The ‘comedians’ comedian’. So said all the pre-show hype.
It’s a tantalising thought: a stand-up comedian who can make other stand-ups laugh. His material must be so cutting edge, Stabby Sadiq must be worried someone might be about to steal some of his blame for 2018’s rivers of blood.
But that’s not what it means at all.
The ‘comedians’ comedian’ is basically a pet or mascot, given the threat he poses to other stand-ups. His material is a selection of rehashed routines from his 80s heyday, which he mentions often, updated to include zeitgeist-ripping references to Dane Cook and Arsenio Hall. He’s Jewish, and it’s important to keep mentioning that lest we start to lose comedic sympathy for someone whose ancestors suffered so he wouldn’t have to, but we sure as hell would. Hitler jokes will never not be contemporary.
He bounds around the stage like a puppy on Red Bull, a can of which he’s brought out with him and keeps banging on about because it’s warm. He says nothing funny about this can of Red Bull, even though there are huge ads all across the city saying it provides ‘the secret to finishing early’. Not something I’ve ever struggled with, is a line it’s beyond his wit to come up with.
This might be because he specifically says he doesn’t do ‘blue’ material, a phrase not heard since Monkhouse was a boy, and he was a filthy bastard even then. He tells us he loathes Louis CK for his series of ill-judged wanks, objecting that in his mea culpa Louis, or CK, or perhaps just K now, used the word ‘dick’ – ‘He has to be edgy, even in an apology?’ Using the word ‘dick’ is edgy and George Carlin can spin in his grave all he likes.
Stand-up comedy is bloody difficult, beyond a doubt. It’s hard to criticise someone with the courage to bare their art in front of a room full of pissed-up dickheads, each with their own idea of what’s funny and what’s McIntyre. Long, barren nights of searching for material, forcing the imagination into dark corners and dead ends, never knowing which bit will kill and which will die. It’s enough to make an ape take a whole tub of Ambien and get right on Twitter.
But there’s no shortage of funny people out there. The mainstays, like Stanhope, Boyle and Burr. The chasing pack, like Baptiste, Maddix and Che. The women. They know who they are.
Eager to plough as much amusement into my tenebrous mind as possible, I’m a sucker for a good flyer. Here’s where comedy clubs must take their share of shame, as here’s the blurb for the show in question:
Comic seeks asylum. Please take him in. Over 10 years have passed since [he] performed in the UK, and there’s never been a better time for him to make his Amerexit than right now. The ULTIMATE comedians’ comedian.
I can’t have been the only sucker fooled into thinking there’d be some angry American politics in that. And yeah, I’ve probably over-gorged on Trump like a sagging MILF with bills to pay but one more little gobble won’t choke me. What’s that you say? Hitler probably would have liked warm Red Bull? HAHAHAHAHAHA wait what?
I like to take a punt on unknown comedians without watching their only decent five minutes on Youtube first, so the ads are all I have. My only safe word in a comedy ad is ‘whimsical’, which guarantees a banjo or puppetry and fury in abundance. Add to that the inexplicable press quotes and it’s a minefield to make Cambodia look like Chessington:
‘One of the smartest comedians in America’ (Guardian)
‘Fine comic fury…the diatribe is [his] art form.’ (New Yorker)
‘SLICK, SOUR, AND RAZOR SHARP.’ (Evening Standard)
You couldn’t make it up. Oh wait, they did.
I recently saw a comic hidden beneath a trucker cap and full-head beard do an entire hour of stuff made up on the spot, by asking the audience to suggest policies for when he’s president. If he couldn’t think of anything, which was depressingly often, he’d say “Great idea, yeah, I’ll think about that some more” and ask for another. I’ve got one for you mate, if you can just point me to the nearest book depository.
Even he was better than our ‘comedians’ comedian’. You can see why other comics might love this guy. There’s no chance he’ll find a funnier take on current events since the last headline he read was ‘Challenger Explodes’. He won’t call you a sell-out for that gambling ad you did because he hasn’t seen a TV since it started spreading those lies about the unimpeachable Bill Cosby. He won’t wow the critics and get that stadium gig you crave, unless he pays some fuck from the Evening Standard, and even then it’ll be the Stade du 28 Septembre.
But what they fail to appreciate is he’s giving the trade a bad name. To lazily trot out age-old routines to 80 people at £17 a pop, denying young comics a few more bums on seats in the process, is villainous. This is why people play it safe with Live at the Apollo and why people like Geoff Norcott happen. Don’t look him up, just trust me, you’d rather boil your knees in molten Marmite.
We’re all willing the countdown on the comedians’ comedian’s phone forward just as much as he is. He glances at it often during his hour-long set, just one among many mugs who’d rather be anywhere else – apart, of course, from the obligatory lone American a few rows back who’s found the entire thing utterly uproarious. I find myself wistfully remembering a Bridget Christie show I once sat through. Imagine the trauma a brain must have endured for it to fondly recall a Bridget Christie show.
And finally he’s done. We file out in silence, awed at ineptitude. My head is full of chuckles we were told to bring but which I now won’t get to use until two days later when I see a man on his phone walk into a lamp-post.
His name, for what it’s worth, is Andy Kindler. I almost don’t want to name him, like I don’t want to kick a cat, and yet deep down I do want to kick the cat so Andy Kindler Andy Kindler Andy fucking Kindler. Slick, sour and razor sharp, like a packet of raspberry bonbons pre-licked by the Hellraiser and about as much fun to swallow.
The ‘comedians’ comedian’. Maybe they get the last laugh after all.