternative satire.
Revell, a Perrier award winner in the 1980s golden age of alternative cabaret, has remained a plangent voice in the comedy firmament, maintaining an intelligent and savage hardline political edge when it would be easier to reel off everyday observations about the banality of everyday life.
As he says, “So much of comedy today is about comedians noticing the same banal things that the audience has also noticed and everyone is bound up in congratulating each other in what they have all noticed.”
He has been gigging in Liverpool for years and throughout the Peter Key/ Michael McIntyre-ization of stand-up, he has never compromised in satirizing the political mores of modern politics. Tellingly, he’s always got laughs.
No Pressure to Be Funny, the podcast that he does with comedian Alistair Barrie and radio presenter James O’Brien, is a real delight of the Internet age, because it gets top flight comedians to deal with big issues without seeking the easy laugh expected on TV.
It was through the Internet that Revell came in contact with Lee Camp, an American liberal activist in the tradition of George Carlin. The Guardian rightfully described him as being in the tradition of British activist comic Mark Thomas.
Camp walks the walk having been escorted from the premises of Fox News after denouncing the channel live on air. His Moment of Clarity YouTube broadcasts tackle everything from the propaganda of the mass media to how capitalism is clearly in crisis. He’s like Bill Hicks if he had read New Internationalist magazine and hadn’t been enthralled to porn. (All idols let you down in some way.)
Camp’s fearlessness in eschewing the mainstream audience and not pandering to the lowest common denominator is in tune with the emergence of highly politically progressive comedians like Greg Proops and his Smartest Man in the World Podcast, for whom the Internet represents freedom to talk about progressive issues without recourse to dick jokes. Mostly.
I think this show is especially important for Liverpool.
While we have two of the best live clubs in Britain, the Laughterhouse and Four Candles Comedy, and thousands going to the theatres and the arena, we have fallen off the arts centre circuit where political comedians tend to play.
That’s because the city has no venues between club size and theatre and arena capacities.
We need politically and socially adventurous comedy back in Liverpool, we need to support Transatlantic Fury and the diversity that Laughterhouse Comedy, for instance, offers in its one off shows – Rob Newman is scheduled for October.
What we also need to embrace is encapsulated in Transatlantic Fury – political satire, that, to use the maxim of the great American humourist Finley Peter Dunne, is about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted.
Transatlantic Fury, May 16/ 17
Lantern Theatre, Blundell Street.