Comedians are polymaths by nature and soundbite-crafters extraordinaire, so it’s hardly surprising that, from time to time, we adopt them as spokespeople off the stage.
We love it when they make a good impression on Question Time, and they can become poster boys – or girls – for debate, as we saw when Russell Brand and Robert Webb went head-to-head over voting and democracy through the channels of Newsnight and the New Statesman respectively. Meanwhile, Mark Thomas has made a career of melding comedy with causes and comedians such as Kate Smurthwaite fuse puns with punditry in their career path.
Sometime comedian come up with routines with Damascene results, but often it can just be a way of saying something that changes an attitude. In interview Reg D Hunter once told me that in the UK, given the weather, “people have to make their own sun”. Reg has said a lot of other things that are much more controversial and less universally pleasing, but here was something that we could all use an an acceptable carpe diem.
So I feel that comedians are a valuable resource that we could tap more fully. What with various initiatives already involving comedians such as The Comedy School’s work on teambuilding and various projects with young people, I think that there is scope for a fully-fledged, dedicated think tank.
Forgive me if I plug the possibility of a future role for myself, but I wanted to share with you my now open letter to all think tanks to see if they will pick up on the idea. Sadly, my entreaties so far, to Demos, the IPPR and Centre Forum, have met with either no response, or, in the case of the latter a holding reply to nowhere.
Here goes..let’s harness the momentum of mirth…
Dear Think Tanks,
Over the last few years, with comedians becoming prevalent as pundits, it has struck me more and more that ‘the comedian’s answer’ is a valuable resource.
Their way of distilling and repackaging an issue is not just something to wonder about in a review, but a resource that, I think, has a transferable value in the public domain.
Particular areas for which I think a comedian’s eye-view would be a valuable asset are: engagement in politics, youth issues, perceptions of public image, strategic decision-making, conflict resolution, business skills and so on.
All this is leading me up to suggesting a think tank comprised of a rolling panel of available comedians. Rather than set up a entirely new venture I think that such a body would work best within an already established think tank such as your organisation.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to follow this up…
Who will take up the gauntlet of transforming the pearls of wisdom on stage to make a real impact in the real world? Am I having a laugh? Yes, but I could be learning with it too.