Ipswich: Comedian Marcus Brigstock gives power to Corn Exchange audience.
Bankers dressed as badgers, no sex before you’re 47; comedian Marcus Brigstocke invites you to re-engineer all the rubbish systems that don’t help us to be happy and to eat whatever cheese we want. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE finds out more
“I’D outlaw cheese strings. Not cool. So many great cheeses in this country; let’s not spend our time eating cheese strings,” he says as we discuss what laws he’d pass if he was prime minister.
“I would pass a law that Jeremy Clarkson has to become a vegan and ride a bicycle, because I think we’d all be better off. I think he probably eats too much red meat, looking at his swollen face and colossal ego, and let it be a warning to other right-wing libertarians. I’d reclaim the right of British people to take the **** without fear of prosecution; we’re very good at that.
“Obviously this is my own personal stuff and it’s very important I be allowed to take the mickey for the rest of time. What else would I do? There’s a number of people I’d like to silence but I won’t say that because that’s the nasty little fascist in me,” he laughs. “The more voices we have, the better things are.”
Actually, his first action as PM would be to fire himself.
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“I’m a posh boy; I went to boarding school when I was seven, so I should never be allowed near the reins of power because there’s quite enough people like me running the show as it is. I know that because I grew up with these people, I know who they are, how they think, what gets them out of bed in the morning. It’s fine some of them are in Westminster but you don’t need any more.”
New show The Brig Society takes a hard look at David Cameron’s big society concept, with audience members invited to take on ministerial positions and say “Alright, if he wants us to run more of our own stuff, what could we do and how could we do it better?”
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“Effectively I’m inviting people to heckle me and come up with better ideas than what I’ve come up with. It’s more interesting than standing cynically on the side-lines and going ‘Ooh, he’s no good’ and all the rest of it. I’m amazed by how smart audiences are.”
Brigstocke’s convinced we could make a much better fist of proper representative democracy than what he calls the load of Etonians who are telling everybody what to do.
“I appointed a minister for the elderly the other day. She was 71 – that’s my stand-up demographic; how cool is that? – and she said ‘I’d raise the age of consent to 47.’ I said ‘why?’ and she said ‘I just want to improve my odds.’ It’s genius,” laughs the comedian and broadcaster.
“I had a bloke in Somerset the other day as chancellor and I said ‘What regulation would you bring in for bankers?’ He said ‘I wouldn’t do anything, mate. I wouldn’t change anything for them except for one small thing. Each banker has to go work every morning dressed as a badger and they have to pass along a rural country lane and take their chances with the farmers’.”
Brigstocke says the audiences who’ve come along to the two-hour show have been very funny and often very angry too.
“The show looks at the austerity measures. I was in Lewisham last week, where they’re about to lose their A&E department. People there who work in healthcare, have kids or whatever... they’re properly angry, so the show is a way for people to vent some of that rage.”
It’s a chance to debate serious issues, too, says the dad-of-two. Which brings us to his second order of business after firing himself. Education.
“Bring class sizes down, remove charitable status from private education, drive as many people as possible – myself included – into the state system and improve education, because if you educate people properly, everything else is possible – everything.
“I would value teachers, allow them to teach and do the things they think are right. I’d shut all the free schools as well; the new academies and stuff. Purely because a great many of them are being set up by people who have an agenda and that tends to be a religious one. I don’t think you should divide children up along religious lines while they’re still kids. How can a seven-year-old decide they’re going to be a Catholic for the rest of their life?
“I was talking to my daughter and she said ‘Oh, I really struggled in maths... and I was too embarrassed to ask the teacher.’ I said to her ‘If you already knew everything, we wouldn’t send you to school. You’re supposed to ask a teacher; there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I don’t care whether you don’t know how to spell ‘and’. Ask, ask – that’s what it’s there for’.”
Are we standing up for ourselves more? Brigstocke thinks so, or hopes so.
Most people are working the same hours they ever did, paying the same tax, making the same contribution, but, suddenly, there’s less stuff, he adds.
“The swimming pools are being closed, the arts budgets are being withdrawn, there are fewer police, the hospitals are being closed or changed and all the rest of it; class sizes are getting bigger. People are like ‘Hang on a minute; what did we do? We’re still doing our bit.’ In all of that you’ve got the bankers and the big-city financiers still being paid an absolute fortune.
“I think people are rightly very angry and they’re asking of this Government and the previous one as well ‘Hang on a minute; you’re supposed to represent us – do a better job’, and I like that. I like that passion. That’s what lights me up; it’s why I do stand-up, and with this particular show it’s either explode or write a show – take it on the road and talk to people about it.”
The current tour runs to Christmas and then will likely get a rewrite, given its topical nature, before he hits the road with it again next year. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the sitcom he’s writing and another TV project explaining what banking and international finance is, using comedy.
“It’s why this show isn’t coming out on DVD, because there’s no point – it changes too fast. I look at all my buddies putting DVDs out and I think ‘Oh, you’re probably building a new extension at the beginning of next year’, but then I look at this and think ‘Do you know what? I’m really proud.’”
Marcus Brigstocke – The Brig Society comes to Ipswich Corn Exchange on December 13.