Saturday, 10 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

In Stand Up Comedian (2005), the stand up comedian Stewart Lee performs one of his cleverest and funniest routines in which he goes from discussing the historical inaccuracies in the 1995 film Braveheart to baiting the Scottish audience at the Glasgow venue by calling William Wallace (or, as Stewart Lee always refers to him, “William Wallace, Braveheart, the Scottish National Hero”) a paedophile. “A Scottish paedophile. The worst kind of paedophile that there is.”

What makes it harder to watch Stand Up Comedian now, 10 years later, is the knowledge that some months after the performance was filmed and released on DVD, Stewart Lee was murdered by terrorists along with a number of other comedians (performing at the same gig as Lee on that occasion), the manager of the gig’s venue, and several members of the staff security team. The following day, in a separate but related incident, comedians Richard Herring, Alistair McGowan and The Actor Kevin Eldon, all of whom had worked with Lee on the 1990s TV series Fist of Fun, were also killed.

The terrorists responsible may not have been Scottish, but it seems probable that they were because they were wearing kilts, and ginger wigs of the sort Russ Abbot used to wear in the 1980s, and singing ‘O Flower of Scotland’ very badly. We may never know the full truth because they were quickly caught and shot by police after attempting to rob an off licence in Paisley.

In the days, months and years that followed, many people asked the question “why did they do it?” before concluding that it was because they were dickheads with no sense of either proportion or humour.

A smaller, but still significant, number of people asked the question “why did he do it?” with “he” in this case meaning Stewart Lee. In other words, why did Lee bait the people of Scotland by accusing their National Hero, William “Braveheart” Wallace, of being a paedophile? He must, they would argue, he must have known that, in a population of over 5 million, there would likely be a tiny minority of humourless, proportionless dickheads willing to kill to avenge any slight to their sense of identity, bound up in feelings of Scottishness and consequently threatened by a personal attack against one of their National Heroes.

By performing the “Braveheart” routine at all (the argument concludes), never mind the deliberately provocative way he performed it in front of a Scottish audience, Stewart Lee was inviting retribution upon himself and as many other innocent parties as the psychopathic dickheads could get away with.

The usual counter-argument is that Stewart Lee would have been well aware of the danger he was putting himself – and by extension an unquantifiable number of others – into by performing the routine, because he would have been aware of the attempt to silence any criticism of Scottish National Heroes by fringe groups of Scottish fanatics who had for several years been threatening violent death to anyone who used stand up comedy routines to criticise William “Braveheart” Wallace, Robert “the” Bruce, Mary “Queen of Scots” Stuart, John Knox, etc.

But if Stewart Lee and all the other stand up comedians, Scottish and non-Scottish alike, had bowed to this threat, where would it have ended? The dickheads would just have gone on to make further demands, each one less reasonable than the (already unreasonable) one before – perhaps demands for political power leading on to the enforcement of Scottish Law upon the rest of the United Kingdom, or maybe the compulsory wearing of the kilt and an obligation for schools to teach the poetry of Robert Burns in English Scottish classes.

Eventually there would have come a sticking point, an issue upon which the reasonable majority of the population – or their political representatives – would have refused to compromise. And then that would have been the pretext for the violence and the murders.
They were terrorists. They wanted to kill some people to get their way. They would always have found someone.

No comments:

Post a Comment