Norwich author’s book tracks comedy “from rock’n’roll to muzak”

A new book lamenting stand-up comedy's progression 'from the new rock'n'roll to the new muzak' has been published by a Norwich author.

A new book lamenting stand-up comedy's progression 'from the new rock'n'roll to the new muzak' has been published by a Norwich author.

Paul Wellings' book, The Divine Comedians, looks back fondly at a time when comedians were 'radical heretics' speaking truth to power, rather than today's observational comedians making jokes about lost car keys.

A collection of the sharpest one-liners from comedians including Woody Allen, Steven Wright and Bill Hicks, the book demonstrates how the nature of stand-up has changed – and takes aim at some modern comedians.

'Michael McIntyre has become the most popular comedian in the UK – but it's dull, bland stuff,' said Mr Wellings.

'When Rob Newman and David Baddiel played Wembley in 1993, comedy was hailed as the new rock'n'roll.

'And with music becoming more retro and art more obscure, comedy can talk about the human condition like no other art form,' said Mr Wellings.

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'But somehow comedy has become the new muzak, rather than the new rock'n'roll.'

He blames the 'McCarthyite forces of intolerance' for forcing stand-up comedy into a safe middle ground, but says there are still comedians who are pushing the edges.

In particular he praised the Norwich stand-up scene, which has grown steadily in popularity in recent years.

'Norwich is a great city for comedy and for art – there's a good alternative scene, and plenty of cultural places like the UEA, the Forum, the Playhouse and the Red Card comedy clubs.

'You can still get out there and see the up-and-coming comedians who will end up on Live at the Apollo in a year or two.'

Despite comedy's move away from the radical politics of the Thatcher years, Mr Wellings said there are still some constants.

'There will never be anything funnier than that Elephant taking a poop on Blue Peter.'

The Divine Comedians by Paul Wellings is available from Amazon and Waterstone's online, or by emailing barrymaclo@yahoo.co.uk