audio / class / culturemaking / men / reading

Escaping class, with Jarvis Cocker and Stephen Fry

’cause you think that poor is cool….

1.”It [the family home] wasn’t the kind of clichéd ooh-it’s-grim-up-north kind of vibe going on. We had quite a big garden. In fact, we were considered ‘posh’ in the area. Many years later when I moved to London and people heard my accent they suddenly thought, ‘ooh. Man of the soil’, and it was very exciting for me, after being the posh home, to be considered the street-cred working-class kid. And I probably played up to that a bit, and a think it was at that point where my accent got a bit broader than it had been in Sheffield….”

Jarvis Cocker’s Musical Map of Sheffield, 2008 (in which Cocker reads from The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844)

2. “When I first met him [Alexei Sayle] I was made acutely aware that I represented everything he most despised: public school, Cambridge and, due to the manner that I have never been able to shake off, Establishment. …

In those days, you were proud of being working-class and ashamed of being middle-class. I was desperate to be proud of being no class, of being déclassé and déraciné, of being bohemian-class, eternal-student-class, artist-class*. I missed all those by a mile and continue to this day to reek more of the Garrick Club than the Groucho Club, but that has never stopped me trying, in my doomed, futile and pointless way, to be free.

I feared that in the career sense our comic timing was way off. Not the Nine O’Clock News, with three Oxbridge performers, its ex-Footlights producer John Lloyd and its Oxford chief writer Richard Curtis was surely the last hurrah of our kind.

The house of entertainment was comprised of two families: the traditional, to which Dick Emery, Mike Yarwood, the Two Ronnies, Bruce Forsyth and the above-mentioned individuals Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, Benny Hill and Tommy Cooper belonged, and the graduate, that dynasty started by Peter Cook, which swelled to its full greatness under Monty Python and was now coming to a full stop, or so we feared, with the Not team of John Lloyd, Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, Oxbridgers all. Was the new comedy represented by Alexei Sayle, Ben Elton, French and Saunders, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonson, Keith Allen and the many others bubbling under an alternative to the first family or the second? Well, more to the second in fact…

Alexei Sayle went to Chelsea Art College and was the most Pythonesque of all the comedians with his streams of absurdist surreality and deliberately recondite frames of reference. French and Saunders met at drama school. Elton, Edmonson and Mayall had all been students at Manchester University together. …

[T]he idea of there being a group of working-class comics threatening Castle Poncey was really quite misguided. All the comedians were from the same mix of backgrounds as ever…

It is true that there was an alternative audience who were ready for something different, and their demand for the new might be said to have released the energy that was now being called ‘alternative’. Some years later Barry Cryer gave the best definition of alternative comedians I have yet to hear. ‘They’re the same only they don’t play golf.’ ”

The Fry Chronicles, pp. 205-210

*a disposition that is the inheritance of what Disco calls “the indie classes“?


One thought on “Escaping class, with Jarvis Cocker and Stephen Fry

  1. Pingback: If you lived here « Flat 7

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