Monday, November 26, 2007

Daniel Kitson,Poetry Comedy and Politics

This post isn't really about being a loser, but it is indicative of the fact that I am one. It's 1:30am on a school night, I should be in bed - but no, I am going to analyse the hell out of a comedy show. On the internet!

I have a fair bit of revision to do right now, what I should be doing is applying theories of Romanticsm, the Enlightenment and um, stuff, to poems and literature, not to stand up comedians. I should be doing my work, not making my pleasure into work. At the moment I am having a bit of a crisis of confidence in Literature along the lines of 'WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT'. Like books and that, they are good - but what interests me about literature is the way in which art reflects and shapes culture ; how art is used to re-inforce or challenge existing power structures. I care about this in a modern context - so yeah, what I want to study is media studies, but you can't do that at 'good' universities so I am stuck with reading about a load of dead white guys, for now anyway.

Back to my topic 'Daniel Kitson Poetry Comedy and Politics'

For those who don't know Daniel Kitson is a stand up comedian. For those of you who do know, you will realise that Kitson is somewhat 'more than a comedian', he has called himself a poet, (this is not just his ego, others have called him this too). I think Kitson is a poet, but I would go further than that and say that all stand up comedians are poets. Many of them are absolute crap and perhaps do not deserve such a lofty title, but then there are crap poets too.

I think stand up is poetry for lots of reasons. It's aural and recited to groups of people, its sucess is dependent on the importance of timing. Like poetry it can have overt political messages (see Bill Hicks or Mark Thomas) or more contain more subtle evidence of some political ideology (Daniel Kitson/Josie Long). There is a great deal of importance placed on the individual, it provides one individual perspective and narrative. It also tends to be seen as a masculine domain, the most succesful stand up acts being men;just as women Romantic poets constitute one lecture in a semester of romanticsm so women comedians often constitute one act on the bill.

Wordsworth suggested that poets have a privaledged access to some fundamental truth, he elevated them to the status of demi gods (which I think may have been after he became a poet himself....) He stated that they have the truth because they observe nature and humanity, and then they reflect upon it, and present it to others.
'He is a man speaking to men : a man it is true, eluded by lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, a greater knowledge of human nature and a more comprehensive soul' (Wordsworth on poets)
It is fair to say I think that this is how DK sees himself, or at least how many of his more ardent fans would esteeem him.
'He has an added disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present'
This romantic ideal can be seen in Kitson's comedy, as can be the way that he takes mundane subjects, inner feelings and thoughts sparked by a singular event, and then reflects, re-reflects and heaps on external significance creating both laughter and feeling.
I think Wordsworth was a terrible egotist, he also stole stuff from his sisters diary about daffodils, but I also think that comedians must feel this 'added disposition' to a greater or lesser extent before getting on stage.
That or perhaps they just want to get laid more easily.....

Wordsworth's poet, like Kitson's comedian is an introspective internal individual, who places huge importance upon the internal and the ordinary. Just as Wordsworth encourages us to wonder lonely as a cloud, Daniel Kitson encourages people to see the magic in the mundane. His shows centre around small personal events, which he extends to some deeper individual meaning. Wordsworth sits and reflects on his sister's feeling as she observes Tintern Abbey: Kitson contemplates the foundation of his mother's defiant greeting of other walkers in South Yorkshire.

Another important aspect is the emphasis on solitude, Wordsworth was very into this, lots of reflection and wondering around thinking about flowers (did I mention he stole that from his sister's diary - well he did, what a dick). Kitson seems to spend a lot of time internally reflecting upon his place in his world,(his smallness/its bigness,ok so he uses better words than me) and the importance of small acts of kindness.

This is where I part ways with Kitson and his politics; because it is politics. You could suggest that his shows aren't political, but all art is political. It has ideology and significance which it attempts to pass on. Whether or not this is coherent or clear there are political messages in everything we do. Every stand up comedian should understand that, and that when they make a peadophile joke ( which Kitson did tonight... shame on him) it says something about what you think,your politics and who you are. I can't abide this 'oh it's just humour' it's just a laugh , it's ironic. You are on stage, you are saying something - your aim is to make people laugh yes, but what else are you saying? ( By the way I am a super fun person to be around, know and spend time with. I do think about stuff* a lot but hell that's what brains are for right?)

Tonight Kitson said that genocide comes from the same impulses that make people think it is ok to be selfish on buses. I do not disagree - selfishness and a need for power manifests itself in different ways, there is definately a scale of twat. It's like I think, minor sexist comments and jokes and the pay gap are on the same scale too. Repeatedly using the word cunt as a derogatory term, and sexual violence are also on the same scale. Beating up a gay man, and using the word 'gay' to mean 'crap' are also related. I think Kitson begins to have a very good point here, but fails to follow it to its natural conclusion, then again he is a comedian not a social scientist.

