Article published: Tuesday, October 6th 2015
A host of familiar faces took to the stage for The People’s Assembly’s special comedy gala at the Manchester Academy entitled ‘Laugh Them Out Of Town’ – with the aim of raising funds for their Week Of Action in response to the Tory Party Conference.
Fuelled by the day’s inspiring march there was a celebratory atmosphere in the building and the audience were given a show that truly catered to them.
Robin Ince opened the show filled with crowd-pleasing bile, announcing to the audience that he was very unhappy with the way things were going. His reasoning: “I’m middle-aged, I had been planning to become right-wing by now and they’ve made it logically impossible,” he said.
“I wanted to be right-wing, there’s less reading” he quipped, and with a somewhat exasperated demeanor he ranted and raged through his set to the delight of the audience, riffing on his feelings after the election and on media spins such as ‘This violent march…’, ‘There was spitting…’, ‘Fuck the NHS, fuck child poverty, the march was unmannerly’, mirroring the feelings that had inspired many of the audience and The People’s Assembly itself.
Had the evening consisted of two hours of solid ranting, it may have become repetitive and more so it would have ignored the positivity at the core of its message. The wonderful thing about Laugh Them Out, however, was its variety, with each act able to tackle different topics and perspectives.
Following the indignant rage of Robin Ince came an inspiring performance on the beauty and importance of our difference from Francesca Martinez. Martinez, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy (she prefers the term ‘Wobbly’), had audience members both laughing and welling up as she discussed life under the Tories, who she described as creating a culture of fear that keeps us apart. She encouraged everyone to embrace his or her diversity and reject consumerism, which teaches ‘we’re not good enough as we are, so we have to buy shit we don’t need…accepting yourself as you are is an act of civil disobedience’. Her delight to perform for this crowd was palpable and upon leaving she received a rapturous standing ovation, the biggest of the evening.
Frankie Boyle rounded off the first half in his trademark, un-PC style, segueing from what seemed like an off-topic routine on Jimmy Savile into an all out attack on the Conservative government, spitting: “Having a go at Tories for fucking kids is like having a go at Peter Sutcliffe for his parallel parking”. He then targeted the banks, likening how easily UKIP had forgotten the root of their problems to watching murder mysteries with his Nan. He accused a lying, fiddling government of projecting onto the working class, saying: “They want to cut down on families who haven’t worked for three generations because they’ve realised if they get to five they’ll become aristocracy”.
After the interval, audience members were treated to a surprise appearance from writer and political activist Owen Jones, who hyped the success of the rally, promoted the People’s Assembly and talked up the importance of the week’s events. “We’re fed up. Not just of the injustice, but of complaining about it. We want to do something about it,” he declared, before imploring everyone in the audience to go into their communities and become a leader, to try and improve their communities.
Jeremy Hardy then performed a set centred around his friendship with Jeremy Corbyn, re-affirming his ‘not a politician’ image and sharing anecdotes about the Labour leader – promoting him, whilst condemning the direction the Labour party has taken in the last couple of decades. He also took aim at Nigel Farage, describing him as: “a character in the sense he’d be better if he was fictional”, and the Queen, spouting: “All she’s done is exist, it’s not like she was world snooker champion for 74 years”.
Sara Pascoe came on in the penultimate slot, and a fun set steered away from the current political scene, instead riffing on gender issues, giving the audience time to recuperate before Mark Steel closed the show with one last rip-roaring tirade, getting huge laughs by tearing into how artificial the pretensions of the establishment are, from the idea that the monarchs promote tourism, to the victimisation of benefit claimants – “That’s the guy who stole all your money, him living in shit!”
The show served to consolidate the mood of the day, and it was a credit to the performers that the audience, many of whom were still clad in protest gear, left buzzing after a long tiring day.
Comedy can be a great tool for communicating the importance of ideas, and of attacking hypocrisy and cruelty, and on this evening the acts nailed that art and The People’s Assembly gave the demonstrators the show their day’s efforts deserved.
The full schedule of events can be accessed via the People’s Assembly website
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