Today I had impostor syndrome, or maybe I was just an impostor.
I was over in Ireland for the TEDx Dublin event (here are the speakers of the day). I get asked to do these things every so often because I bang on about things I like about science in my stand up and do Infinite Monkey Cage with the Brian Jones of particle physics, Professor Cox (if he does fall in a swimming pool it will only because he is a Johnny Head In Air).
As someone who is a turn, from the lowlife of once smoky pub cellar venues, when I am surrounded by scientists, inventors and innovators I sense that maybe I should not be there. These people have minds that work in ways that lead to things being built and questions of epigenetics being answered. There is the fear that, when an audience have been educated about cotard’s syndrome, the gutting of hare, female windsurfing in Iran and the dream of a 5 storey robot, some jokes about naked mole rats and observations on Darwin’s barnacle work won’t pass muster.
I feel the same nagging doubts when I get asked to do serious panel shows or discuss politics/atheism/particle discoveries as if I knew what I was talking about. Fortunately, most of these nagging doubts nag me enough that I say no or find an excuse in my perpetual touring. Once comedians were supposed to have a burning desire to be taken as Hamlet, now we we wish to be taken seriously as Question Time commentators on foreign policy and fiscal stimulus. Where was Charlie Drake during the Suez Crisis, probably falling over something on primetime TV.
It may be laughable that we expect comedians to be serious, but when you look at the so-called serious commentators, why the hell shouldn’t they. There are the TV and radio contrarians who behave like panto villains while dreaming of the fees they might charge if they get the call to be panto dames in Bournemouth and the pinch-faced harridans and hacks that see each appearance on a debate show as another clip for that showreel they keep sending Fox news in the hope they can fulfill their dream of being a transatlantic arsehole. To some MPs, the House of Commons is just the first springboard to that dream of documentaries on trains of the world and dance competitions. It’s all showbusiness, it doesn’t mean a thing. Everyone wants to be famous, everyone wants to be on the red carpet, everyone wants to be where Elton John knows your name.
It is not that comedians have been elevated to the high table, it’s the high table that has had its legs snapped off. When everyone is an impostor, it doesn’t matter if you are found out, with so much bluffing who will risk pulling the masks off? And if pulling the masks off isn’t going to be a ratings winner or trend on twitter, who gives a fuck? (why not read GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday)
I wish it didn’t all seem so cynical so often. Discussion shows are not there to enlighten or inform, they are just there to annoy you in that sado-masochistic relationship you have with your TV and radio. We hate the opinions we hear, but somehow it feels good to be angry even if it is the same old things that annoy us. It is a repeating cycle of abuse, self-harming of the mind, lacerations on the frontal lobes. It’s safer to feel the thrill of righteous ire from watching Melanie Phillips than get a clumsy friend in zipped up leather to hang you by the nipples like A Man Called Horse. Perhaps TV debate shows need a safe word.
Maybe this idea of days of depth where philosophers and scientists were box office gold is an illusion and then Penny Dreadfuls always took precedent. But then I think of Fergus McAuliffe at TEDx today, talking of the Royal Institution lectures creating traffic chaos in the 19th century or the collectives that formed libraries of great texts to be shared amongst workers. Listening to all the speakers today, no one sounded like they were saying what they were saying for the sole reason that they thought this what they thought the audience wanted. They said it because they had ideas they passionately wanted to share and they believed in it far beyond the desire to simply inflate their ego or career opportunities (except me of course, I am a cheap turn as I told you already).
My middle aged mind sees too much media discourse as the replacement for the teatime wrestling slot, with Mick McManus played by Peter Hitchens, Gorgeous George Galloway as Adrian Street, and the Dimblebys as the new Crabtrees obviously. Meanwhile, I’ll be ready with that brick in my handbag.
I am on tour and coming to Newbury and Croydon next week. Then off to Shoreham, Northampton, Aldershot, Manchester and 50 more. Tour details HERE
September update for Cosmic Genome app incl Richard Dawkins and Dave Gorman – App News HERE