ED2012 COLUMN: Gareth Morinan writes us a Fringe Blog.
I am renowned comedian, intellectual and short person Gareth Morinan. I’m here to convince you of one thing – short people are not funny. Now it’s worth clarifying this because obviously not everyone got the memo about not making fun of people for their physical appearance. Many find the sight of anyone significantly smaller than average unrelentingly hilarious. I’ve had audience members heckle me before I even reach the mic, “Look how short he is! He’s bound to be funny!” Unfortunately for them, most of my comedy has nothing to do with my height.
It may seem like an odd thing to protest; after all it does arguably make my job as a comedian easier. But quite frankly I don’t like knowing that most people would find it funnier if I replaced all my whimsical intellectual humour with me dancing around on stage in a hat telling hack height jokes. Because mocking someone’s height is something that is yet to become taboo in comedy clubs, along with jokes about the fat, ugly or any mostly white nationality. The unimaginative comic who used to peddle easy sexist or racist jokes has now switched to these topics. And it’s not just the odd hack in a dank cellar; many prime time entertainment shows feature similar jokes about small people.
Though it’s not the adult audiences I’m most worried about, it’s children watching the latest Hollywood animation. The writers of these films want broadly understandable (but acceptable) jokes, so if you want to make a villain easy to mock, the best way to do that these days is making them short. The villain in the Shrek franchise is a prime example. What’s more, in it’s musical adaptation the diminutive partof Lord Farquaad was played by a man who was 6’2” (playing the part on his knees). Is this any different to black face? Obviously it is different, black face isn’t readily acceptable in theatres these days.
The problem is height is such a universally recognisable thing. When growing up, kids learn early on that more height means more strength, wisdom and responsibility. It is much easier for writers to play into those same intrinsic values than educate against them. To challenge heightism something needs to be done early on… and it isn’t.
The fact is it’s really not funny that people are short, it’s actually quite depressing when you learn the negative impacts, especially if you’re a man. More height translates to higher salaries and a better chance of getting into positions of power and respect. Less height leads to less respect, less happiness, and a much higher suicide rate. I theorise this is primarily due to the fact shorter men are less attractive to women, after all loving relationships are the secret to happiness (see nearly every piece of fiction ever written for more details).
So as a comedian I’m not at an advantage from being short, if I’m anything I’m at a disadvantage as I’m so bloody depressed from my extended singleton lifestyle. Luckily it’s well known that anyone who writes a one off article for ThreeWeeks is inundated with female attention.
I explain some of these points in my deliberately controversially titled show “Gareth Morinan explains why Ricky Gervais is a ‘mong’ for cutting Gareth Morinan out of ‘Life’s Too Short’”. The show has very little to do with my role in Life’s Too Short, or even Ricky Gervais, it’s just a elaborate ruse to lure people into a show, so I can then spend the good part of an hour ranting at them about heightism in this world.
Now I’d like to contradict myself by saying short people can be funny… but it doesn’t have to be based on cheap visual gags, slapstick, or cruelty. I find it funny to examine the short person community, or lack of. There are no loud special interest groups, no ‘short’ or ‘tall’ districts of the world. A character of mine Clive X is based on the premise of an idiotic short man trying to establish his own militant political party, based on the Black Panthas. An idea I have in production takes this one step further and imagines an entire news channel aimed at short people.
So what I’m saying is that in between trying to peddle my whimsical intellectual nonsense, I’d like to prove short people can be funny… but not in the way everyone finds them at the moment.
Gareth Morinan performed ‘Truth Doodler’ at Underbelly Bristo Square at Fringe 2012.