I’m seeing a guy who is so black, he’s purple. It’s like fucking a mood ring. I can’t wait until he dies so I can see what colour he turns.
It was at this point in Scott Capurro’s gig at the Hampstead Comedy Club last night that I decided to switch off, get out my ipod and play a game of poker. I’m not easily offended but I am easily bored and last night I was bored out of my skull watching Capurro tossing off. Seriously, he reminded me of a saddo in a dirty raincoat getting off on revealing his willy to an unsuspecting crowd, whose unappreciative reaction makes him want to jerk off even harder.
In spite of the venue — a small upstairs room at the grotty Pembroke Castle pub in Chalk Farm — it had been a good evening until Capurro came on. The first act — Lloyd Langford, a charming if gawky young Welshman — had been engaging and funny in a gentle and meandering sort of way and, even though he didn’t exactly kill us, he was well-received by the laid-back audience. Kerry Godliman came next and she was great. A woman who can be funny about women without mentioning periods or chocolate is a rare treasure.
Capurro started in a way I would describe as promising. He’d done a gig in Sheffield and it hadn’t gone well. “Are there any Northern cunts in here tonight?” he asked. (Now, why would that line appeal to a room full of Southerners?) Then began the decline, slow at first but gradually picking up speed until he finally hurtled through the bleary line where humour ends and plain nastiness begins. And there he stayed, wading deeper and deeper into the sewage, even though hardly anyone was laughing and some us were jostling past the stage in our hurry to get out.
Afterwards, we struggled to remember any of the gags, probably because they hadn’t made us or many others in the audience laugh. What we remember are the themes: ethnicity, gay sex, kiddy fiddling… At one point, he’d mentioned the name ‘Maddy’ and I couldn’t think who he was talking about. Then he said something about it being obviously the parents who’d killed her and how he was sick of the sight of her face on the front of his newspapers. Oh, that Maddy! Evidently, the fact that Maddy’s face hasn’t been on the front our newspapers for quite some time wasn’t reason enough for Capurro to bother updating his material and he was going to milk the story for all it was worth.
Here’s an example, “Little black girls disappear every day and nobody misses them, especially when they disappear at night.” Yeah, OK, got it, if only because it’s a variation of a joke heard in the school playground in the early 1970s. The only other gag I remember from the whole set was one about China having a low rate of road traffic accidents: “Must be because they kill all the baby girls”. Hey — a new joke about women drivers! Yawn. These jokes were at the mild end of the Capurro spectrum and, as far as I’m concerned, they are well on the right side of the divide between comedic and just vile, even if they’re not side-splittingly funny, or funny at all. Everything else he said I remember as a confusion of spunking cocks, paedophilia, “niggers” and tiny, slitty-eyed “chinks”.
I belong firmly in the camp that believes that, when it comes to humour, no topic is off-limits and that how far a comic can go with a topic is a matter for his or her professional judgement. We want comics to be original and that does mean pushing the boundaries sometimes. One of my favourite comics, Jimmy Carr, occasionally pushes further than I feel comfortable with but that’s OK with me because he never loses sight of the fact that, overall, he has to be funny. If he fails to make us laugh, he can fuck off, basically. Or his audience will.
Scott Capurro did lose sight of that fact and much of the audience did fuck off. When the first batch of people started leaving, my husband tried to drag me out of my seat and join them. But I didn’t have my boots on — I’d worn them because it was rainy, then removed them inside the club because it was so hot — and I didn’t fancy walking past the stage holding them in my hand. And, anyway, I was engrossed in my poker game, so he sat down again. There was still a part of me thinking that, although Capurro hadn’t appeared to realise he was dying on his arse, the walk-out might serve as an impetus for change and he’d start being funny.
But as the group of four walked past the stage, one of them told him how disgusting she’d found him and it was his reaction that was the last straw for me. On youtube there are a few videos showing the different ways stand-up comics deal with hecklers and, in my view, it’s this more than anything else that separates the giants from the pygmies in the world of stand-up comedy. Comics that start shrieking abuse and threatening violence stop looking professional and start looking pathetic. Capurro’s ranting about the “Scottish bitch” and the violence he would visit upon her if he got the chance, tipped the balance in favour of putting away the ipod and pulling on my boots. As we shuffled past the stage my Scottish husband loudly gave his own verdict on the performance and I was torn between wanting to stay for a moment to hear what Capurro would now say about him and relishing the experience of walking out of a comedy act halfway through, something I’d never done in my life before. I went with the latter and in no time at all it seemed that half the audience had followed us out.
During the impromptu post-mortem taking place outside the pub, several of us were asked for our views on what we’d just seen by someone whose partner was writing a piece for the Guardian newspaper about humour and offensiveness. Capurro, it was generally felt, had gone way too far. He was compared by someone to Bernard Manning, though at least Manning was funny sometimes. The “Scottish bitch” made it clear she thought gags about abusing children were beyond the pale, etc. We all felt cheated because we’d paid to be entertained and hadn’t been.
But, to be honest, I couldn’t say that I’d been offended by any of the gags. I’d just been utterly, utterly bored by them. When I got home I had a look at the wiki article about him. Prominently featured is this quote from an interview with the Evening Standard:
“I don’t give a shit about those who don’t like my work,” he snaps. “I’m never going to win them over anyway, so why bother? My work is for a discerning audience who don’t have knee-jerk responses.”
Which is probably the funniest thing he’s ever said.