Rating The Jokes In Tristram Hunt's Roast Of Jeremy Corbyn
As you may have heard over the weekend, Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected leader of the Labour Party by a huge margin thanks to the support of Labour members.
The problem is that many Labour MPs aren't such big fans, and even Corbyn's dope appearance on The Last Leg didn't win them over.
One such MP is Tristram Hunt, a former historian who took the opportunity to lay into Corbyn and his supporters during a speech at the Labour Party Conference over the weekend.
But this was no ordinary speech: Hunt clearly fancies himself a comedian, and threw more than a few zingers into his set.
Political comedy is tough, not to mention a crowded market, so to help Hunt out we thought we'd do him the favour of reviewing his punchlines.
And if you think we're going to go easy on him because he's not a professional, think again. Hunt was in the Cambridge Footlights with David Mitchell and Robert Webb of Peep Show fame, so he's had more than enough of a chance to iron out the kinks in his set. There will be no mercy.
So, the question remains: should Hunt give up Westminster to hit the open mics and pursue stand up glory?
Throw this tune on while we run through his material.
Hunt opens with a strong barb:
"Once upon a time Labour was held hostage by a far left faction which had overrun the party and sent it spiralling towards election defeat, and I’m glad we put that in the past behind us. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad we’ve got our party back."
First, let it be said that Hunt has read the room very well - critical to success as a stand up. That said, comedy in 2016 is all about the potential viral clip. If Hunt continues with this kind of material, it's unlikely he'll be a smash hit. The delivery is a little dry and, let's face it, Corbyn supporters just totally decimated Hunt fans on social media in the leadership contest. They won't give this any traction.
"I’m glad we’ve finally got a proper socialist leader, willing to confront fascism wherever he sees it — Assad's Syria or Putin’s Russia."
This is clearly a twist on the idea that Corbyn doesn't actually care about confronting fascism as seen in Assad's Syria or Putin's Russia. Hunt sets himself up, falsely, as a fan of Corbyn, thrilled that his new leader will take the fight to autocratic leaders abroad. This new perspective could allow for some cutting commentary with a different punchline. This reveal, though, isn't great. We've heard it all before.
"[A new leader] who’s happy to have an open political discussion and not seek to silence internal debate by putting MPs on hit lists. And thankfully, an end to the kind of irrational leadership cult which so disfigured our party in the past."
Hunt is relying heavily on sarcasm, which is becoming a little tiresome. The joke here is that Hunt believes Corbyn is putting MPs on hit lists and that he is the focus of an irrational leadership cult much like the one Corbyn accuses Tony Blair of encouraging. Hunt has revealed his formula far too early: listen to what he says, then assume he means the opposite. Lazy, shoddy work. A different approach is needed, you can't just do this three times in a row.
"I understand that our friends at Momentum are having their own conference this week, but I also understand it’s not easy to get to. In fact, you have to go via the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and then the Green Party."
It's nice to see that Hunt has realised his jokes have all been in the same format, so he's switched things up. As a result, this portion of the set feels fresher, the punchline less predictable. Here, Hunt takes aim at Momentum, a group which grew out of Corbyn's first leadership campaign. He accuses them of drawing from other political parties more than the Labour Party itself - they are the true outsiders, not him.
Hunt is actually on solid ground here, as polls show that Corbyn's support to a significant extent came from newer Labour members. This new joke structure combined with a pithy point elevates the set as a whole.
"James Schneider, eh? The only person to make Andy Burnham’s political odyssey seem straightforward."
Again, he reads the room well. This is also quite a nicely written gag and the only one to deploy a light analogy. Science tells us that the brain delights in connecting two unexpected thoughts, and with this line Hunt can declare victory.
Where the joke falls over is in the political knowledge required to actually understand what on earth he is talking about. The room reacts nicely, but viral, this is not. The political trajectories of the co-founder of Momentum and a candidate for the mayor of Manchester are hardly going to set the world on fire. That said, the cleverest joke by far.
So there you have it: a joke-by-joke review of Labour MP Tristram Hunt's stand up set. There is some raw promise there, to be sure, but his current material is limited. We look forward to seeing where this young man ends up.
Watch the full speech below, if you must.
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