Opinion: Will Franken Explains His Defining The Norm Awards: Page 2 of 3

Other knee-jerk assessments of the DTN Awards were a bit more naked with their vitriol. Who is this foreigner to come here and tell us how to do comedy? screamed a self-righteous few. Well, allow me to introduce myself. This foreigner grew up worshipping – and was consequently heavily-influenced by -- what the best of British comedy once offered: Surrealism, absurdism, and satire. Little did I realise those art forms would be shoved aside to accommodate the now-prevalent pattern of comics sucking up to obtuse club owners and media fixtures, month after month, until that one magical time of the year when they’re allowed to go north of the border for three weeks and play at being Oprah Winfrey. We had confessional performances in the States as well and I didn’t like them out there either. Which is, of course, why I moved to Great Britain, my historical artistic home, birthplace of satire, surrealism and the Sex Pistols. 

Right on cue, there were also the inevitable lamentations that I was “punching down”. To this I say, has not our postmodern relativistic culture shown us that there are no longer such things as “up” or “down”? That anybody who wants to do comedy should be encouraged to do so? For we are all one happy comedy family. And if we absolutely must complain about other comedians, we should either do it late night in a car, with two or three others, returning from a gig, or united as a massive online front against a single individual – such as myself – who dares transgress the unwritten law that the illusion of the “happy comedy family” (for an illusion it truly is) must always prevail against the persistent tug of empirical reality. Oh, Hypocrisy, man’s best friend you are. 

Not to mention, these awards were nothing if not egalitarian. I’d be hard-pressed to think of many other show business nomination lists that would unite eager young open-mikers with mainstream television stars. Everybody and everything about the Fringe was covered honestly and fairly in one broad, all-encompassing sweep. Not to mention, any accusations of punching down are, by necessity, entirely contingent upon where I happen to be placed within the comedy hierarchy at any given moment. I know all too well how malleable a performer’s position can be when it comes to serving another’s argument. Last year, when I made the statement to The List that I thought Jon Stewart was “one of the least funny people on the planet”, the cries from the comedy community rose up as one: Who is this nobody going after an established guy like Jon Stewart? One year later, and the cry has suddenly transformed into: Who is this established guy going after these nobodies? Call it humility, but I would still submit that I remain a nobody. After all, it’s easy to conjecture had Stewart Lee given the awards, the general consensus amongst the comedy aesthetes would have been: Wow! That is so meta! 

So standing apart from, or, dare I say, above it all, one thing remains crystal clear. The reason for the proliferation of the disparate and incorrect theories about the motivation behind the DTN Awards is as follows. To the average contemporary comedian whose limited outlook can only think in terms of careerist exposure or financial gain, the actual explanation, simple though it may be, is one that such business-minded sorts would never (and could never) consider: I did it because I wanted to do it.

That being said, in the midst of all the rampant misinformation flying about, there did appear one accusation that was quite accurate. Somebody had written, in the first few hours following the nominations: Will Franken seems to have a pretty high opinion of himself. 

Why yes, I do. And I likewise have pretty high opinions of – in no particular order – The Beatles, Beethoven, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Lenny Bruce, William Blake, Peter Cook, and so many others. 

Like all of my artistic heroes that came before, I am a free individual, slave to no community. I use intellect where stupidity is expected, I use originality where formulaic is encouraged, I use merit where quotas are dangled, and I use rebellion where correctness is demanded. And it was a busy August indeed for this rebel. With the awards, I said “fuck you” to the industry status quo. With my show, I said “fuck you” to the nature of reality itself. And I’m doing the latter again for three nights, right here in London town. 

Little Joe, playing 30 September and 1-2 October at the Museum of Comedy in Holborn) 

Watch the Defining Awards Ceremony Here.


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