Monday, 22 December 2008

Hark! The Herald An... Oh, Wait...

I don't believe in them, do I?

For the last few days I have been suffering with yet another cold, like most of London. I have been puffy of eye, impacted of sinus and snotty of nose. My fellow commuters have been staring at me with horror lest I cough over them, almost as bad as if I'd been bleeding from my eyes with the Ebola virus. I am, thankfully, better today, in time for the holidays.

Unlike my nasal congestion, I have been trying not to be too snotty about religion at this most godly (well, for the majority religion of this country) time of year. My own opinions are very strongly atheist, but I do make an effort most of the time not to foist them on people. I honestly don't care what anyone else believes, as long as they don't try to convert me or give me no option but to do things religiously. As an aside, I randomly found out this weekend that it is former Conservative MP and generally orange person Gyles Brandreth I have to thank for pushing forward the law to allow non-religious weddings in this country, during his time in office back in the '90s. Who'd have thought?

I do reserve the right to be highly critical of religion in my own home, and on this blog, which I really see as an extension of my lounge. But I won't enter into a conversation with anyone about it in public, unless they start it. But then, who does, in England? We're all far too polite. I rarely assume anyone has any firm religious feelings anyway, unless they bring it up, and it certainly doesn't affect my opinion of them otherwise.

However from time to time I will indulge myself by hanging out with the militant atheist crowd, which is how I found myself, armed with plenty of tissues, at Eight Lessons and Carols for Godless People on Thursday night at the Bloomsbury Theatre. This was billed as an alternative evening of celebration at this time of year where traditionally one would find oneself in church. Various comedians were billed, alongside the man who would be god if we had one, Professor Richard Dawkins. Aside from that, I had no idea what to expect.

The problem was, I don't think the organisers really knew either. What we ended up with was a three-hour-long variety show. Many, many comedians came on. All except the very famous ones got about a minute on stage. There were a couple of musical numbers, none of which were very good - one problem being that it's hard to sustain a musical comedic number for very long. The unfunny answer is to veer off into a whole other song ("Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band in one notable case) or keep trying to come up with more verses. This is why Mitch Benn does it so well, he keeps them short and knows when to stop.

Of the comedians, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee and Natalie Haynes were all very funny. Tim Minchin was awesome, as he always is. But I must register my strongest possible objection to Ricky Gervais. The Office was great, and I've heard Extras was pretty good, but as a stand-up? Appalling. Seriously offensive. Jokes about raping an old woman with Alzheimer's on the basis that no-one will believe her, and about a father wanking over his young daughter's report of being molested in a park, are unjustifiable and (better or worse depending on your viewpoint) not even funny. Seriously, the man is supposed to be a national treasure, taking British comedy to the world? If so, I hope they don't let him get up on stage, or our international reputation is ruined.

Simon Singh and Richard Dawkins, of course, spoke brilliantly, but then they always do which is why we go to see them speak elsewhere for more than five minutes. The compere, Robin Ince, was very funny, full of the kind of scientific jokes about Richard Feynman that I love, and attacks on evil bitch Ann Coulter (yes, that's Dickipedia, the encyclopaedia of dicks) but it was a bit ruined by hearing him on the radio yesterday using all the same jokes. It always disappoints me when I realise that comedians aren't making it all up on the spur of the moment just for me. I never buy comedy DVDs for that reason. Some of the other acts were OK, others were pretty terrible.

The weird thing was, only a few of them were about Christmas/celebration/religion. Some were just nothing to do with it. There was even a fair bit of shoe-horning in of other "issues" - see the very funny rant on breeders with a sense of entitlement just for having babies, and a wholly unfunny (on purpose) discussion of access to AIDS medication in South Africa. Now, I agree fully with the points made in both of those, but not really what I was expecting.

And there were no songs! It's not a carol service without a bit of a singalong. Looks like I'm going to have to hypocritically go along to midnight mass again this year.

We were all issued with a free copy of New Humanist magazine, which I hadn't heard of before and probably won't be buying again on the basis that it's too dull and worthy for words. On my way home, I happened to sit down on the bus next to an older lady also clutching a copy so we got to talking about the event (her opinion matched mine: too long, too hot in the theatre, about half of it good and half not). She then produced a card and strongly encouraged me to join the National Secular Society. Uh, how is this different from a Jehovah's Witness trying to recruit me? Luckily conversation moved on to the air-time given to religion on Radio 4 (Thought for the Day, I'm talking about you, because I don't want god with my cornflakes and news broadcasting) and then I escaped the bus.

So for all of you celebrating one thing or another over the next few weeks, even if that's only getting some time off work and the opportunity to stuff yourself with Terry's Chocolate Orange, I leave you with my little light-up USB Christmas tree from my cubicle at work:


(Off to my parents' place now for the festive season, so blogging will be limited.)


Denise said...

wow the fun stuff you get to do in London. I'm sure there is similar fun to be had in nearlby Washington DC if I wasn't too mommied up to participate ;P
Enjoy Festivus (Seinfeld? No? Google it)- I think that's the perfect holiday for you

Roland Hulme said...

You're a redhead AND an athiest? You officially rock, Ginger Lucy.

stash haus said...

That is some very disappointing info on Ricky Gervais. I love The Office - both the British and American versions - haven't seen Extras yet, but that on my queue of DVDs to rent. But I've never heard him doing stand up - and now am very happy for that fact.

Sorry you didn't get your fill of seasonal music. I must say - I've been to Evensong at St. Paul's, Westminster, and Yorkminster. Even if you don't believe, I can believe it's quite the show on Christmas - and, oh, I can only imagine the music! That's the reason I go - to hear the choirs and the fine organists play.

Happy Christmas, Lucy! Figure I'm safe wishing you that as you've got a tree in your cubicle! ;-) Have a lovely holiday with the family.