Chris Coltrane (chris_coltrane) wrote,
Chris Coltrane
chris_coltrane

Lolitics: The rules of the live gig.

EDIT 14/02/2014: I've had a couple of emails from comedy clubs around the world asking if they can use these rules, after hosting nights where it all turned a bit nasty. Please do! It's awfully flattering that people like the sound of them enough to apply them to their own gig. And running a gig by "Lolitics rules" has quite a nice ring to it, don't you think

As far as I'm concerned, the rules are open-source. If you get a chance to credit me and the club then that's lovely and I'd be ever-so-grateful to you for it, but it's not a big deal if you don't. What matters is that we're making safe spaces for people to enjoy comedy, wouldn't you say?


I run a political comedy club in Camden, called Lolitics. It's super-friendly, and proudly lefty. The emphasis is on kindness, on protests and activism, on being positive and inspiring and changing the world for the better. It's also a new material night, so we try jokes for the first time, read from notes and muck about. Success is very much optional.

You may know that there are some rules to the gig. For the audience: no heckling. For the acts: no rape jokes, no racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/disablism/etc, and no picking on the audience. It's essentially a kind of enforced niceness, with the aim of creating a safe space for the acts to try new jokes, and for the audience to relax and not feel like they're going to be picked on.

There are people who are put off of going to live comedy, for fear of nastiness and bullying. Of course, not all comedy clubs are like that. In fact, I'd say very few clubs are like that. But enough of them exist to put people off going at all. This makes me very sad indeed, and I want to do something about that, by letting people know that my gig is a safe space, a place you can come to if you want to learn about the alternative. With that in mind, I thought it'd be cool to share the rules with you, which I recently wrote up to make them a bit more formal.

If you like what you see, why not come down? The gig is upstairs at the Black Heart pub in Camden, on the 3rd Tuesday of most months, except sometimes it's on Monday, and also we take July and August off. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and I'll give you the dates.

It's £3 to get in, and the line-ups are always good. Regular acts include Mark Thomas, Rob Newman, Josie Long, Bridget Christie, Andy Zaltzman, and a whole load more. We have games and jokes and competitions, and afterwards we all go to Parliament and have a revolution.

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LOLITICS: THE RULES.

Three rules about what you can't do:

1) No rape jokes. People have different definitions of what a rape joke is, so to save time, let me clarify what I'm trying to achieve: I’m trying to create a safe space for people who may have been the victim of some kind of assault, and who find jokes and conversations about rape, and even the word rape itself, triggering. So when I say “no rape jokes” I definitely mean jokes where rape is used as a punchline, but I also mean it more broadly, meaning jokes that involve the word rape. Don’t use rape as an analogy, don’t use the word lightly.
Does that mean you shouldn't mention the word rape at all? Not necessarily, but possibly. For example, you could talk about how rape crisis centres are being closed down, in a set on how the government treats women. That sort of stuff is really important to talk about. But be sensitive, be kind, be thoughtful with it. Keep the "safe space" philosophy at the front of your mind. If you're unsure, leave it. There are other things to talk about instead, I’m sure.

2) No jokes that are sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/disablist/etc. That includes stuff like “I hate the French” or jokes about the fact that someone’s ugly, calling something retarded, laughing at a politician for being overweight, etc etc. If I've missed any “-ism” out, it doesn't mean it's allowed! I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but once someone in the audience did come up to me and ask why "no disablist jokes" wasn't part of the rules I say at the start of the gig! Basically, don't be a dick.

3) Please don’t pick on the audience. That includes asking them questions one-on-one, getting them up on stage, being unkind to them. This isn’t a normal comedy club. Don’t banter with them, let them sit in peace. If you need people to join you on stage, that's totally fine - let me know before the gig, I'll get some volunteers during the interval. Loads of people will be keen to join in, I just don’t want anyone to be forced to join in. In return, the audience is also not allowed to
heckle – and trust me, you’ll have one of the loveliest audiences in London. It’s a really friendly and lovely gig, and these rules are there to keep it that way.

Rules about what you CAN do:

1) You can be as shambolic as you like. I usually am! It's a new material night; feel free to treat it like one.
-- Read from notes
-- Stumble over words
-- Tell jokes you've never told before
-- Don't be afraid to fail.
-- I can’t stress this enough: success is optional. ;)

2) Feel free to talk for a while without a joke, if there's a political point you want to make. Be impassioned. Punchlines aren't essential, especially if you've something to say that will move or inspire people.

3) Remember that it's a political gig. Forget light news/celebrity gossip. We can do better than that. And politics is broad, too. Climate change, feminism, the economy, world news, party politics, protests, science/religion etc etc - anything is on topic as long as it's meaningful.

4) Finally, all styles are welcome. Stand-up, storytelling, sketch, song, even silly absurdism that uses politics as a starting point for some abstract nonsense. Be creative if you like, or talk from the heart if you like. It’s all good. Just have fun! :)

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PS. One last thing. Occasionally, acts may get it wrong, and they might break a rule without realising it. There's a no heckling rule at the gig, but don't be shy to come up to us after the gig and have a chat if you think we've got it wrong. we're only human. Well, apart from me - I'm half human, half internet. If you cut me, I'll bleed memes.
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