Seinfeld takes up hip-hop and Rowan Atkinson takes on the law – and wins

Also in this week's comedy news: Ricky Gervais gets called a 'bad standup' – and what's a 'pricket bat'?

This week's comedy news

Standup, sitcom, gameshow, podcast … now Jerry Seinfeld is taking up hip-hop. According to reports, the comedian is working on a new album with the Nigerian-American rapper Wale. The musician has previous history with Seinfeld, having released an album back in 2008, The Mixtape About Nothing, based on the star's hit sitcom. Now, they're collaborating. "Wale called me, he came to my show, we hung out a little bit," Seinfeld said in a video posted on YouTube. "He wanted me to do something with him. I didn't understand it, but he did." At which point Seinfeld concluded: "Hip-hop's words, right? So, I do words. Why don't you take my words and do something with it?" he asked Wale. "I don't know how to do it, but I thought: just take the words." A place on the stage of a new festival may now beckon for Jerry, as Tenacious D launch the Festival Supreme, a new one-day event uniting rock and comedy. One half of Tenacious D, the actor Jack Black, has named Flight of the Conchords, Spinal Tap and Tim Minchin as acts likely to play the 19 October gig.

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The government's proposed Public Order Act has been amended after a campaign by comedian Rowan Atkinson, who claimed that the sanction against "insulting words or behaviour" was a threat to free speech. Home Secretary Teresa May told the House of Commons last week that the government would not overturn an amendment supported by the Lords last December, which sought to remove the word "insulting" from Section 5 of the act, as part of the crime and courts bill. Atkinson's argument had been that "the clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult." Speaking of which, a Thai activist and comedian, Jeng Dokchik, has been jailed for two years for insulting the monarchy in a 2010 speech.

The comic actor Greg Hemphill also has his campaigning hat on, according to this Scotsman story. The star of BBC Scotland's Still Game has revived the argument that the BBC undervalues its Scottish output, based on the assertion that BBC iPlayer does not allow overseas audiences to watch any Scottish content. On Twitter, Hemphill wrote: "My brother lives in Canada along with six million other folk of Scots descent, but on BBC iPlayer he can't watch any BBC Scotland shows." Hemphill added: "BBC London does not let Scotland promote itself to the world. BBC London is Margaret Thatcher." On a cheerier note, the actor has offered to send box sets of Still Game to HMV customers left with useless vouchers after the store went into administration last week.

On telly, meanwhile, Avalon is to produce a new panel show for BBC1, Trumped!, in which comedians assess the merits of funny video clips. And in the British Comedy Guide's annual awards, Miranda has been voted comedy of the year in a poll of readers.

Best of the Guardian's comedy coverage

• "At the moment there are [comedians] who are not that great and all they are doing is causing offence" – Alan Davies on modern comedy, in this interview with Bruce Dessau.

"A comic poet of self-loathing and artistic angst": Leo Benedictus covers beardie US funnyman Zach Galifianakis in this week's Comedy Gold slot.

• "If I can't connect to it through reality, I don't worry about it. I do it anyway." Louis CK on the sitcom of the moment, Louie, ahead of its UK debut.

• Me. A medieval castle. Two men with plastic shopping bags on their heads. It's my interview with Irish hip-hop comedy sensation The Rubberbandits, now performing their debut London gigs.

• "Luckily I am a comedian, not a leading man, so my appearance doesn't matter": Fast Show star and standup Simon Day tells us what he sees in the mirror.

Controversy of the week

A dildo, or not a dildo? That was the question facing Ofcom this week, as it adjudicated on the nature of a large pink balloon held by the rapper Example on a trailer for Keith Lemon's show Celebrity Juice. Take a look at the screenshot, posted on Chortle, and you'll see that Ofcom didn't have the most taxing of judgments to make. "In our opinion," said the regulator, "Example wore a strap around his waist from which protruded at the front a pink object which resembled an erect penis." It therefore ruled that ITV had breached the section of the broadcasting code designed to protect children from unsuitable material.

ITV insisted otherwise, however: the protuberance, it claimed, featured only "very mild innuendo" that "had no overtly sexual content". The appendage in question was named a "pricket bat", and it was used to burst balloons. "The pricket bat was not a strap-on prosthetic phallus which might suggest an actual sex toy," ran ITV's official response to the charge, "nor did we consider that it bore any close resemblance to the anatomical shape of an actual penis." The station has nevertheless been prevailed upon to withdraw the footage from any further trailers for the show. Glad that's cleared up.

Best of our reader comments

Ricky Gervais announces a new standup tour, Matt Trueman reported on Monday, which teed up a debate on the Smirking One's skills in the live arena. They are few, argued DQ17:

Ricky Gervais, while a talented writer for television ... is not a good standup comic. Most good standup comics do it for years before breaking through. Even the dull Michael MacIntyre or throwback John Bishop spent years on their craft. Gervais didn't. Though he sells out his tours, he is doing that on name brand recognition, not through talent as a standup. Which is fine because he has so much money that he can do what he wants, and if the tours were free no one would complain. But there is nothing worse than spending money to sit through a bad standup gig for 90 minutes, especially if 50% of it is just him grinning at his own cleverness, [which] has been tired since Episode 2 of The Office.

Ouch. TheRumpDiary cut Gervais a little more slack. Average standup, yes, but still a force for good:

[Standup is] certainly not his strength and ultimately, with the disappointment of the dwarf thing (not being facetious, genuinely can't remember its name) people will use it to try and knock him off his perch... [But] he's still an incredibly gifted writer, and has a brilliant ability to recognise tragedy and then expose it in both a heart- and gut-wrenching scenario, usually better utilised in his ridiculous characters who are so close to his life – Karl as Karl, Steve being gawky, Maggie's virtual social autism.

There was plenty of chat after my interview with Dave Chambers and Bob McGlynn, aka The Rubberbandits – much of it focused on the question of whether they were celebrating or satirising the (poor, drugged-up, ignorant) characters they depict. To cubarocks, it was uncomfortably close to the latter:

A question arises: do Irish "satirists" ever mock the rich these days, or the "artistic elite"? It's easy to mock various dumb-asses, but what about the rich and powerful? Any sly digs at "journalists"? Christ, there's more than enough material with which to ridicule Ireland's "journalistic" elite, given their dismal record over the past decade. Funnily enough, Ireland's "satirists" don't seem keen on taking the piss out of the elites.

Which brought a swift rebuff from TruculentSheep:

The Rubberbandits don't mock the poor. Often they find what's good about people in the gutter and celebrate it – qf, "Spoiling Ivan", "I've a horse outside" and "Spastic Hawk", not to mention "I wanna fight your father" – they're all about supposed losers with dreams, aspirations and even something that's admirable, whether it's a love for a girl so intense that means you will have a fight with her disapproving dad, or being the one hawk who manages to fly free of its cage. Or, indeed, having a horse outside, which trumps all arguments by default.

The Bandits are at Soho theatre in London until the end of next week, so there's plenty time to settle this argument for yourself.


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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