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BLOG Standing Up For Sci-Fi

Making funny – not fun – out of the best genre there is. SFX blogger John Cooper looks at the relationship between stand-up comedy and sci-fi

Did you see this week’s Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on BBC2? If you did I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice not one but two references to Doctor Who . They weren’t negative quips poking fun either. The exact opposite in fact: a heavily ironic song that poked fun at lazy comments about the Daleks ability to get upstairs, while in the interview that peppers the stand-up show, Armando Iannucci asks Stewart Lee, “apart from the IRA who makes you proud to be British?” to which he replies “ Doctor Who ”.

Since the birth of “alternative” stand-up comedy in the early 1980s, where up Stewart Lee started, both stand-up comedy and genre television have evolved to the to the point where we fans of sci-fi have much more choice in the kind of shows we watch and the types of comedy that makes us laugh. In stand-up, all too often a club comedian would easily poke fun at the sci-fi geek, and some still do. So it’s now impressive and cool to see some of those geeks redressing the balance.

I’m not just talking about the big names like Bill Bailey. Encyclopaedic-minded Toby Hadoke, Jonny Candon, occult comic Andrew O'Neill, Josie Long and Rich Sandling are just a few comics who wear their sci-fi roots on their sleeve in their stand up routines, also I’m just coming to the end of touring with Charlie Ross and his Star Wars show.

It’s just my ego-fuelled opinion, but as stand-up comedian fans of sci-fi and genre media are more appreciative of the more eclectic end of the comedy spectrum. By nature of their open-mindedness to speculative ideas and experience in making larger “jumps” in internal logic utilised by both SF-concepts and comedian practitioners of the art of comedy, both the audience and we the performers come away winners. That can only be a good thing.