You avin’ a laugh?

This week, Ricky Gervais unveiled short trailers for his new, one-off comedy-drama, Derek, much to my excitement. I am a huge Gervais fan, and have enjoyed virtually everything he’s done from the Office to An Idiot Abroad. Gervais is, in my opinion, the greatest British comedian since John Cleese, and his substantial awards collection and him being chosen to host the Golden Globes three years running backs up my opinion. What makes him so great is his ability to take his comedy to the edge, makes us question ‘can he really say that?’, while also creating memorable, multi-dimensional characters that make us laugh and pull on our heart strings.

Whenever Gervais unveils a new project, there comes the inevitable backlash of those offended by the topic, blasting him for even dreaming of making a comedy from a sensitive subject. Derek, from what we’ve seen in the trailers, uses his trademark ‘mockumentary’ style to tell the story of a man who appears to be, shall we say, mentally challenged. He lives (or works?) in an old people’s home and has a gang of oddball friends, including Douglas, brilliantly portrayed by the bottomless comedy pit that is Karl Pilkington.

Douglas and Derek, played by Pilkington and Gervais

The title character is played by Gervais himself, a character he has used in stand-up routines and youtube skits previously, by crossing his eyes, donning an awful hairdo and putting on an overbite. On first glance, it could be easy to come to the conclusion that Gervais is making fun of people who have any sort of mental disability to gain a cheap laugh. I, however, do not believe this is the case.

Looking back at Ricky’s earlier television work, he has dealt with sensitive issues like this many times. The Office deals with what is deemed politically correct, we see David Brent desperately trying, and failing, to be politically correct. Extras has scenes where Andy Millman mocks a woman with cerebral palsy (thinking she’s drunk, unaware of her condition) and complains in a restaurant about the noise level of a boy with down’s syndrome (again, unaware of his condition). Life’s Too Short deals with how people react to little people in society. No where in any of these shows does Gervais outright mock these people, the humour comes from the situations that arise when someone is uncomfortable. It’s an instance that happens to most people in society, not quite knowing what is the appropriate way to react to a sensitive situation.

I’m sure Derek will have a similar theme. Gervais is not the kind of person who will discriminate and mock someone who is defenseless, and I’m sure an institution like Channel 4 would not dare broadcast something that simply pokes fun and those with disabilities.

Since the reveal of these trailers, many have questioned Gervais’ morals here, perhaps going too far. The point I want to make in this post is not simply to show how much I love Ricky Gervais, but to address the issue of what is right and wrong when it comes to comedy. I believe that a joke can be made about anything. Now, I’m not encouraging things such as racism, sexism, or any other ‘ism’ for that matter (ism’s are not good, to quote Ferris Bueller), I’m simply saying that we should be able to make comedy out of anything, as long as it comes from the right place.

Comedy can come from a good or a bad place*. If you are simply making a joke to laugh AT someone, to pick on and belittle someone that cannot help who or what they are, then that is wrong. However, I firmly believe that making light of a situation can be the best way to deal with it, as long as you’re not discriminating. I believe everyone should be treated equally, therefore I think comedy should be equal. If we get to a point where we say ‘you cannot make a joke about that’, then surely we’re not being equal. Just as long as we’re not discriminating, singling anyone out unfairly. Back to Derek, sure, a man with mental disabilities is being used for comedy, but the short trailers clearly show that it is not just poking fun at him for being different, it is just a cultural context/background used to address things such as current society’s obsession with fame and wanting to be on telly (a theme prominent throughout Gervais’ TV and stand-up).

I’m saying all this before I’ve even seen the show, who knows, perhaps this will be the most disgusting piece of abuse ever put on television, but I can assure you it wont be. Comedy should be found in any context or situation, its what makes us human. As long as the comedy comes from a good place, and is not from someone who genuinely feels they are above someone. We are all equal, no matter what race, beliefs, abilities we may or may not have, therefore we should all have the right to make jokes, as long as we’re willing to take a joke back (i have gross feet and can’t dance, come at me, bro).

And remember, just because you’re offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right*.

T

EDIT:

*Some of the arguments I have made have been pulled directly from quotes from Ricky himself, I do not take credit for these, was purely using them for arguments sake. I was not expecting such a large response, and regrettably did not properly reference him. Apologies and thank you for your comments

T

Crawley Down

Being a Crawley Town fan has been one hell of a journey. This journey began in November, 2002. I was 11 years old, obsessed with all things Manchester United and, especially, David Beckham. I was their biggest fan, despite having never been to any of their games and did not have the luxury of Sky Sports to follow their every move. Everything changed on a Tuesday night, where my Dad invited me to come along to watch Crawley Town play Tiverton Town in the first round of the FA Cup. Late night football? On a school night? I was thrilled. Now, I had seen Crawley play before, they were a mid table Dr. Martens league (now Conference South) side, they played in red, were down the road, but I never paid too much attention to them.

We arrived at the Broadfield Stadium on cold winter night, and I was immediately encapsulated by the atmosphere, the sounds of chanting (they were using swear words! amazing!), the aroma of weak tea and fags and the gripping cold on my face are sensations that I will never forget. Then the game started, and in a flash we were two nil down thanks to two goals from Richard Pears (funny how you remember names, the twat). Suddenly the romance had gone, why support these guys? They suck. Then the extraordinary happened, the magic of the cup if you will, as the reds bounced back with two goals, game on, this was exciting. With three minutes to go, my IT teacher, Warren Bagnall, popped up from off the bench to poke home the winner. Ecstasy.

I was in love, and on that night I pledged my allegiance to the ‘other’ Red Devils. On the way home, my Dad asked ‘so who would you support if Crawley drew Man U in the Cup?’ Good question. I thought about it for a second, then turned and said ‘Don’t be silly, Dad’.

