Joke: a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline.
EYEhad a brief conversation with Richard Herring about his International Women’s Day joke the other day. It was a disappointing and slightly surreal exchange which ended with my favourite stand up comedian concluding that I don’t understand how jokes work and blocking me from his public twitter feed.
It’s November 19th!
In my humble subjective (non comedic expert) opinion, the best jokes can challenge people to change the way they look at the world, and maybe even change their political opinions. Richard’s ‘joke’ clearly displays this noble ambition, even if it ends up serving a cause comfortable to smugly shame and silence victims of rape and domestic violence.
Ironically, EYEactually thought I had managed to improve on his original effort with my autumn retort but having been schooled in the art of comedy by such a seasoned professional, I guess I’ll just have to live with the fact that I’m not going to be invited to mock the weak anytime soon.
And every other day, including March the 8th!
For a number of obvious reasons, Richard’s ‘joke’ comes with more than a little ‘jag’ and my simple observation is that the ‘King of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival’ clearly consciously comprehends the more complex layers of his own cutting comedy but that he has a tendency to retreat behind the punchline if you question the ethics emanating out of his own backyard.
After all, it’s just a joke.
As far as Herring is concerned, the joke is simple. When it suits him he claims that all he is doing is letting people who don’t think there is an IMD know that there is. No more, no less.
Not unreasonably, he shares this hilarity (repeatedly) every year on March 8 to honour the women in his life and International Women’s Day in general. Which is fair enough as far as it’s fair enough but curiously Richard claims to genuinely be suffering under the delusion that no one does more to promote IMD than his honourable heroic self.
Richard has accused me of being rude so EYEwon’t insult him by entertaining the claim that he is a champion for the day when he very clearly isn’t. In fact, with the possible exception of the Honourable Member for Yardley, it’s hard to think of a public figure who did more to try to undermine last year’s November 19th campaign.
Which was essentially the interjection EYE offered into his annual conversation with the world of twitter this week. Personally EYE think his claim is more than a little disingenuous, not to mention smug so I suggested that he should have the self respect to own his joke on every level.
After all it’s a free country, he’s entitled to his opinion and his own personal blend of feminism, but if he’s going to promote it to the world then you’d think that the least he could do is wear it with open, honest pride.
This suggestion prompted the brief exchange where, in my humble subjective opinion, he unconvincingly attempted to maintain his innocence, claim neutrality and eventually faint onto his comedy dance settee after implying that EYE had hurt HIS feelings.
In fairness EYE did imply that his reluctance to acknowledge his own obvious disdain for the concept of IMD could be interpreted as a particularly left leaning blend of smug chauvinism in itself. That said if my intention had been to play the man rather than the ball then I could have just simply informed him how much I enjoyed watching Stewart Lee on the telly while he was mansplaining how jokes work to a room full of a hundred people in Croydon.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t because in the context of our conversation that would have been rude and besides I like Richard Herring, I know that he’s an extremely successful comedian in his own right and despite everything, I still expect that he’s a throughly decent and well intentioned, if imperfect, human being.
Besides, it was International Non Wazzocks Day, so I was trying my best not to come across like a total wazzock.
For context are talking about the man who commits an entire day to the purpose of political policing on twitter by giving hundreds of people a digital clip round the ear for their perceived sexist attitudes. For that reason alone you’d think he would have had the moral fortitude to simply just stop sodding tweeting me if he didn’t like what I had to say.
Instead, quite remarkably, he decided to flounce off to a virtual safe space and, in stereotypical ‘Schrodinger’s Feminist’ fashion, insist on having the last word by blocking me, as if to imply that I had been acting like some deeply offensive ‘troll’ for the entire duration of a five man dialogue on the rights and wrongs of a joke he has tweeted thousands of times to thousands of complete strangers.
Such is the delicate nature of the suffering artist I guess…
EYEhad thought that possibly the golden rule of comedy was that when a comedian suggests that you don’t understand their joke then you are entirely within your rights to communicate the possibility that their ‘joke’ may simply not be as good as they would like it to be.
Admittedly EYEis not an expert in comedy but at least I can seek solace in the fact that I can say, with a fair degree of confidence and accuracy, that EYEdoes understand the reasonably complex and nuanced concept of promoting ‘equality’ within a diverse population.
I also understand how jokes with jags work in that context and that they can be used to belittle, isolate, insult, undermine and silence people based on nothing more tangible than someone else’s ignorance, prejudice or desire to further their own cause or belief at the expense of someone else.
Not every day is International Men’s Day for every man. Let’s face it, according to the United Nations even the 19th of November is International Women’s (Entrepreneurship) Day!
Stewart Lee once hilariously observed that you can prove anything with facts so it seems appropriate to finish with an irrefutable one, at least as far as equality law is concerned.
When it comes to undermining the notion of equal rights between women and men this much is true. Context is everything but in the absence of any other data, suggesting that ‘every day is International Men’s Day‘ is clearly a much more significant indicator of potential chauvinism than asking the simple question: ‘When’s International Men’s Day?’
So, for that mater, is inferring that anyone daring to utter those four words automatically deserves to be labelled as a chauvinist and a cheese helmet (even on International Women’s Day).
So my apologies to Richard Herring if he genuinely thought my intention was to be rude to him, because it wasn’t. I’d tweet him directly but I don’t want to be accused of cyber stalking and I’d tell him to his face but sadly myself and Mrs Bloke now have to make alternative plans for the day that Dicky Herring’s comedy vehicle chortles into town.