Why are Comedians the real newsreaders?

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Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Russell Howard, Have I Got News For You, Charlie Brooker: What do they all have in common? Answer: They write, investigate and discuss the news in the most honest way in today’s mad 24 hour news world.

The invention of rolling news is almost as old as I am, but the American land of superlatives used in them are seeping into our own news channels and broadcasts. Fox is a well-known purveyor of the OTT in the way they impart the news using shock and fear to tell their audiences the daily news. They are tabloid TV at their worst. But look at the work of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, the spin-off show “The Colbert Report” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and how they have approached journalism in the last few years and you will find that these comedy shows are relaying the news more openly, honestly and in-depth than any of the US channels. From racial shootings, stop and search, ISIS, Ebola, Congress, Scottish Referendum, Indian Elections, Fukushima and many other top stories have been discussed and presented at length.

In the UK, Russell Howard’s show started last night and mixed silly humour with some great observations on important elements in the news agenda. Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe (Which needs to be on again) is another great example of looking at the stories succinctly and intelligently. HIGNFY is also very clever at using humour to point out the mistakes and problematic policies through both Ian Hislop’s contributions and the great writing team behind each presenter. From David Frost and team on “That was the week that was” to Rory Bremner, Mark Thomas to “The News Quiz” we have a tradition of honest satire – but now the Americans (or in Oliver’s case, Brits abroad) are now carrying that torch on and making it even brighter.

For many young people in America The Daily Show is their main source of news – mostly because they find it trustworthy. John Oliver has been heralded in the US for his team’s journalistic approach – one that he, Colbert and Stewart all laugh off claiming to only be interested in comedy. But to push this aside so easily is missing the importance of satire and honest reporting of news events. We live in a world where the politicians and many in the media are happy to extol the emotion of fear: Fear of contagious diseases; Fear of terrorism; Fear of Paedophiles; Fear of being under surveillance; Fear of Racial Profiling – the list goes on. Rather than Kay Burley screaming “Run for the Hills” on Sky News or in the US the daily bullshit of Hannity, O’Reilly and the rest of the Fox Fear brigade we need calm and clarity.

Why do we have to rely on comedians – and I love all these shows I’ve mentioned – to deliver us the real news? For my money Channel 4 news is still the closest we get to that in the UK – while at times they push the boundaries of serious into awkwardly funny – see Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s  interview with Richard Ayoade below.

It’s time the traditional TV news paired back all the ridiculous “Day Today” music and graphics, and explained the news and the reality for those affected by the stories. We don’t need tweets, vox pops and so-called experts – we need the truth and we need it without the ludicrous superlatives that go with it. Otherwise we will think that comedians are the only ones serious about the news.

JD

If you don’t laugh…

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When you get caught in a depressive dip you need something to lift you and since I can’t really drink on this medication (well I can but why would you take mood stabilizers and antidepressants to then fill yourself with a liquid depressant?) I have to find other releases. They certainly aren’t coming at work – in fact today I had to seriously bite my tongue or it would have been an interesting way to hand in my notice – so thankfully I have lots of comedy to look forward to in Aberdeen and last night we started with the hugely underrated Simon Evans.

He’s been on the Comedy Roadshow and Stand up for the week but he’s not a panel show regular so I was pleasantly surprised that there was such a good crowd in to see him – especially up again Rich Hall at the Music Hall. I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of comedy over the years and he goes straight into my top ten I’ve seen. Word play, dark humour, subtle aside and great big belly laughs all combined to make a great night. He is a really good comedian and I wouldn’t hesitate to go and see him again. Tomorrow it’s Josh Widdecombe, Saturday is Hal Cruttenden, then next week Sarah Millican and Alan Davies are on the to do list. The other plus is that we’ve decided to go to the Fringe again this year as we missed it last year because we were still doing up the house after buying it the year before.

If you’ve never been to the Fringe in Edinburgh you are really missing a treat. The city is wonderful anyway, but add the atmosphere and the crowds and the place really comes alive. We’re going down for five days and I usually try to squeeze six or seven shows in a day – the challenge is that I want to try to see people that are new and maybe haven’t quite broken through yet. Over the years in smaller rooms we’ve caught people like Jack Whitehall, Russell Howard, Michael McIntyre and Russell Kane before they were really famous and it’s always great to see performers developing their skills. Quite often if we catch someone at the Fringe and they then tour the show the following year I’ll go back to see the show and see how it has developed. I’d love to have a go at stand up but I’m too much of a coward – at least with the music I can have a bit of banter and if it falls on its arse I can just start singing!

I really admire stand ups and the skill involved – it’s like watching a great artist or musician if it is done right. There are some really gifted performers that I’ve seen over the years like Dara O’Briain, Ross Noble, Eddie Izzard, Rhod Gilbert and Russell Howard that can just grab hold of the audience and take them with them on wild and ridiculous journeys through their minds – relaying stories and ideas that outside that room are not funny when you try to retell them but in that moment you think you might die laughing. That is a wonderful gift to have – to make people smile and laugh and forget about the crap in their lives for a couple of hours.

Hopefully with the line up over the next two weeks, the rest of the year here in Aberdeen (Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan, Mark Watson, Jon Richardson, Dave Gorman and others) and the Fringe my funny bone will be tickled enough to give me the boost I need just now. As they say “If you don’t laugh…”

JD