Monday, March 7, 2011

Comedian Jim Davidson's play Stand Up and Be Counted

I posted earlier about Brit comedian Jim Davidson. He's one of the old school comics who does rough, rude  material that audiences love. The cultural commisars so powerful in the mainstream media (particularly TV) absolutely loathe it, however. So his career has suffered as a result.

This falling out of fashion due to political correctness has obviously had a big impact on him psychologically because he's written a play about it. It's called Stand up and Be Counted. In it he plays an attitudinally unreconstructed old comic who is clearly based on himself (or at least the public perception of him).

The background is really interesting:

The origins of the play go back to the winter of 2005, when Davidson was performing in Southend and decided to venture to a tiny comedy venue where a black comedian was playing to a small audience. "I really liked the guy's material," Davidson recalls, "so I went up to him and introduced myself. He looked at me and said it was because of me and my racist jokes that he had been tormented at school."

Judging from that interview he comes across as being far more thoughtful than his on-stage persona would suggest. There's also something quite touching about the fact that the young black comic with a grudge against him - comedian Matt Blaize - is starring in Davidson's play as well, also as a heightened version of himself.

If Davidson is such a racist, then why would he write such a play, and have one of the young guard work with him on it?

The interview ends with this summary:

I wonder whether this was Davidson acknowledging and apologising for his past and seeking some kind of rehabilitation: has he turned from hateful bigot to soft liberal? He laughs. "Well, by the end of the play," he says, "it's the Guardian one, the Sun nil."

Of course the interviewer was from that left-leaning paper, so it's possible Davidson was just trying to charm him and his readership in an attempt to get more bums on seats. Nonetheless it's an intriguing answer.

Obviously it's hard to make a judgement on the play itself if you haven't seen it. But from what I've read it seems like quite an ambivalent, introspective work, and not just some bitter old bloke paying out on the leftie thought police for ruining his TV career.

And ultimately ambivalence is what all good drama (and comedy for that matter) cannot do without. It's also what political correctness so sadly lacks. The huge, tragic irony of it is that it simply censors one bunch of simplistic stereotypes while encouraging another lot that are arguably just as destructive. By constantly defining women, gays, and ethnic minorities as victims who must not be criticized by anyone not belonging to those groups (which is a racist, sexist, homophobic rule in itself) it actually dehumanizes them in ways comparable to the stereotyping of the past. It's just not overt, that's all.

I've met a lot of people in the arts world and watched their behaviour at close quarters over many years. From these experiences I have no doubt whatsoever that those who most loudly proclaim their "cultural sensitivity" and "tolerance" are consistently more bigoted than the people they condemn. They are certainly "protesting too much". 

Davidson obviously has his prejudices. But he also seems to be a more mature and honest individual than any of the lefties and luvvies I've known. I hope Stand Up and Be Counted is a roaring success.

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