Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Comedy cheat #4: Is or isn't it ironic?

In this continuing collection of comedy moments that stuck with me long after I first chuckled at them, I have a gem from the nineties. This one has been much on my mind lately.

We're helping younger daughter prepare for her English exam, which involves, among many other things, defining "irony" and "dramatic irony". Let's not get into how to explain an abstract concept to someone who sees life in concrete terms. Let's just say that dramatic irony is pretty easy to define; irony, not so much.

It is coincidental (but not ironic) that seventeen years ago when this same daughter was a very young baby, Alanis Morisette was having a pretty big hit with the song "Ironic". This ditty was inescapable in 1996. If you did manage to escape it, here's the song, featuring Alanis and her three doubles who are presumably imaginary and therefore don't require seat belts:Now, I'm not crazy about Alanis; I don't mind her, but there's only so much New Age jargon I can take at a sitting:
♫I am aware, nooooowwwww.....♪
Oh dear.

However, her earnestness seemed to make her one hell of a target. One of the wittier sharp-shooters was Irish comedian Ed Byrne who gained a fair bit if notoriety for this routine shortly after Alanis Morisette moved up the charts:

Gawd, how old was he, twelve? Now, as much as I guffawed when I first saw this (and it still makes me giggle), I have a couple of reservations: For one thing, Mr Byrne scoffs, "It's not a difficult concept, Alanis!" I beg to differ, Ed. Just try reading this item, then if you can stomach it, some of the hundreds of comments which follow. Or google "irony". Go on, I dare ya.

For another, Ed Byrne declares, as many have since, that the only ironic thing about "Ironic" is that there are no actual examples of irony in it. I draw your attention to the verse about the fellow who was afraid to fly and as his plane crashed down, he thought, "Well, isn't this nice?" I believe what you have there is a case of verbal irony. Don't you think?

Now, that same year, the alternative rock group Pulp was touring in Canada, and stopped by the studios of the music video station MuchMusic in Toronto. (This was back when MuchMusic was still a useful source for hearing many genres of music.) It was the long-standing tradition to play a video request for visiting acts. Jarvis Cocker was evidently aware that MuchMusic had an agreement with Alanis Morissette to not play any of her pre-Jagged-Little-Pill videos -- she had started out as a teen-television-personality who had branched into a brief period of being a pop princess, rather like early Kylie Minogue, or Billie Piper, or Miley Cyrus. Since much of MuchMusic was broadcast live, Cocker seized his chance. It's in the last thirty seconds of the following:
There may have been just a hint of irony in the request.
Don't you think?
And yes, they did play an early Alanis video for him.


JoeinVegas said...

OK, where's the early video?

Persephone said...

There are at least three, Joe! Her first album was released in Canada only and it went platinum. She was described as "the Debbie Gibson of Canada". One of the videos features a very young Matt LeBlanc. They're all pretty embarrassing. No wonder Alanis blocked them. All available on YouTube.