On Tuesday 13th March 2018, the controversial Will Franken is headlining at Comedy Unleashed, London’s free-thinking comedy club.

Andy Shaw caught up with Will, to find out what we can expect and to discuss why many comedians have become lazy and predictable.

ANDY:  What sort of night can we expect?

WILL: You’re gonna get things you don’t see on Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. You’re going to see comedians who have a different perspective, which is what comedy should be. We are the anti-establishment.

ANDY: Many comedians seem to be out of touch with the majority of people. They have been accused of living in their own groupthink bubble. What do you think is going on?

WILL: It’s like Pavlov’s bell. Lots of new people are coming into comedy without bringing anything that new or having a voice of their own. They don’t really know how to make people laugh. At a comedy club they hear a Trump joke or see comedians making fun of Brexit and people laugh. So, they think that’s how you get a laugh. I think a lot of people who make jokes about, for example, Brexit don’t know much about it, but they just want to get a laugh. It helps their self-esteem, it’s comedy devolution, not evolution. The comedy circuit now caters for an audience who laugh at the people who aren’t in the room. It’s a shock when they go outside.

ANDY: Good comedy can make you laugh at yourself and think about things differently. Why do many of the current comedy shows seem lazy and predictable?

WILL: ‘Alternative’ comedy is not alternative to the mainstream. Political correctness is a pre-emptive counter-strike to something that never happens. Many people said that Brexit was a racist vote because they fear the motivations of people they don’t have contact with. If this wasn’t so tragic, this would be really funny.

ANDY: In the bad old days, comedians used to characterise Irish people as stupid and make racist jokes. Nowadays comedians characterise Glaswegians as unhealthy, Scousers as thieves and Brexit voters as stupid. How did this happen?

WILL: I’m no class warrior, but I come from a working class background in the US. I do think that art mostly attracts middle-class people who can afford to go to the Edinburgh Fringe on their own money and employ PR agents. They don’t spend time with people unlike themselves, they don’t interact with working class people.

In my comedy the intelligence and the surrealism appeals to the left and the politics is more to the right. If we could have more intelligent honest alternatives to people like Roy Chubby-Brown that would be the ultimate in hip anti-establishment comedy.

ANDY: Good art, comedy or writing gives you a different perspective on life, why does so much comedy seem like a laugh-along comfort blanket?

WILL: Comedy never used to be like that. In Roman times, satire was used to lampoon those in power. Sometimes the satire was so cutting that senators were known to hang themselves in response. That’s the power of the pen, the real power of satire. Comedy isn’t meant to put people at ease. Current comedy only feels good to the people in the room, because they’re slagging off people who aren’t in the room. Brexit voters brought about an earth-shattering revolution in 2016. They made their voices heard despite the BBC, despite the Guardian, but they’re still kept out of the room.

I think that people are inherently good and resilient and you don’t need to pussy foot around for fear of hurting people’s feelings.

ANDY: How do we attract people with an interesting perspective to get into comedy?

WILL: Firstly, we have to publicly recognise that political correctness has always been a horrible idea. I became aware of it when Andrew Dice-Clay, a Brooklyn Jewish guy who did a filthy set as an Italian gangster character, dropped off the scene because of political correctness. Art comes from the subconscious, political correctness puts the blinkers on and introduces guilt and self-censorship. True art emerges needs to emerge without a filter. There was a revolution in comedy when Lenny Bruce took the mic off the stand and ran free. 

ANDY: Who do you think is the funniest public figure and why?

WILL: I did a sketch last night about Jeremy Corbyn unveiling a war memorial to the deserters. He’s the nice guy with a beard who rides the bike? He’s not like Tony Benn, he’s a prime target for lots of satire.

ANDY: Tell us a good joke.

WILL: You’ll have to come to the gig for that, anyway I do sketches.

Gig details and tickets

Comedy Unleashed website

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph for the photo.

© Comedy Unleashed 4th March 2018

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