Ah, the Evening Standard. In the early nineties it was making a fortune as Londoners snapped it up on their way home. How we capitalites chuckled to ourselves as Victor Lewis-Smith told us how crap last night’s television was. Ah, Victor, we thought. You’re just like us. Witty, metropolitan, urbane, sarcastic and a bit of a dick. It didn’t matter then that this was a newspaper made by the sort of people who live in N7 and have stabling in Hertfordshire, aimed at other people who live in N7 and have stabling in Hertfordshire. It didn’t matter that the rest of London had no idea what it was wittering on about half the time and could only use its massive supplements full of Italianate villas to line budgie cages.
It didn’t matter that it gave acres of column space to socialites like Annabel Hesseltine, who each week would wring out their cloistered life experiences like dry flannels over an eggcup, invariably telling us they broke a heel on one of their Blahniks, and isn’t that a bit like the problems in the Congo.
It didn’t matter because we didn’t really have a choice. But then along came Metro, giving away badly-written news for free, and the whole game changed. Newscorp rushed to release Londonpaper, the worst newspaper that has ever lived (the front page story of issue one was an entirely made up fantasy about upskirt photo perverts).
Feeling the need to take on Murdoch’s free filth, Associated Newspapers came up with Standard Lite, which then became London Lite, and then Metro did Metro Lite, as if Metro wasn’t fucking Lite enough. And by this point everyone was wondering why the fuck they should pay actual money for a newspaper. So the Standard, and all its mounting problems, were sold for £1 to a Russian Oligarch. It is now yet another freesheet, diminished in size and now employing the daughters of the wittering idiots from N7 on half the money.
Through all this turmoil Bruce Dessau has stood firm. He pretty much IS the newspaper’s comedy coverage, and has been for ever. For this reason I have to give the paper the same score my colleague gave Dessau, minus half a pig for being in a paper still infused with the lingering pong of the Daily Mail.
Given the job of comedy scribbler back when nobody cared about comedy, Dessau is very much the elder comedy statesman these days, and he writes with the assuredness that can only be gained by experience. Unlike any other critic, Dessau knows how new a big new idea is. Usually he can tell you three people who have had the idea before. Space constraints being what they are, Dessau’s encyclopedic comedy wisdom tends to get clipped of its tone and nuance in the paper; his blog Beyond the Joke is far more valuable to those who are real comedy fans.