Opinion: Everyone Is A Comedian – Even Madonna?


As if the market wasn’t crowded enough now Madonna is considering a career in comedy. Talking to Jonathan Ross on ITV1 last night she said “My plan is... I am going to do stand-up comedy. I’ve worked it all out. I’ve done it in front of someone and I made them laugh.”*

So that’s the answer. If you’ve made someone laugh – and we hope she mean genuine friends and not just employees – you can go for a career in stand-up. Well book me my slot on Live at the Apollo. I’ve been known to raise a few smiles too.

There is this strange paradox about stand-up, that at its best it looks like someone is just onstage shooting the breeze as if they are in a bar or at dinner chatting to chums and making it up as they go along. Yet of course, as anyone who knows anything about comedy knows, it takes a lot of practice to look that unrehearsed. 

Obviously a natural facility for anecdotes helps. By all accounts John Bishop was getting laughs from the moment he walked onstage at an open mic night in Liverpool for the first time. He is clearly a natural. And yet he still works hard when he is running in a new show.

Charisma helps too and I guess Madonna has that in buckets. But what is it about people who are famous in another field that makes them think they can do stand-up? There are countless examples of people having a crack, from ex-MPs such as Lembit Opik to Jeremy Paxman and Nancy dell’Olio, who got a one-star review in the Guardian

It is one of my pet peeves that people who have never done the stand-up spadework feel they can put a show on at the Edinburgh Fringe. I guess at least Paxman and dell’Olio had some experience at public speaking, but the fact that succesful lawyer dell’Olio’s show was so wincemaking confirms that there is a big gap between speaking in public offstage and onstage in front of an audience in a theatre.

Comedians - contrary to what you might think of them – are hugely focussed. They take their craft really seriously. Jimmy Carr has said it takes around 1000 gigs before you can become any good at comedy, so if Madonna is thinking of going down that path she had better get started sharpish. I would imagine that she won't change careers while people are still buying her music – so go out and get Rebel Heart now.

I guess strictly speaking a lot of these shows aren’t stand-up in the way most readers of this website might understand the term. In fact even Madonna at least had the insight to realise that she would be doing something different: “I like the idea of me sitting on a chair with a table, maybe a drink or two, and just talking about my life. Call it sit-down comedy.”

So actually the comedy world can breathe a sigh of relief. She is not going to be doing King Gong at the Comedy Store any time soon. But the sheer fact that she can talk about doing any type of comedy shows that she has some brass neck. Which is maybe why it wasn't more seriously damaged when she fell at the Brits. Thanks folks, I'm here all week. 

*Having revealed her ambition she had a crack at stand-up on TV. Watch Madonna doing stand-up on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon here.


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