My Comedy Hero: Jonny & The Baptists pick their faves
- Brian Donaldson
- 5 May 2017
Musical comedy duo choose Victoria Wood and Mark Thomas as their comic icons
At five years old, it would never have occurred to me that comedy could possibly be a male-dominated, misogynistic profession. Men aren't funny. They're distant. They're cruel. Women are funny. They laugh all the time. They've got time for you. Men? They don't laugh. They scoff. That's not comedy.
My aunts were funny. My mum could make you laugh by putting on a hat and doing a face. Even my nan was hilarious. She would always answer the question 'how are you, nan?' with 'Me? I'm old'. Then I found Victoria Wood.
The first stand-up I saw was An Audience with Victoria Wood on ITV in 1988. Wow. There it was. Being funny and warm and kind could be a job! I wouldn't have to be a postman or a milkman or a spaceman anymore. I devoured her books of sketches, and her bittersweet tragicomedy Pat and Margaret. I performed her song 'Freda and Barry (Let's Do It)' once at school. I forgot most of the words and nearly fell over at one point. But it still worked, of course: the song is that good.
When she died last year I was sad in a way I'd never been about someone I hadn't met. When someone mentions her now, I still go silent. I love you, Victoria Wood: you made comedy, and the world, a better place.
Paddy ('The Baptists') Gervers
When I was 12, my drama teacher collared myself and a handful of other kids and introduced us to comedy. I think he'd noticed we were struggling to fit in, and effectively said 'there's another way'. He played me a tape of Mark Thomas' TV show, Comedy Product, and the floodgates opened.
Mark became my hero. Not just in comedy but in humanity. Most people are better at talk than action, especially comedians: we're not quite as lazy as the stereotypes, but we're not far off. Mark's bite was as bad as his bark. Whenever he said, 'isn't this fucked up?', a split-second later it'd be, 'so this is what I did about it'. When I started making shows, I always wanted them to be about what was going on in the world and how we could make it better; it's what drives a lot of Jonny & The Baptists' work, even at our silliest.
Unbelievably, a decade or so later, Mark is now someone I'm proud to call a friend, and he's never treated me with anything but love. He's always got an idea on hand, a protest to invite you to, or something probably more akin to a 'scheme' or 'caper' that will inevitably get you in trouble. But then he'll be the one to get you out. Thank you Mark. I love you.
Jonny & The Baptists: Eat The Poor is on tour until Sat 27 May.