After the Edinburgh Fringe Festival finished, I secretly (prior to this column anyway) wished that comedy would have a bit of a lull. However, autumn was not going to be outdone.
As soon as I returned from the annual jokers’ jamboree up north, I saw the news about the re-establishment of The Establishment, Peter Cook’s live comedy hang out that spawned That Was the Week that Was on TV and stage revue Beyond The Fringe, and that played host to such luminaries as Lenny Bruce and Frankie Howerd.
‘Cook’d’ up by an irrepressible combo of actor Keith Allen (one of the earliest of the Comedy Store’s “alternative” acts, and a generation on from Cook and co), critic Victor Lewis Smith and comedy record label boss Mike O’Brien; the new night had its first outing last week (after going to press) and will continue as a monthly residency, initially at Ronnie Scott’s.
The night is billed as “a late-night show of hard-core comedy and cabaret”, and with Mr Allen at the helm one would hope for nothing less.
What might be in doubt is whether the current crop of comedians can emulate, in some way, the stylish satire of the 1960s. One hopes so, at a time when The Thick Of It continues to prosper and where a number of live comics, including Josie Long, have turned to more political shtick.
Still, one might argue that, not unlike the current government, political comedy at the moment is rather anonymous, and that a few old-timer heavyweights such as Mark Thomas, are still the only names that come to mind when someone says ‘political comedian’. The Establishment will hopefully do something to challenge this notion.
There was also slightly less edifying news this month; a new TV channel operated by lad’s mag Loaded is going to screen a sex shop version of Open All Hours. As Malcom Hardee would say: “could be good, could be shit”. Then there was the curious revelation that Michael Fassbinder was to play a role loosely based on outsized paper mache-headed cult character Frank Sidebottom, and the launch of an Xbox game called Comedy Night. This virtual distraction sounds like inviting a kind of open mic hell into your home and appears to encourage some rather base humour – a sort of Gag Theft Auto, if you will.
Enough already. I need to shake off the thought of cheap avatar laughs with a journey from the sublime to the enjoyably ridiculous. I plan to achieve that this month with visits to see humourist David Sedaris (Cadogan Hall, September 28 and 29) and the effervescent and reassuringly uncool Michael McIntyre (touring now til December 3). While it is nice to have a break, there are some people that will always be worth getting back to school for.
Situation: Comedy is a new, regular comedy column by Julian Hall, and will be published every Friday