Jeremy Hardy at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, November 5
“THANKYOU for coming tonight to this organised event,” quipped Radio 4 stalwart Jeremy Hardy as he stepped onto the stage on Saturday night. “Because holding a comedy event in your own back garden can be dangerous... and remember, you should never return to a comedian once lit, as it may still go off...”
For, of course, this was the fifth of November; and Hardy was in sparky mood; the touchpaper was lit, the audience were standing well back, and away he went. starting by questioning why we should celebrate the failure of a plot to bring down the monarchy. No damp squibs round here; Hardy was in incendiary mood, as he launched a barrage of sky rockets towards the Establishment,.
When Hardy last visited The Corn Exchange two years ago (if it’s November in an odd-numbered year, it must be time for Hardy’s snappily entitled Autumn Tour), I described him as “like a cup of cocoa with a dash of edgy political comedy hiding beneath the whipped cream and marshmallows.” It may be his age - now Hardy has passed the dreaded half-century landmark, he can count himself a card-carrying grumpy old man - but more likely he has been invigorated by the change of Government since his last tour. The “mild-mannered Marxist” isn’t so mild any more - transfused with a passion by intense frustration and irritation for the way the country is going.
Disappointed that the student protests of last December petered out “just as it was getting interesting, baffled by the interest in the Royal wedding, and frustrated by many of the Government’s current policies - free schools came in for a particular bashing - Hardy concluded that much of Britain’s problems came down to class divisions, which the ruling classes would never truly understand or solve effectively.
Hardy apologised if he came across as preaching, but also highlighted his frustration that he was considered by the media to be a veteran propagator of the alternative comedy of the Thatcher era. However, while ranty young men were always eventually going to get tiresome, those like Hardy that resisted being sucked in by the establishment, have found that middle age suits their outlook on life rather well, and life experience gives credence to their really quite reasonable opinions.
Not so much a cup of cocoa as a mug of gunpowder tea. Ka-boom.
(Oh, and one of his fly buttons was undone throughout the second half. The audience couldn’t see this under his untucked shirt; but he mentioned it out of concern that it would be spotted and mentioned in the local newspaper review. Wasn’t spotted, but mentioned anyway. Consider it my little bit of anarchy - I think Hardy would approve.)
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, November 10, 2011