Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Larping & the Media: Tough Gig - Dara O'Briain

I can imagine when the producers of Tough Gig sat at their round table, planning comically hilarious set-ups for their top comedians, the list was endless; hippies, fashionistas… fantasy roleplayers

Exec 1*: "Hey you know those nutters who like to dress up as elves and dragons?"
Exec 2*: "Yeah, what losers. Why don't we send a comedian along to crack jokes at them. You know: foam ears, plastic swords, pretending to be freaky fantasy creatures. Hila~rious!"
Exec 1*: "What are they called again? Live-action roleplayers?"
Exec 2*: "No that sounds stupid, and the public don't like terms they don't understand. We'll call them fantasy roleplayers and have done!"
Exec 1*: "Brilliant, let's break for lunch and cocaine."
I imagine this is how TV producers make all their decisions. Nevertheless, when I heard there was a show about a comedian trying to 'understand' and then do a stand-up show for larpers I was terrified it would turn into an awkward train-wreck. I saw Russell Howard flirting with the one scantily elf maiden, Al Murray making 'fairy' comments about the guy in the robes, or Kevin Bishop cracking jokes about half-inching all the lammies in play… 
So when I found out it was Dara O'Briain, the sardonic but down-to-earth, Irish comic who was going to entertain us I was delighted. He is one of a handful of stand-ups performing at the moment who had the sense of humour and strength of personality to fit in with the larpers. 
Rocking the ears 'Morgan'

Having donned foam latex ears, learned a few spells, citing a former sexual fantasy roleplay of his own and becomes part of the crowd, Morgan Fairchilde strode into the encampment. O'Briain is a stand-up who never fails to make me laugh.  While he's wry and sarcastic throughout, I am struck by O'Briain's gentleness when faced with the seriousness of Rule Seven. 
There is a culture in modern comedy to be as cruel as possible about the subjects of ridicule: from the close-to-the-bone Frankie Boyle, to the downright unfunny Little Britain. There is no affection or understanding, only mockery. None of this is noticeable in O'Briain's stand-up. He only pokes as much fun as larpers poke at themselves.

Some atheists are beyond help
He has the same slip-ups that a cynical new player might run into: trying to be an atheist, picking an amusing name, even having a little private laugh at the name of the gods (Kermit, really?!) Yet, through all this he manages to have a go and even he admits that he cannot openly taunt such a friendly group of people.
While I was pleased that ITV didn't fall into the trap of scorning an unusual group of enthusiasts, I felt prouder of the larp community. Open, friendly, no signs of cliques: the players in this programme were an excellent advert for the hobby, and they paint a welcoming picture to anyone considering having a go.
Shh! He's hiding!
Overall O'Briain is amused by larpers (let's face it, we have a pretty amusing pass time), but never resorts to cliches or jeering. Aside from the obligatory 'fantasy roleplay sounds like a sex thing' joke - O'Briain managed to deliver laughs with his fresh, original routine. 
Of course in Tough Gig, the aim of the show is to appeal to a very niche audience. However, I saw this programme long before gaining a deep interest in larp and it was still funny then. My knowledge of the area has only made me appreciate the humour more. While the series was not successful or recommissioned, this 'fantasy roleplay' special is a rare, factual and gentle example of media attention on the larping community.

Watch it now!

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