Tom Service

  • Stand-up comedian

Press clippings

Can classical music be funny?

It's hard to find any truly comedy classical, but record covers are another matter. And as for classical critics doing standup...

Tom Service, The Guardian, 16th March 2011

Sometimes it can seem as if standup comedians are everywhere. Clustered on panel shows, chat shows, sitcoms; hosting clips programmes, commenting on the news, making you chicken pie when you get home at night...

That's just me (I'm married to a standup), and that's a bad joke. Not quite as bad as some we heard on Stand Up For Comic Relief, but close.

Last week, Radio 4 took us through the now familiar process of established comedians mentoring novices for charidee (you phone in to vote for the best, and the money goes to Comic Relief). Thus, Dev from Radio 1 was tutored by Chris Ramsey, Radio 2's Tony Blackburn got Julian Clary, Tom Service (Radio 3) by Sandi Toksvig, Jenni Murray (Radio 4) by Mark Steel, Tony Livesey (5Live) worked with Justin Moorhouse and Shaun Keaveny from 6Music was paired with Miles Jupp. (If there was ever a sign that the BBC are now fully supportive of 6Music, Shaun doing Comic Relief is it.)

Before we heard the routines, in the "funny" 6.30pm slot on Wednesday, Radio 4 offered us two half-hour puff pieces on Monday and Tuesday, where the newbies expressed their fear and competitiveness and their mentors cracked funnies. Tony Blackburn was the coolest, his shtick so tough that Clary's advice could only slide off it like an egg chucked at a tank. Blackburn refused to meet Clary more than once, and was as corny as can be, his light-ent persona carrying him through hoary gags such as getting the whole audience to look under their seats for a nonexistent prize. Tony Livesey was cheesy too, in ye old working men's club manner: terrible jokes, delivered with a wink and some panache. Shaun Keaveny was likable, as were Jenni Murray and Tom Service. But best by far was Dev, who told a truthful, funny, well-constructed story about asking a girl out complete with call-backs to earlier jokes. He should win.

As an aside, much as Comic Relief is an admirable institution, it should be held at least partly responsible for all these standups and their hijacking of mainstream culture. Funny is God, these days. (And God, though good with a one-liner, wasn't actually much of a giggle.) Oh, I'm so sick of listening to people say stuff that sounds as though it's a punch-line, but isn't actually, you know, funny. Hey ho. Adam and Joe will be back on 6Music next month. They really do make me laugh.

Miranda Sawyer, The Observer, 13th March 2011

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