LONDON EVENING STANDARD / BEYOND THE JOKE BLOG
Bruce Dessau is a strange sort of fish. Comedians of every stripe (that’s woolly liberal to militantly liberal, if we’re honest) want to court his favour and his opinions, even though everything he is and everything he can bestow was sprung from the wellspring of Lord Dacre’s bumhole. I used to wonder why this didn’t put comedians off wanting to court his favour, but then I remembered that pretty much all comedians would sell their mothers for a chance at an advert for J-Cloths, or to present a clip programme full of people shitting their pants.
The Evening Standard is the proud property of Eugeny Lebedev now, or course. And now, as ever, Dessau’s tenure on the Evening Standard is a blessing and a mercy. By his own admission he drifted into the job (from collecting dustbins) and learned as he went. He is an evolved fossil from the days when comedy was held in such low esteem that no real hack wanted to have to deal with it.
Dessau still writes like a normal person. He doesn’t linger too long over constructing clever sentences or even avoiding the odd cliché. Ivo Graham, for example, “…plays on his butter-wouldn’t-melt appearance, but it works. Though I wonder how it would go down at the Comedy Store on a Saturday night. Like Jack Whitehall he does not hide his poshness. Well, not much. When he talks about his boarding school he does not mention that it was a little place called Eton…” The result is never less than engaging. Even (to use the tabloid term) conspiratorial. You and me, we’re mates. I’ll tell you what we think of Ivo Graham.
To be honest, Graham was lucky to get a review out of Dessau. Dessau rarely troubles himself to consider anyone, these days, who has not risen some way above the madding crowd. You won’t find Dessau down the Red Lion on a Thursday night trying to identify the Next Big Thing. Dessau will wait until something is vaunted as the Next Big Thing, and then he’ll look at it askance and say to us “Really? Next Big Thing, is it? I’m not sure about that.” He’s not a kingmaker, and I seriously doubt whether he has given a poster quote to anyone who really NEEDS a poster quote in the last 15 years. Dessau is the appendix of comedy: an integral part of it, of course, but he could be removed via day surgery and the whole thing would function just as well tomorrow.
To his credit, perhaps, Dessau doesn’t have much social intercourse with the comics that are his livelihood – even though he disarmingly calls himself a ‘parasite’ (and for that you have to love him). His work thus remains unassailed by the gossip and rumours and mutterings of conspiracy that effect most of his peers. Not, we suspect, that Dessau would care anyway. It really is about the job with him.
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