From The Bard to The Beard

Apologies for the brief pause in transmission; I was busy growing older, and decided to celebrate my ageing with more than a few drinks. Thankfully, that’s all in the past now.

Whilst I was away, the tides of news broadcast continued to flow,  with almost daily misadventures both here in the Good Auld Kingdom of Unity, and abroad in the Good Auld US of goddam A.

But if this weekend of mournful celebrations taught me one thing, perhaps invaluably, it is that in the face of drama, a bit of lighthearted humour can be as important to our sanity as action. The week – as with every week at the moment in our ever-bemusing world – was what any dramatists out there might call “farcical”…

The Farce Show

The Oxford Online Dictionary – hats off to Doctor Johnson, by the way- defines a farce as:

“A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”

(The word, oddly enough, comes from the 16th Century, and is derived from the French word farcir, meaning “to stuff”. It still holds that meaning, but in modern usage can also mean “to be stuck with”, as in “We got stuck with this Prime Minister even though she wasn’t elected”, or “We got stuck with this President even though he lost the popular vote.” There’s more examples, I’m sure.)

In many ways the purpose of farcical theatre is to “stuff” as much plotline into the play as possible, with multiple, often diverting twists and turns in almost every scene. Good examples include Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, or the sitcom Fawlty Towers. By bemusing the audience, the result is intentionally one of abject humour, in which spectators guffaw at the ludicrous improbability of what’s going on, and hopefully leave feeling entertained, but also more than a little smug that their lives are not half as chaotic as the characters’.

If this sounds familiar, that will either be because you’ve seen a farcical play before, or because you, well, follow politics, and are bombarded with the farcical every day.

Take this week’s America debacles, for example…

Deny, deny, deny

One of the top Whitehouse officials, US National Security Adviser Lieutenant Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after a confusing couple of months spent deciding whether he had or had not spoken to Russian officials before Donald Trump’s inauguration. When the accusations first surfaced, he (and Russia for that matter) vehemently denied any such conversations taking place – presumably because it would be illegal for a private citizen, as he then was, to conduct any kind of diplomatic conversation on behalf of the US.

In November last year, he denied having close ties to Russia, but by 28th December he had exchanged Christmas texts with  Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Quite heartwarming, if it weren’t for what then unfolded.

Continuing to deny any diplomatic involvement, Flynn then had a phonecall with the same Russian Ambassador just the day after President Obama had introduced fresh sanctions against Russia.  Doesn’t look great, but he continued to deny anything dodgy was going on.

In January, the Vice President Mike Pence appeared on national television to confirm that Flynn had not discussed anything dodgy, presumably in an attempt to add validity to the claim. Although Pence adding validity to any claim is in itself obviously fairly comical.

By February, allegations were mounting, but Lt. Michael ‘Fred Flynnstone’ Flynn, Donald Rumpsteak, Sean Spicey (the unlucky press secretary who always get stuck with the worst jobs), and again Mike Pencil were all busy denying such things. That is, until one of Trump’s top advisors conducts a sudden U-Turn and refuses to  deny such things.

Within a couple of days, the noble Lieutenant had resigned his position, with this fantastically confusing quote:

“I inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador”

Phew! I know, I know, I was lost about halfway through there as well. 

But it wasn’t quite over yet. Almost as if he was intentionally trying to detract from this farcical chaos, Trump ended the week by inventing a Swedish terror attack whilst speaking at a rally*. That’s right – he invented a terror attack.

The upside of this was that it produced some great internet memes, including this wonderful tweet from @JeannaLStars (artwork produced by @Der_Postillon):

Truly inspired.

Meanwhile, back in the U-OK?

 Theresa Mayday had been busy watching the 1974 classic The Godfather Part II – or at least we presume as much, given her behaviour in the Upper Chamber of Westminster. 

The governments’ Brexit Bill, having made it through two days of debate in the House of Commons without picking up so much as a scratch, finally reached the House of Lords. To ensure its continued safe passage through the democratic process, and in a fairly unprecedented move, our Theresa turned up unexpectedly to sit in and silently intimidate the debaters.

In her own moment of Corleone-inspired mischief, she sat seething as the opening statements were read.

Unfortunately being a Prime Minister is apparently busy work, so she had to awkwardly shuffle out after a half hour or so. But still, the sentiment was there. 

Meanwhile in the twittersphere leader of the Green Party and all round champ Caroline Lucas got into a wonderfully farcical online battle royale with darling of the “I’m not racist I tell it like it is’s”, Kate Hopkins. Katie HoppingMadkins had accused Caroline Lucas of wasting public time and money debating the Trump visit, and after some back and forth the public argument ended with this classically British passive aggressive arse-kicking:

And to round it off, we imagine arse-kicking was very much on the mind of one Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP. In a similar fashion to Flynnstone, Utterly Nuttally had got himself into hot water over claims that he had close friends that died in the Hillsborough disaster. (He didn’t, for the record). This was just after he had got into hot water after falsely claiming he had a PhD. (He doesn’t, for the record). Which was in turn just after he got into hot water after falsely claiming he was associated with some charities. (He wasn’t, for the record). 

But Hillsborough was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and resulted in two of his Liverpool UKIP colleagues resigning in a fairly damning passive aggressive letter that included the phrases “intolerable” and “crass insensitivity”. 

All this whilst Utterly Nuttally is  fighting for for his first seat in Parliament in the Stoke by-election. Is an arse-kicking on the horizon? Voters go to the polls today, so we shall see.

But What’s Beards Got To Do With It?

Absolutely nothing.

Honestly, if you’ve made it to the end of this incredibly waffly post and kept up with the farcical theatre piece that is Politics, then you deserve, as I mentioned, a decent light-hearted  guffaw and to feel good about yourself. So here’s a piece of local news from my old hometown, Brighton, which quite frankly makes the world a better place:

 Right, time for a lie down I think. 




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