Performer: Tom Neenan
Photograph by: James Deacon
Show: It’s Always Infinity
Venue: Underbelly Bristo Square
Promoter: Berk's Nest in association with Ebdon Management
Online: Box Office

 

Tell me about your Edinburgh show.

It’s sort of a show within a show. I play a version of me who has created an Edinburgh show in response to my girlfriend’s sudden disappearance. It’s about toxic masculinity and examines issues such as the Metoo movement through the prism of me being an absolute dick-wad.

 

Tell me about your first gig.

An open mic night. I did five minutes of not very good jokes and it went ok. Sorry not to have a better story.

 

Do you have any rituals before going on stage?

Check fly. Sip water. Chew banana. Check fly again. Panic.

 

Tell me about your best and worst review.

My worst review was at University and just said “Tom Neenan wasn’t funny”. No getting around that one. No finding the positive ion that bit of prose. My favourite review was from Doctor Who and Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat who after seeing my show in 2015 said it was like I was doing a whole episode of Doctor Who on my own.

 

During this Edinburgh run, do you plan to read reviews of your show?

I’ll probably try and be ‘aware’ of reviews but I won’t be obsessing over every word. I hope they are positive. My biggest fear is that I’m not getting the message of the show across. That’s where reviews can be a helpful benchmark.

 

How do you feel about reviewers generally?

I’d give them three stars.

 

In April 2018, YouTube comedian, Markus Meechan (aka Count Dankula) was fined £800 for training his girlfriend’s pug dog to do a Nazi salute with its paw, in response to the phrase ‘Gas the Jews’. Do you believe Meechan committed a criminal offence, and why?  

Woah. That’s a big meaty question to pop in the middle of this little Edinburgh pro-mo interview. I like it. Keeps me on my toes. This is a big topic and one I probably change my mind on a lot. I tell you what. I sometimes do script editing work for scripted radio and TV shows. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll write the email of script editing advice I would have sent to Markus Dankula is he had asked for feedback on his bantz-tastic anti-Semitic dog vid. Hopefully that’ll answer this question in the time and detail it deserves. Here goes…

 

Dear Dank,

Thanks for sending me your video of your dog doing a Nazi salute when you say ‘Gas the Jews’. I understand you did this to annoy your girlfriend. Well I hope it worked, because that – for some reason – would be hilarious. With regards to my thoughts and whether you should post it I have tried to arrange my thoughts in a helpful list.

  1. It’s probably good to remember the context in which your Mega-LOLz joke will be seen. In the video you say you want to turn your dog into ‘the least cute thing you could think of.’ For me as a viewer I would want you to assure me slightly more that you found the Nazis abhorrent. ‘Least cute’ doesn’t go far enough for me in terms of identifying Nazism as completely counter to your way of thinking and thus it’s easy for your perceived motives to become muddied. In as much as – imagine a current day American neo-Nazi watching this video. I doubt many of them would self-identify as ‘cute’ therefore it would be possible for them to watch this video and not find it critical of their way of thinking in any way. In fact it would be possible for a current day Neo-Nazi to simply see their views echoed back to them in an adorable fashion. So before you post it, maybe keep in mind who the target audience for this video is.
  2. I get that “Sieg Heil” element of the video. Haha dog Nazi, classic-Dank. But asking your dog ‘do you want to gas the Jews?’ is another element that an audience may find trips them up and impedes the laugh. Once again I am thinking about this purely from a comedic stand point and trying to divorce this from the historical horrors you are evoking. Firstly, we’ve moved from the German to English language. So, the Second World War German Nazi you were turning your dog into no longer applies. You are now just an English man asking your dog if he approves of genocide in a sing-songy voice. Once again it may pay to evaluate the context in which this video will be seen. Is this ‘joke’ enough of a twist on actual scenarios it’s possible to envisage of actual Neo-Nazis desensitising themselves and those around them to the foul nature of their belief system by voicing it through crude humour and baby-talk.
  3. So the route of the humour is that a ‘cute’ dog is a Nazi. Once again, great stuff Count. In that case I’d cut the whole ‘do you want to gas the Jews?’ element of the video. Partly because the dog isn’t even responding to you in this part of the video and in other parts it looks up at you. But because it is a pug it appears to have a permanent frown. If the core idea of this video is to turn a dog into a Nazi, probably don’t include a bit where the dog doesn’t respond to Nazi ideas or reacts in a negative way towards them. In fact – because we are already in the arena of applying human characteristics to dogs – the video appears to be showing the dog trying to distance itself from these ideas or actively responding negatively to them. What we are then left with is a man saying ‘gas the Jews’ which left on its own has very little to differentiate it from people for whom this is their actual belief.
  4. You show the dog watching a video of Adolf Hitler but most of the time the dog isn’t looking at the screen. I realise this is because the screen is bright and the dog’s proximity to the screen is probably hurting its eyes, but I’d lose this bit.
  5. Overall I’d just hang a question mark over your reliance on anti-Semitism in this video. Over time the Nazis of the Second World War have been ridiculed many times. Their uniforms, their hair, their obsession with ritual. It feels like you may be leaning to heavily on possibly the least amusing aspect of 30’s and 40’s Nazism. I’m surprised you didn’t give the dog a little uniform or a little moustache. Or make it march to Ode To Joy. Instead you’ve priorities the two elements of Nazism which still tragically linger to this day, shouting racial hatred and the Nazi salute. And it’s probably because they both linger that they are the aesthetic trappings of Nazism which are criminal offences. You can wear a Nazi uniform or have a Hitler moustache, and while you may cause offence I believe you can’t be arrested. Just ask Richard Herring and Prince Harry.
  6. Maybe clean your flat up a bit? Its distracting.

 

Are there any subjects that are not suitable for comedy?

I don’t really try to push any buttons with my comedy. I’m not aiming to be ‘edgy’. It’s possible jokes I’ve made in the past I’d look back on now and wince, but that’s part of developing in comedy I suppose.

 

Have you ever gone too far?

I don’t really try to push any buttons with my comedy. I’m not aiming to be ‘edgy’. It’s possible jokes I’ve made in the past I’d look back on now and wince, but that’s part of developing in comedy I suppose.

 

Looking back over your time as a comedian, tell me about the best gig of your career.

Hopefully I haven’t had it yet.