I think that's the issue I have, that by getting people to focus in on their own lives then it can prevent them focusing out on the lives of others. Perhaps I have Kitson all wrong, but he tends to suggest that if we all do nice little things then the world will be a better place, that these little acts of kindness are heroic. Again, I do not completely disagree, we should all be nice to each other, but there is no way that small acts of kindness can change the world.

To me heroism is saying right, fuck it, the world is a mess and I am going to do the most that I can for it not to be, and really there is more that we can do than just giving £100 to the homeless, or intervening when people are in danger. These are good acts - but people have had revolutions! People can get together and do things in groups to stop really shit things that happen every day.

At the start of his show DK said that somehow we manage to live our lives despite the fact that the world is full of horror, that every second we are alive there is rape, murder and injustice. He called this a massive act of compartmentalisation - which it is. However I think that he misses the point a bit here too. Some people can't compartmentalise the horror in the world because they don't get chance, if you live through injustice every day it does not become compartmentalised. If you are lucky you can ignore it, or limit it's impact on your self, but it remains with you. This includes a lot of people in the UK but they are not perhaps a typical Kitson audience.

The other thing is, do we have to compartmentalise these things? Should we just refer to them every now and again, or is that part of the problem?

I am not trying to say 'I am a super thoughtful person who spends all her time thinking about injustice' but perhaps in order to properly challenge injustice we need to de-compartmentalise a bit? I don't think we should all spend our time weeping( I don't, did I mention that I'm really fun? good,cos I am, super fun), but then I don't think this would have to be the case. It's like if there is a room in your house which is a complete tip and keeps getting messier, you could just leave it - go into another room and watch telly. Every now and then you come back to the messy room, look at it and go 'shit it's a mess' and then go back to the room with the TV in it. I think this is what most people do, but there is another option. We could stay in the messy room and start to tidy it up a bit.. (periodically going back to the TV room obviously.) There will probably be disagreements as to how best to go about tidying up, and it will continue to get covered in other peoples crap - you might even end up making the TV room messy. It's harder, but I think it's the better option. ( my room is a tip right now - I wonder where my analogies come from....)

I think technology and the dissemination of knowledge can facilitate this decompartmentalisation. DK says that we get an inflated sense of ourselves because the world is getting smaller, I'm not sure that this is true. I think perhaps we get a feeling of 'oh well, what can I do about it?I'm just one person' but human beings all live with other humans, and if we worked together we could actually do something. Kitson said that we can never know the weight of the inner workings of the internal lives of others. This is correct, but also defeatest. What we can do is listen to the problems and observe the external experiences of others, and it is possible to change those things, and on a large scale too.

So yes Kitson ramble - I think he is an excellent comedian, very funny - but flawed. He had a good story about Denis Potter, who called his terminal cancer Rupert Murdoch. I liked that a lot, infact I think perhaps some scientists should name the next terminal illness they come across 'Rupert Murdoch syndrome'.

This is a good example though - Rupert Murdoch is an evil fucker, and he's one man controlling and fucking up so much of the world. Denis Potter's gesture was fantastic, and perhaps the only thing that he could do, but that should beg the question - we don't have cancer (apologies for assuming things about my reader, if you do have cancer then I hope you get better soon)
so what are we doing? Can we do something to Rupert Murdoch - maybe not individually but as groups?

The tube is full of adverts for cosmetic surgery which women have to see everyday, encouraging women to mutilate themselves in order to buy 'self esteem'. A group of people on facebook started stickering them with various comments/slogans. Loads of people did it and the Tube advertising person threatened legal action. To me this is so wonderful, people took risks in their everyday life to say NO - I don't want to put up with this any more. That's heroisim. One person started that group and then loads of people got on board, and I think shows a good example of people saying 'right this is a mess- lets do something'.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I think we can change the world. We can't know what other people think or feel exactly, but we can try. I like Daniel Kitson, I think he is talented, his command of words makes my vocabulary seem rather, umm crappy in comparison. I enjoy the way he deconstructs his experiences. I guess I would just like to see him think bigger, look at deconstructing the fabric of society rather than the individual. Then again I am probably taking this all too seriously, he is a mere funny man after all.

Am a big big Bill Hicks fan, again I think he was personally flawed but he was someone who really wanted to change things through his medium.

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and around and around and it has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud. And it's fun - for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question; is this real? Or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, and they say, "Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because... this is just a ride."
Bill Hicks

Man am I a deep thinker or what. I think I will go into my exam next week and be like, well no I'm not sure I do know very much about Romantic writers approach to humanism, but look at these thoughts that I just had about the world. Am obviously just so smart, you might as well give me a good mark and be done with it...

Anyway going to go study before I disappear too far up my own arse.

* some stuff, this stuff, not so much my work which I should be doing.....

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