It's been a tough year for the comedy industry, with originality in a long term decline and nepotism tightening its death grip on the influx of new talent and ideas. So this year, the organisers of the comedy industry awards have decided to add a touch of glamour to the black tie event, and asked Russell Clark, the sales manager of leading edge vendor IT SOLutions, to give out the prizes.
Some industry insiders have expressed dismay that, with the average pay of a stand up comedian now at £5 a gig, the show organisers have splashed £25,000 on a guest speaker. However, show organiser Tony Baddiel says the show needs a touch of glamour, and with IT now recognised as the new rock and roll, comedians will relish the chance to rub shoulders with an IT sales manager.
"Modern comics rarely get the chance to go out. They spend 8 hours a day reading everything that's ever been written in the Daily Mail and another 12 hours bleating about it on their blogs, podcasts and unlistened to Radio 4 shows. They spend all day staring at a glowing screen. It's a great thriil for them to put on a dicky bow and an ill fitting tuxedo, and meet a man who travels round the country talking to audiences," said Baddiel.
Clark said he was delighted to be asked to address the comedians at their annual trade show. "It's very humbling to meet ordinary people with hum drum lives. I was the first of my family to break out of the straightjacket of making repetitive jokes about George Bush, footballers and Daily Mail readers, and I never forget how lucky I am that I have a chance to take a wider perspective on the world," said Clark, who regularly goes outside and talks to people who don't share his worldview.
Though Clarks job takes him all over the world, giving presentations to audiences running into the dozens, in some of the most prestigious venues in the conferencing business, he says it's not all glamour. "After a while, one town looks much like the other, and you get sick of living out of a suit bag. There's only so many bath robes you can steal you know. You can't take them with you in the end," said Clark.
If Clark seems amazingly down to earth, given his lifestyle and pay, he puts that down to treating praise and criticism with equal suspicion. "I still drink with some of my old mates in the comedy circuit. They wouldn't let me get big headed. If I did, they's soon bring me down to earth with an original comment about Daily Mail readers or people who drive Ford Mondeos and like watching Top Gear."