Fast forward 9 years. I’m sitting in the back of my girlfriend’s dad’s car. I barely knew the man, but there we were listening to the 5th round draw of the FA Cup. Crawley were a much stronger force now, having been gifted with a huge investment from a mysterious Far-Eastern source, we high flying high at the top of the Conference table, the Football League was on the horizon, and we had just beaten giants Derby County and Torquay United to earn our place in the pot for the draw. This was an incredible achievement, but everyone only wanted one thing… Manchester United, at Old Trafford. When I heard United’s name being drawn my heart was in my mouth, and then it happened. Manchester United vs Crawley Town. The FA Cup. I instantly phoned my Dad, I had very clear answer now to the question he asked me all those years ago.

Inches away from doing the unthinkable

We lost that game, but went on to win the Conference with a record-smashing points tally. Project Promotion part 2 began the next season, and the success continued. Top of the league, another great cup run, the dream continued.

So here we are now, and things have taken a slightly sour turn. I write this having just found found out we have sold our top scorer, Tyrone Barnett, less than a month after letting our other top scorer, Matt Tubbs, leave for his home town club, Bournemouth. This news comes on the back of 3-0 battering from our promotion rivals Swindon Town and a disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of Premier League side Stoke City.

Now many of you may think I’m being ridiculous complaining about the situation we’re in, and being too greedy. But that’s what happens when a club in Crawley’s situation whips the fans up into a frenzy. My greatest concerns are, however, with the way in which this club is managed and represented to the world. Obviously we have gained a lot of recognition from the world of football (more people watched Man U v Crawley in China than there are people in England), some positive, and  some negative. I desperately want Crawley to be recognized  as a well established team that deserves to be in League One, not just some minnows that got their time in spotlight before blowing their cash and bowling out in a fit of laughter. As the season goes on, my desire to become taken seriously as a club is becoming less and less achievable.

My chief concern is towards our manger, Steve Evans. Some love him, some despise him, I’m part of the latter. He worries for a couple of reasons. The first is his actual tactical knowledge of the game. It seems to me that he has spent far too much time idolizing Sir Alex Ferguson, and not enough time worrying about tactics. Our success thus far is NOT down to him, with the squad we had last year, any Tom, Dick or Harry could have gotten us the exact same success. OK, that may be a little harsh, but allow me to point out a couple of examples where I feel his tactical knowledge (or lack of) of the game lets us down. First, Crewe Alexandra vs the Reds last December. With all respect to Crewe, this is a game we should be winning comfortably if we think we’re going up this year. Crewe put up one hell of a fight, and got a surprise early lead. We fought back, however, and were fortunate enough to have a man advantage  before the break after a red was shown for a bad tackle on Sergio Torres. We capitalised on this and drew level shortly after. As we came back for the second half, we were in a great position to snatch up all three points and be top over Christmas. However, Steve must have thought this would be easy, and we kept hoofing the ball into the box and hoping it to bounce off someone’s arse into the goal. Crewe saw right through this, defended us well and could have even snatched a winner on the break. The game ended 1-1, what a missed opportunity. No one seemed to consider that Crewe would switch to ultra defensive and hold onto a point. There was no plan B on our part, and it cost us dearly.

Is this really the man we want in charge?

Another example is our most recent game at home to Stoke. Now some of you must think I’m mad to think we could beat a Premier League team, but considering we were at home with a boisterous crowd behind us AND with Stoke down to 10 men, we were in with a shout. However, once again we were let down by the poor tactical decisions made by Steve, and lost 2-0 through two very soft goals. Everyone knows that Stoke are arguably the best team in the air, and yet again we were constantly hoofing the ball into the area and hoping. There was no switch of play or urgency, despite the hole in Stoke’s midfield being visible from space. I feel that these tactical errors are going to cost us in the run in to the end of the season, and fear that we may not even make it to the play offs at this rate. The league we’re in is very tricky, anyone can beat anyone, and we’re going to need to play more than hoofball.

The other thing that really grinds me about Evans is just his general demeanor on and off the pitch. Take the Stoke game, jumping up and down on the pitch forcing the ref to send off Delap? Despicable and utterly disrespectful to Tony Pulis’s side.  Evans is a man with a big mouth, he’s a huge (in more ways than one) character, which is good for the sport, but the way he conducts himself is embarrassing for the club; falsely accusing other managers of racial abuse, refusing to talk to the BBC for no apparent reason and getting sent to the stands on numerous occasions are some of many incidents that damage the clubs reputation.

Stoke were given too much of an easy ride at Crawley

I strongly feel new management is needed, to ensure we get promotion, and to earn us a little respect.

I understand that my words are strong towards the man, and who am I to complain about the situation we’re in? But these are just things that I’ve noticed over the past few months that have really made me fear for our future. Having sold Barnett, we’ve lost the two men that got us in this situation. He and Tubbs scored 33 goals between them, which shows that we don’t have many other attacking options in the squad. Sure, we’ve signed some new strikers, but how do we know they can hit form in time and get us the results we need? We fans have been constantly assured that we are not a selling club, and yet in a matter of weeks we have cashed in before our goal was even completed. Other teams will take note of course, and I fear the worst.

Perhaps I will be made to eat my words come the end of the season, and I would love that to happen. And maybe I am being a little too harsh, I’m sure the 11 year old me would be disgusted at my petty complaints, as we have achieved more than I could possibly have dreamed of. Though I do stand firm on the fact that we need a new manager (a proper one at that, not some wheeler-dealer playing dress up)

if we are to progress as a club, and I hope it happens soon.

 

T