Bernard Manning – The Case For The Defense by Andy Ware

Somewhere in Cumbria, the middle of June 2007 at around midnight I was knee deep in mud making my way back to a camp site from a dry wall pub. Feeling my phone vibrate in my pocket I fished it out to find a text message informing me that Bernard Manning had died. A Guardian reading, Labour voting, vegetarian (as I was at the time) should have been elated with the news. Not me. I was filled with a profound sadness and I spent the rest of the journey back to my tent reciting my favourite Manning gags to my companion. I mourned the passing of Bernard Manning because Bernard Manning was a genius.

manning

Those that were critical of Bernard were so on the grounds that he was both a misogynist and a racist. Bernard often attempted to refute those claims with the argument that a joke is a joke and should only be taken in that context. I’m not comfortable with this argument as a defence and therefore my case for Bernard’s defence will not try not to negate claims that Bernard was either a misogynist or a racist. In fact I shall labour under the assumption that he was both. My defence for Bernard as a performer relies on us. Those that watched Bernard and either laughed out loud or sniggered secretly behind hands and closed doors. My defence also relies on the art of comedy and what it is to be a truly great comedian.

So the first part of my argument really comes down to an examination of laughter which is what comedy is all about, unless of course I have hugely misinterpreted the art form. As comedy reaches a new golden age there are countless comedians to be seen in the stadiums and arenas across the country and we now have stand-up comedy on the television once again. It was said of Newman and Badiel in the early 1990’s that comedy was the new rock and roll. Those words have never been truer. Michael McIntyre and Lee Evans can fill the 02 Arena on demand and stand-up comedy has never seemed more glamorous that it does at present. The consumer of comedy has never had so much choice. But this notion of choosing comedy is peculiar notion. I believe that the contrary is true. Far from choosing the comedy that we are into comedy chooses us. You see laughter is kneejerk and we are unable to be selective about what makes us laugh. I realised this sometime in the mid 1990’s when I saw a ropey old VHS of Bernard Manning playing his own Embassy Club in Manchester. I didn’t ashamedly snigger behind my hands but I roared with laughter. As I grew a little older I attempted to distance myself from Bernard and more importantly from Bernard’s typical audience. I was ashamed to mention Bernard to any of my trendier, lefty friends who were in to Eddie Izzard at the time. When somebody recites and Eddie Izzard routine you can’t follow that with “Have you heard the one about queer Irishman and the crate of Guinness?”  As I grew older still (early twenties now) I began to realise that neither I nor anyone else should be apologetic about what ‘tickles’ them as laughter is involuntary. In light of this I began to celebrate Bernard and his work and I began to defend him to my friends on the grounds that he was a genius.

I think the best and most poignant public defence of Bernard Manning was put forward by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith in a TV interview in 1993. When taken to task by broadcaster and journalist Caitlin Moran on Channel 4’s Naked City (a shamefully under rated magazine show) about his admiration for Manning Smith replied “Why doesn’t Ben Elton tell any racist jokes?” Moran shakes her head. “Because he doesn’t fucking know any” replies Smith. Although a little crude Smith’s argument was pin point in its accuracy. You see comedy is an art form and the protagonists are artists and there was none greater than Bernard Manning. Manning possessed a razor sharp wit and natural ability to tell a joke that very few comedians have matched. He had the natural rhythm and understanding of that over used comedic notion “timing”. Although their material is very similar Bernard Manning and the likes of, say, Roy Chubby Brown are worlds apart. This is because the likes of Roy Chubby Brown, Jim Davidson and Mike Reid were not blessed with Bernard’s ability to deliver a joke.

It is impossible to talk about Bernard Manning without words such as ‘homophobe’, ‘misogynist’, ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’ being thrown around. But I don’t believe that Bernard Manning was ever truly offensive. This is because I believe that to be truly offensive in comedy is to be unfunny. Bad comedy is perhaps the last true taboo in comedy. So while I would gladly see the likes of Brown, Davidson, Evans, McIntyre, Flannigan, Carr (both) and Fielding hung to out to dry I would defend Bernard Manning with my last breath. Why? Because Bernard Manning was gifted and even if you don’t appreciate the nature of his comedy you must appreciate his ability to execute it. If you’re reading this and you are of the opinion that Manning was an indefensible bigot then I shall leave you with a closing gambit; fear breeds prejudice, which makes for great humour. I laughed at his imaginative unpleasantness, but I swear that it never made me think about anybody differently.

