Bobby Friedman is co-writer, with Rupert Myers, of Corbyn the Musical.
2016 has not been an easy year in British politics. And no, I’m not just talking about Ed Balls’s travails in attempting to hoist his dance partner above his head. The British political scene is perhaps more febrile than at any other point in my lifetime, with the tone of the debate becoming increasingly nasty.
Thank our lucky stars, then, that Jeremy Corbyn still survives – a sort of political cockroach whose existence persists, even as everything else is destroyed by the nuclear apocalypse that has been this year’s Westminster news cycle.
In terms of his public appearances, though, there is still very much a political wasteland. Corbyn seems to resurface from his regular sessions of jam-making only to shout at journalists who have the temerity to ask him questions about matters of national importance, particularly if they risk trampling the plants in his front garden. An exception this week saw Corbyn praise Fidel Castro, another bearded left-wing leader who managed to cling onto power whilst ruthlessly crushing the opposition. It’s unclear what could have prompted this sudden desire to reappear for the cameras.
But, for all Corbyn’s flaws (as Corbyn himself might put it), I can’t help but feel that the Labour leader is adding enormously to the gaiety of the nation in a period where we really need something to cheer us all up. The re-election of a leader who is so obviously clueless about what it would take to become Prime Minister – and who is supported by a band of disciples with a sense of devotion that is both strangely admirable and delusional in equal measure – appears so bizarre that you can’t help but that think that everyone must be in on the joke.
Yes, there are some worrying aspects to Corbyn’s continued presence at the top of the Labour Party, such as the ongoing constitutional crisis caused by the lack of a coherent opposition. But, putting such inconsequential matters to one side for a moment, Corbyn now provides the British public with its most effective source of political humour.
As I have found when satirising JC, first in writing the political show Corbyn the Musical, which played to sold-out audiences in London earlier this year, and now in releasing a charity Christmas single from Corbyn the Musical, the funniest characters are those who take themselves the most seriously. The more flamboyant the person (think Boris Johnson, or the more deranged…hello, Mr President-Elect), the harder it is to make them truly hilarious. Yes we can joke about Boris’s numerous indiscretions and public school buffoonery, but the gags are all too obvious. When you create an exaggerated version of Trump, it’s not telling people anything that they don’t already know or fear.
But take a man who believes so sincerely in his convictions, and who cannot possibility countenance the possibility that he’s wrong, and you strike comedy gold. The first song on the 3-track EP ram-packed with songs from Corbyn the Musical is entitled: “You Needed a Hero: You Got Corbyn”, in which we imagine him as Prime Minister. You just know that the eponymous “Hero” would be far too self-believing to get the double-meaning.
Corbyn’s blindness to the ridiculousness of his situation pervades much of what he does. Whether it’s coming out with catchy soundbites, such as his recent tweet noting that we “now face the task of creating a New Britain from the fourth industrial revoluzzz…” – sorry I dropped off for a moment there – or going into bat on a very sticky wicket against Virgin Trains; or muttering in front of the cameras, “Seumas, I’m not sure this is a good idea”, all of it is hilarious. And it’s hilarious precisely because Corbyn – and his supporters – don’t realise that it’s funny.
On the Corbyn the Musical EP, we also have a song lampooning Vladimir Putin, as we imagine his heartbreak over the fate of Laika, his “brave young space dog” and the first living creature sent into orbit. Putin’s self-confidence and ludicrous machoism makes him another ripe target for satire. Also featured is a song called “Islington”, which pokes fun at Corbyn’s favourite borough. The more serious you are, the better the prospect for gags.
Only time will tell if the British people share my enthusiasm for the rich vein of Corbyn humour. At the time of writing, the EP sits top of the iTunes charts for comedy. The Christmas Number One slot may be a harder ask, but then I reckon our prospects are just as good as Jeremy Corbyn’s are for making it to Number 10.
The Corbyn the Musical Christmas single and EP are available to download on iTunes.
Physical CDs can be ordered in time for Christmas.