Sunday, 16 July 2017

When fashion turns old

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Some time ago I watched a movie called Trainwreck featuring American comedienne Amy Schumer. Ms Schumer not only starred in the film, but also wrote the script. I was most impressed with this multi-talented young lady.

The movie also featured LeBron James playing himself. Mr James showed he could act as well as play basketball.

And so when Netflix announced they were producing a ‘one-off’ featuring Amy Schumer in a stand-up comedy routine I couldn’t wait to access it on my screen. In the event I couldn’t believe my eyes at the crudity. Schumer used the ‘F’ and ‘C’ words frequently, talked unabashedly about her sexual proclivities and ended the show with some toilet humour that included graphic descriptions of her bowel movements. I know I could have at any time pushed the exit button and I should have because I felt decidedly grubby after having watched the whole performance.

Why do comedians today think it is funny to act out such smuttiness?

In the 1960s I was one half of a comedy duo that performed at cabarets and other social functions around the Wairarapa, occasionally in Wellington and on one occasion to a packed stadium in Rotorua. We sang parodies we had written ourselves, mimed some of Stan Freberg’s songs and I held this all together with a series of short monologues, some of which I had plagiarised from the great comedians of the day. I had long playing records of American comedians Dave Barry, Shelley Berman and Bob Newhart and classic British humourist at the time, Peter Sellers. I would usually take some of their jokes and adapt them to a more local setting.

Foul language was conspicuous by its absence.

I recently downloaded on to my IPad an LP titled The very best of Bob Newhart just to make sure I haven’t imagined the purity of the dialogue and was reassured when I found his patter excruciatingly funny and not a swear word in sight.

I attended the New Zealand Licensing Trusts Association annual conference at the weekend and keynote speaker was celebrated economist Shamubeel Eaqub. He told the attendees that he was a tad pessimistic about this country’s economic future and one phrase that resonated with me was that New Zealand has a growing divide between the rich the poor and a growing divide between the young and the old.

I suspect I’m at the wrong end of that latter group; I may well have reached my use-by date.

I started writing my weekly columns back in January 1998. They were originally called Signs of the Times then in 2009 changed to The Long View.

The critics loved Amy Schumer’s Netflix special so it is no surprise that Fairfax executive management reviewed my last few columns and concluded there was a growing divide between me and their readers. They have therefore asked me to desist from making any more weekly contributions.

Subsequently this will be my last column. Thanks to my readers (both of you) who have persevered for nearly twenty years, but I now need to retire my pen.

I guess it’s a sign of the times.

“Mick Jagger told me the wrinkles on his face were laughter lines, but nothing is that funny.” - George Melly

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