Xavier DwyerAndy Ware is 31 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1

Sexessive Behaviour by Kelly Brown

I hate sexism. It’s still a very real problem in society, one that needs to be dealt with head on. But if there’s one thing I hate more, it’s the people who claim EVERYTHING is sexism. You see them out there, picking everyone’s behaviour to bits like some kind of radioactive-hyper-feminists. It drives me mad. Everything is not sexism, and not all men are sexist. Some women are also sexist…probably more than you think.

I work with the public on a daily basis, I speak to an awful lot of people, from all different backgrounds. Most people are nice, some are indifferent, a few are arseholes. Of these unfortunate few (unfortunate for the rest of us, anyway) what you really need to remember is that these people are not arseholes because they are sexist, they are sexist because they are arseholes. Just as many women have the potential for acting like utter c*nts as the men do. Proportionally it’s a fairly even split.

Inverse sexism is often the worst, because nobody seems to see anything wrong with it. As an example I posted something on my facebook wall, detailing a situation that happens fairly frequently in my line of work. It goes something like this:

*man and woman walk into shop*
Woman: “I’ll take this please” (hands me bag/dress/t-shirt)
Me: (rings it through the till) “that’ll be £24.99 please”
Woman: *looks at man with big moony eyes*
Man: *sighs* *gets out wallet*

Eleven people liked that post (which is a lot for me). Ten of them were women. TEN. They’d missed the point entirely – I posted it because I was getting a bit annoyed, they just thought it was funny.
And THAT’S the point. Why is this deemed acceptable, even expected behaviour?
It manages to both put the woman in a position of power and dependency, while reinforcing the typical male stereotype as provider AND making him look the ‘under the thumb’ (another classic stereotype). Brilliant. Well done girls. Free stereotypes all round! Let’s all eat chocolate and giggle about how guys can’t empathise.
Joking aside though, this kind of thing sets a real double standard, and I for one silently despair every time I’m faced with it.

Accusing people (well, men. Obviously) of sexism all the time is very damaging too. Bias is very easily projected on to others if you are actively seeking it out. There is a major difference between mentioning that someone happens to be female, and acting negatively toward them BECAUSE they are female. Doesn’t everyone know this already? I know this. I am female. I know of at least one guy who became disheartened with his whole career after being accused of a sexist remark. That should never have happened, yet the atmosphere of distrust caused by these so-called ‘equal rights’ activists is such that if you happen to be male, everything you do will be subject to this kind of scrutiny. That doesn’t seem very equal to me.

Apparently Steven Moffat is a sexist because Amy can’t have kids (no…it’s the ONLY thing that could have caused her and Rory to split. They could have made him have the problems, I guess, but it would have been harder to work into the storyline, and I still don’t think he would ever have left her). I have never at any point felt degraded watching Doctor Who, but there are women out there that inexplicably do. Maybe he is a big misogynist in real life, but it doesn’t come across in the shows. Unless you look really, reeeally hard.

It’s all about intent. Holding a door open for someone is not sexist. It’s polite. I hold doors open for people all the time; sometimes I get thanked, sometimes I get ignored, but I’ve never once been accused of being sexist. Or racist. Or any other -ist. So why, when a guy does it, does that suddenly become a feminist issue?

I remember one incident with a male friend of mine, a fair few years back. We were walking back from somewhere after a night out, and I was lagging behind due to a wholly inappropriate choice of footwear. There was a bit of ribbing going on because of this, when some absolute stranger decided the best thing to do was to interfere with this interaction, and started berating my mate for ‘being sexist’ and ‘unchivalrous’. I tried to explain that I was, in fact, having fun, but he was having none of it. He was on leave from the army, he said, and believed that women should be treated with more courtesy. My mate’s response was to turn around, throw me over his shoulder, and carry on walking. The look on the guy’s face was priceless.

And isn’t that the crux of it? I don’t want be put on a pedestal. Do my male friends treat me differently because I’m a girl? Occasionally, yes. Because I am. They also treat me differently because they know what music I’m into, that I’m a big science nerd, and that I tend to overthink things a lot. Do they treat me negatively because of any of this? No.

Real prejudice exists in plenty of forms, and any unfounded prejudice is just plain wrong. But the idea that we are all perfectly equal is wrong too, or at best misguided. I’m probably not much like you…or him…or her. So why should we expect to be treated the same as everyone else? The true key to equality is to accept that everyone is different, we all have strengths and weaknesses, we are, each of us, unique and wonderful, and this diversity should be celebrated. The sooner we all look around and realise it, the sooner we can create a better, kinder world.

kellyKelly Brown is never-you-mind years old and lives in a different city every couple of years. Since her late teens she has changed her hair colour an astonishing fourty-seven times. She likes all things to do with space and spaceships and this was before Brian Cox got on the telly.