A few nights back, Jimmy Carr KILLED on America’s The Tonight Show – but it was like shooting fish in a barrel, with the bar being so LOW.
The reason is HISTORY.
Back in the Fifties and Sixties, British humour was on a high – but as the Seventies progressed, it got old and FAT. This was down to the networks, run by ageing execs – for an ageing audience.
But then in 1982 came the new Channel Four – and independent producer Paul Jackson. One night, he was persuaded to visit London’s two standup clubs; The Comedy Store and The Comic Strip.
These two venues housed the performers who, long story short, would then be cleaned up and put on various series, including the UK’s answer to SNL – Saturday Live.
This show launched the likes of Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Harry Hill, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Ben Elton and Lee Evans.
And they made comedy look so easy that many young people decided to follow them. Of course, most died on their arses – but those who succeeded inspired the next generation, rinse and repeat.
Of course, Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders, Rik and Ade, etc. – are now VETERAN performers. Some still work, others have turned to acting and a few have retired. Even the NEXT generation are getting long in the tooth.
But it matters not, as UK TV is HUNGRY for cheap TV (audiences will only put up with so much “reality” tosh) and thus many of today’s MYRIAD comedy performers and writers have created a peculiarly British phenomenon – the comedy PANEL show.
Sometimes topical – always hilarious – these shows dominate both TV and radio in the UK. And they do not cost much to mount.
And the TV exposure ensures that the best of the performers are not short of live gigs in the MANY standup clubs (and nights – and theatres) that are now spread all across the land.
Plus every Christmas, for those who do not get out much, recordings of their gigs are found on DVD, in every supermarket (and costing a tiny FRACTION of the standup LPs of old).
However, across The Pond it is a different story; in the Seventies, thanks largely to the afore-mentioned SNL, comedy did NOT stagnate as it had in the UK. The SNL roster begat a new roster, who begat… again, rinse and repeat.
But there was one major difference between the two countries. That stagnation of UK comedy in the Seventies meant that when Jackson and others unleashed a wave of new, young performers onto the market, it SHOOK UP a lethargic audience – who sat up and took notice.
It effectively REBOOTED STANDUP (or in the case of the comedy panel shows – sitdown) in the UK.
While in the US, the same old same old dominated – and continues today.
Which is why, after a diet of LAME standups, the US audience reacted so positively to Jimmy Carr the other night – and being on TV, he went GENTLY for them.
But he is not alone; a number of UK standups have begun dipping their toes into the US.
Which means Carr – and a HOST of other modern UK comic talents that the US have never HEARD of – could SLAUGHTER the current wave of US comics if the money was right.
So WATCH OUT!