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“If I can make it funny, I’m then allowed to make my point”: Interview with comedian Geoff Norcott

Written by Arts

Right wing comedian Geoff Norcott talks comedy and politics with Joe Molander, recorded at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2019

 

How’s the show been going?

I need to raise the stakes in terms of risk-taking. What I need is brand new stuff to try, that’s the next step.

And are you writing brand new stuff in the same way you always have or are you trying to use other ways?

It has to strike me as hilarious, and then I’ll work back from there. If I can make it funny, I’m then allowed to make my point.

This is my fourth Edinburgh over this short space of time, so I’ve said a lot on politics and why I think the way that I do. This show is more “what are my fundamentals, politically?”, and actually, when I started to think about it, it was “I don’t like being told what to do”. I think it’s a funny impulse, it’s childish in a way, like “stop telling me what to do”. That’s my view on a lot of government, and any censorious excessively woke political movement: I just don’t believe that they have the power to restrict me.

Even if the restrictions are to stop you saying things that are sexist or racist or homophobic, which is what wokeness is at its core?

I think wokeness isn’t those, I think that that’s basic liberalism, and I’d see myself as socially liberal. I think that wokeness is a manic acceleration of those principles.

You seem to engage in a lot of serious political discussion, and in a lot of detail. Where does comedy intersect with that?

I think the idea that anybody gets their political views from comedians is both inaccurate and scary. Comedy is like a conduit for something that’s already there: I don’t think it shapes the political discourse at all.

I always think if I change my political viewpoints, I’d probably go full-on hard left fucking communist, I don’t think I’d piss about anywhere in the middle. Definitely wouldn’t be like a Blairite. I’d go proper anarchist.

Talking more about serious discourse, you’ve appeared on Question Time, where you said that Donald Tusk didn’t have the balls to make public appearances, preferring to stay in his – to use your phrase – air conditioned boardroom. So how do you feel about blurring the line between serious and comedic discussion?

Look, there was the comedian in me who knew that I was yanking people’s chains, because with the Remaniac type crowd, Tusk has become a real hero. I see politicians as a functional thing, I don’t feel I need to have a t-shirt with their name on, you know, it’s not football for fuck’s sake.

Do you not think that using words like Remaniac or prick is unhelpful for the discourse?

But I am a bit of a prick. And when I say Remaniac I don’t mean all Remainers, and I take the piss out of hardcore Brexiteers, I think that they’re both extremists.

I felt it odd when you looked at the fact that across this whole debate that we’ve had that not one of the leading figures of the EU has appeared on Marr or Peston or Question Time to ever speak directly to us. They claim that we’re citizens of Europe and they claim that they’re our politicians, so come and have a chat.

In your latest show you talk about gender roles, arguably things that are quite simplistic, such as “my wife does X, Y, Z” material. Is it fair to say you’re trying to bring back an older style of comedy associated with the right?

I don’t accept that I’m bringing back old fashioned musings, because I was conscious about that risk, so if you look at the things that I’m talking about, they’re new stereotypes. The pitfall would be to just say “oh, women love shopping”, you know, “women go to the toilet in pairs”, but I thought “challenge yourself”. A lot of feminist and woke comedy is talking about the problems with modern masculinity: no-one else seems to be talking about the problems with modern femininity.

Would you not say that feminists talk constantly about what’s wrong with femininity and how it’s presented and how it’s expected?

They don’t accept problems that women have. They’re coming at it from the point of victimhood.

Do you not think that’s justified? Do you not think that historically, women are victims?

Yeah, but there’s no doubt that in the last five years, female power and status has gone up. Status goes up, potentially makes you a target for satire. And also the idea that women don’t have power: the dominant powerful figures in my life have always been female. When I think of my mum and my sister and my wife, the wheelhouse of everything that happens in my life comes from there.

I suppose the alternative position would be that the women in your life have power over perhaps the family or the household, but once they get out of that context-

That’s a valid form of power, I don’t understand why that form of power would be seen as less relevant than power in the workplace, I mean what could be more important than that? It’s that more than where I worked, or politics, you know?

But then you could come back with the idea that, although the household can shape the individual, what shapes society is things like the places we work or positions of power, crucially.

Yeah.

What do you feel about the future?

I’m an optimist. For all my life, people have always predicted a dystopia or utopia – the media, political parties – and to be honest, this is a great country, and it has a lot going for it, and things normally fall somewhere in-between, so I think boringly, it’ll just be alright.

Last modified: 13th September 2019

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