My Comedy Hero: Craig Campbell on why we shouldn't have comedy heroes
'Comedians are at best great opportunists, spinning private, excruciating emotional pains and hidden personal agonies into shared public ecstasies'
‘Hero’ seems to slacken by the day, drifting from those who’ve achieved status through heroic deeds to those who merely avoided real work by peddling yarns. Comedy is deception, fabrication, veritable half-truths through to outright lies: are these the tools of heroes of lore? Comedians, as this article’s sycophantic exercise proves, are desperate social parasites scrabbling shamelessly upward, clawing over the backs of fellow acts, longing to embed deeply within the comfy coat-tails of those whose talent has already flooded mainstream banks. These behaviours touch not the realm of the Hellenic ideal.
In front of every great comedic talent lies the toil and tragedy of lesser-known but no less talented clowns who funnily enough couldn’t buy a break or whose break, when it finally came, fell upon their legs, their neck or their will. Famous acts I’ve barnacled will regale you of unknowns sharper, wittier, more abundantly talented than they but to whom through curse of fate, notoriety was denied. Fame sometimes seems as much a battle of continuing to remain alive as any other skill. Comedic lives are very often tortured, with comedy clearly being a mechanism to cope.
‘Hilarious’ existences end in tragic-comedy, in foetal decay on beaches, cold boulders playing final pillows, angry steel crushing soft lonely flesh, hell’s heartless curtains smothering hope’s flickering light and, though each loss tragic, none a hero define. Heroes risk all they are, and ever will be, to save anonymous others: the 1925 Nome serum run’s ‘Wild Bill’ Shannon or DC’s Potomac plunger Lenny Skutnik are these. During glorious zeniths, comedians are at best great opportunists, spinning private, excruciating emotional pains and hidden personal agonies into shared public ecstasies: find heroism in that if you’re able.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Thu 1 May; Macrobert, Stirling, Fri 23 May.