Thursday, September 10, 2009

Take the money, run

David Jesudason recently wrote up a piece on Chortle about how taking money for doing adverts and voiceovers is wrong. His argument being that comics should hold themself up to a higher standard, and to embark upon such money-grubbing endeavours is a sure-fire way to lose your credibility. But what's wrong with that? Is it such a horrible thing for a comedian not to aspire to be the voice of society? For their primary motivation to be simple "making people laugh"? It's certainly possible to entertain and enlighten without the pretension that you are creating art.

Here is a large sum of money. What we would like you to do is to read these words out. You can look at the words first, make sure it's not something you don't wholly disagree with. If it's fine with you, and you're happy to speak into that microphone over there, then you will get paid. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the money comes from people who like our product. I'm sure you know a few of them. If you're still concerned, feel free to read about our company on the internet to find out a general how the product comes into fruition and how we generally operate. If you don't like some of the things we do, then feel free not to read these words out.

There are certainly risks involved. You might pick the wrong product, something that completely contrasts with your image, which is a surefire way to turn your fans against you. John Lydon, Iggy Pop, take a bow. There's also the possibility of over-exposure. Couple that with an irritating jingle, and you've got a Direct Line ad with Paul Merton and Stephen Fry. But as shocking as some adverts are, Stephen Fry remains a national treasure, a British icon, a man with upstanding moral characters whose views and opinions are listened to.

I can see a certain amount of hypocrisy for someone to endorse a product that they don't particularly like or agree with, but that's a choice for the individual to make. I'm sure that Mark Watson will happily sup a few bottles of Magners on an evening, and that Peter Kay has swallowed more than a few pints of Tadcaster's largest export.

We've all contributed to the growth of the multinational in some way. Many of us work for them, just as a comedian might. Does this make us hypocrites if we criticise the greed of their executives? If we malign the strong-arm tactics that put smaller establishments out of business? If we whinge and moan about all of the other ills that such corporate behemoths might bring upon society? I don't believe it does. Without fail, we are all hypocrites in one way or another, and I for one do not begrudge the man who takes the money and runs. But that Magners advert is pretty irritating.

Since I wrote this article, Carl Donnely posted up a much better counter-argument, and Mark Watson also added his response. They are much better than me at writing things.

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