Latitude 2009

Latitude: Jeremy Hardy

Michael Bonner

Hey, just a quick one as I’m on a timetable to get to Bat For Lashes in about 25 minutes, but I’ve just got back from seeing Jeremy Hardy in the Literary Arena, and wanted to get something up online sooner rather than later.

My Latitude highlight last year was seeing the Just A Minute team record an edition of the show in the Radio 4 Arena. I am, I have to admit, something of a Radio 4 fan, and Hardy’s work on The News Quiz and I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue are part and parcel of my non-work life. Anyway. It’s a strange coincidence, but on my way back from The Pretenders, I caught about 5 minutes of Mark Thomas’ set in the Comedy Arena. Thomas and Hardy are both very left-wing comedians, as you perhaps know. But while Thomas is a great trickster – using stunts and ruses to expose politicians, corporations and the like into revealing their true colours – Hardy is a more measured figure. I’m reminded, perhaps, of Bill Hicks – inasmuch as both of them strike me as what you might broadly describe as enraged liberals. Folk who’ve been driven to comment, often pretty angrily, by the injustice, intolerance and general ineptitude of the establishment.

It’s interesting, perhaps, that Hardy is one of the generation of “alternative” comedians to break out of the Eighties who’s now a regular fixture of Radio 4 (yes, sorry, back to that… but do please bear with me). A cursory glance of the 6.30pm or 11.30pm comedy slot will reveal the likes of Paul Merton, Jack Dee, Sandi Toksvig, the mighty Arthur Smith have gone from the nascent comedy circuit to become, effectively, part of the establishment themselves, to some degree. This isn’t necessarily something that’s lost on any of them (I steer you, at this point, to Smith’s brilliant autobiography, My Name Is Daphne Fairfax, which makes a point of addressing that) – and, particularly, it’s something that Hardy tonight is all too happy to talk about himself.

Hardy’s set, for the most part, is an hour long extension of the kind of well-reasoned and articulate mini-rants he delivers on The News Quiz. He talks, for the most part, about the issues de nos jour that he finds either most perplexing or troubling. So, we touch on the BBC’s obsession with the white working classes in documentaries, immigration, prejudice (he admits to his own, peculiar, prejudice about Australians, which is hilarious), and terrorism. “Terrorism,” he explains in that conversational, slightly geeky voice of his, “is now homegrown. But it’s not organic. They use fertiliser.” A nice jab, perhaps, at the left-wing Stoke Newington masses who you might assume are his natural constituency these days. Certainly, the Literary Tent is packed out with the grey brigade and pram-toting parents. He speaks eloquently and entertainingly about the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting at Stockwell tube, and the “criminal lack of evidence - but I felt it in my water bill.” And, as to Boris Johnson’s sacking of Sir Ian Blair from his position as head of the Metropolitan police: “I didn’t know whose side I wasn’t on.”

Brilliant stuff. Anyway, off to Bat For Lashes. Back later.


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