Miranda Sawyer Talks Comedy
A bit of an R$N crush, Miranda Sawyer. We've been fans of her writing for a long time, we liked her genuine astonishment when interviewing Lady Gaga and we love the series of talks she helms with BUG at The House of St Barnabas, too.
In the lead up to the forthcoming talk on political correctness in comedy, 'What's a Liberal Allowed to Laugh At?' (an event that forms part of the series – 37 Things You Should Know About Modern Britain) we took the opportunity to ask Miranda a few questions on comedy, comedians, heckling and miserable gits…
Hi Miranda, first off could you tell us how you became involved with the work of BUG?
I worked with Ekow and Richard at The Face in the 1990s, and met Steve, Gareth and Sean around that time too. We're friends who find ourselves unpicking popular culture when we get together, so the Bug talks came out of those conversations.
The previous discussions at The House of St Barnabas which youve chaired have focussed on the likes of womens relationship with twitter and the psychotic make up of the family. How are the subjects chosen for these events, what yolks them together?
We choose them together, from things that are happening – in family life, pop, tech, comedy, fashion, going out – that spark our interest. The overall title for the talks is 37 Things You Should Know About Modern Britain. What we discuss is always based on what is happening today – often on the edges of culture – that affects how we all live in ways that nobody ever expected. Whether that's what you have for lunch, or how social media affects women, or how your unconventional home-life works as a family unit.
The forthcoming discussion Whats a liberal allowed to laugh at? sets out to seek the shifting boundaries of bad taste in comedy. Did you, yourself, grow up watching or listening to comedy that youd now consider to be un-pc?
Of course! I grew up in the North West during the 70s and 80s: sexist jokes were definitely the norm back then. Women's knockers were the punch-line in many a family teatime show.
Do you think of political correctness more as a positive showing of respect towards particular sensitivities, or a creeping form of censorship – mind control as David Bailey recently described it?
When people talk about political correctness as mind control, it's because of fear. They fear that their handle on life has become outdated, that they've become irrelevant. Political correctness in its purest form is politeness. Why be rude to someone, or exclude them from power, just because they're not like you?
What about culture-specific comedies such as The Kumars at No 42 or the more recent Citizen Khan? Do you think these types of sitcom are in danger of promoting lazy cultural stereotypes?
No, I just don't think they're that funny.
Have you ever walked out of a stand up gig because youve found the comedians material too offensive?
I've walked up to a comedian while he was performing and told him he wasn't any good. I was drunk, and a twat for doing it. I was thrown out of the gig and rightly so.
Do you tend to heckle or hide away when at a stand up comedy night?
I used to heckle, but now I just watch. I like it when comedy goes a bit wrong, when the comedian loses the audience in some way and has to fight to get them back on their side. That's an amazing thing to witness.
Lightening the mood, but staying with the comedic theme – youve interviewed a lot of comedians, is it true theyre all miserable gits off stage/set?
I'm married to a stand-up who's now an actor (Michael Smiley). He's hilarious, and miserable, and kind, and angry, and emotionally astute. He's also useless with any type of form-filling. Many, many performers are born with this quality.
Whos the most naturally funny person youve ever met?
I meet funny people all the time, but sometimes they don't know they're that funny. Really, really grumpy people make me laugh a lot. And people who are completely literal about everything. Other than that, I'd say my daughter. And Nick Frost.
Tell us a joke?
What do you call a black guy flying a plane?
'What's A Liberal Allowed To Laugh At?' takes place on Wednesday 5th March at The House of St Barnabas.