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Untruth of the week. And idiocies of the week. And a bit of genius.

(Reuters) – British police arrested comedian Freddie Starr on Thursday as part of an investigation triggered by allegations that the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile sexually abused hundreds of children, media reported.

Whether or not Mr Starr abused kids is undecided. He is allegedly alleged to have raped a girl in Jimmy Savile’s dressing room whilst the other randy old goat was groping another girl. A more grotesque scene is hard to imagine. No, it’s not that that is the untruth, it’s the idea that Freddie Starr in any of the Universes of the Many World’s interpretation of QM could he be regarded as a “comedian”. He’s about as funny as a case of genital warts. There are things I’ve fished out of streams funnier than Starr. The last was a toilet seat. Quite how a toilet seat wound-up in my stream is an exercise I leave to the reader and I hope he lives in Baker Street and has enough ‘baccy for three pipes.

Perhaps Mr Starr would be funny if he’d gone to Salford University.

Can you teach someone how to be funny? Well Salford University certainly seems willing to try, as it launched its first comedy degree course on Monday.

Peter Kay was there to give it two of his thumbs up, and there can be no finer professional endorsement than that. The course will take twenty students at a cost of £8,500-a-year and they will be taught how to perform their own comedy material, learn drama techniques and write sitcom scripts.

There will also be modules on what makes people laugh, the business side of the industry and the cultural importance of comedy.

There are plenty of private courses around the country that teach stand-up skills, but the question is, are they ever effective? Or, is any structured teaching in this area ultimately a waste of time?

It’s strange how we instinctively seem to feel that humour has to be innate, and yet we have no problem with ballet lessons, fine art degrees or drama schools.

Now children, repeat after me, “My mother in law is sooo fat…”. For fuck’s sake! Universities (and variety theatres and pubs and clubs) over generations have produced comedians. According to St Stephen of Fry the funniest man who ever drew breath was Peter Cook. Cook honed his skills in the Cambridge Footlights whilst doing a degree in languages and writing a review show for Kenneth Williams. Peter Kay learned his schtick on the club route round Northern England.There are things that you need to learn for sure to be a comedian (in some areas that would include how to duck a well-hurled beer bottle) and it isn’t entirely innate. But that doesn’t mean it has to be (can be?) taught and the comparison with the likes of ballet is facile. This is a huge issue with me. The idea that you didn’t legitimately learn anything unless you get the certificate. That pieces of paper matter more than knowledge and honed skills. I can imagine the scene on Kill Devil Hills December 17th 1903. Actually Mr Wright you can’t do that! We need to see your pilot’s license first… I mean I understand why we have pilot’s licenses after Orv and Will but do we need to prevent dangerously unqualified comedians? Another point is the BBC have recently moved in large to Salford’s Mediocre Cityso is Salford University’s timing co-incidental. If this produces more utter crap like “My Family” then I believe a napalm strike is the only moral solution.

And the genius? Last night I was at a facility of another of Manchester’s Universities. At Jodrell Bank to hear Jocelyn Bell Burnell give a talk. The ridiculous to the sublime. She’s a long-term hero of mine and she wasn’t disappointing.

11 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Yes, but if they instruct comedy at the university level, then comedy can be cleansed and be made politically correct speech. It can also be tailored to fit in with the socially engineered pub and hospitality sectors that received a politically correct social re-do as well vis-a-vis the smoking ban, minimum pricing, plain packs, etc. By indoctrinating comics at university, they can also make it a licensible profession and give grounds for arrest if anyone tries cracking jokes that do not fit the party line.

  2. Bod says:

    Not to mention the annual re-accreditation fee without which jackbooted enforcers wll come around and demonstrate comical kerb-stomping techniques while dressed in tastefully coordinated black homespun uniforms complete with peaked caps, mirror-sunglasses and red noses.

    papiere, bitte

  3. RAB says:

    Ever noticed how deathly dull American Newspapers are, and British ones arn’t? The reason is all the American journalists have a degree in journalism, and 99% of British ones don’t.

    You can’t teach someone to be Spike Milligan, Peter Cook or Eric Morecambe, it’s impossible. Oh they learnt their craft alright, but it was on the job, standing in front of live and often hostile audiences (Glasgow Empire) and dying. By those experiences they learn timing and what works and what doesn’t. There is, and never will be, a texbook for it.

    Great comedy by definition breaks all the rules, flushes taboos down the toilet. Ipso facto you cannot have rules that tell you what is and is not funny.

  4. GalaPie says:

    Oh wait, I get it… The cost of the course is the joke.

  5. NickM says:

    RAB,
    The BBC sacked Moira Stewart for not having a journalism degree. They sacked an extremely popular newsreader who had done the job for years with no complaints for not having her fersificate.

  6. RAB says:

    They sacked her because she was getting old and jowly. If they sacked all their journalists for not having a journalism degree, they’d have none left.

    The likes of Edwards and Jeffreys started as Copy Boys on the South Wales Echo and Western Mail, learnt on the job, and what of the Hereditaries… David and Johnathan? David Dimbleby especially, PPE from Oxford and (he keeps very quiet about this doesn’t he?) member of the Bullingdon Club!

    So just an excuse on poor Moira’s part. The BBC are nothing if not sexist and hypocritical.

  7. Kevin B says:

    I read that little Jonny Dimblebum is complainjng that “there has been a “disturbing relish” in the way critics have “laid into the BBC” over the Savile scandal”.

    Imagine that! People attacking our poor Auntie Beeb with “disturbing relish”.

    Pass me the smelling salts Edna.

    (I once found a half used botttle of chutney in the fridge that epitomised the phrase “disturbing relish”.)

  8. Sam Duncan says:

    Exactly, Kevin. Anyway, Bumblebee’s one to talk after the BBC’s orgasmic reporting of the News of the Screws scandal last year. They can dish it out…

  9. Tim Newman says:

    I used to like My Family in the early days, largely because I thought Zoe Wanamaker was somewhat of a MILF. I was pretty surprised to find out recently that the show was still going. One thing British TV excels at is continuing with a show a decade or more after it’s jumped the shark. In fact, longevity of TV shows seems to be a source of pride in the UK, something I’ve never understood.

  10. Mr Ed says:

    On a lighter note, the prank of the year in my eyes, or rather ears, re: Savile on BBC Radio Ulster, as the presenter innocently reads out a text:

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