Leaving the EU is not an inherently humorous topic but as the saying goes ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’. Here John Nicholson rounds up some of the best Brexit gags from Edinburgh Fringe.
Brexit. Brexit. Brexit. It’s been a word that has been on almost everyone’s lips this month at the Fringe, repeated so often that is almost gets stripped of any meaning, despite being all too real.
Perhaps the only thing that unites comedians about Brexit is the fact that it has to be addressed at some point in many shows. There’s no ignoring it, as much as you might want to. But there has been a notable evolution of attitudes and emotions over the past 12 months that seems to be shared both on the stage and in the audience. The spitting fury of Remainers, this time last year, has all but evaporated, possibly because you can’t live your life in a permanent state of rage against the machine.
It has been supplanted by an almost palpable weariness. Brexit has ground us down with its toxic mixture of inertia, ignorance and impotence. I sensed little energy for the fight and even less for any more finger-jabbing at the Leavers. I’m sure the majority of performers and audiences here still feel it is a bad, even stupid thing to be doing, but there is a general resignation that it is nonetheless going to happen, in some form or other. Even if absolutely no-one has any idea what that will look like, or what the consequences will be.
I asked a few of this year’s comics for their jokes and thoughts about the dominant political issue of the era and selected a few to represent the breadth of opinion.
• A lot of Leave voters say ‘Stop complaining, it’s democracy!’ Well democracy doesn’t always work. If five people democratically elect to take your iPhone, it’s a mugging.
• I voted Remain, not just for political reasons but because my mum’s moved to Spain and I want her to stay there.
• I was angry about the whole Brexit and free movement thing but then I realised I haven’t been on a holiday since 2012 and I’m broke anyway so how much worse can it get?
• Brexit is boring. It and Donald Trump are horrible and pretending there is any nuance left more than that is a waste of time. If the audience can write the same political jokes as you, you don’t belong on stage.
• People were confused by the arguments either way – they interviewed people the next day on the news, one bloke was like ‘I voted leave but I didn’t really want to leave Europe’ – there were two options on the form, how did you screw that up? Another bloke said ‘I just voted Leave to get the Muslims out’ – he’s in for a shock when he finds out Muslims don’t come from Luxembourg.
• Brexit is having a wee in the middle of the room at a house party because nobody is talking to you, and then complaining about the smell.
• I don’t think we should have voted. I can barely rate a film on Netflix, don’t leave big decisions in my hands. Brexit is a terrible name for it, sounds like cereal you eat when you are constipated.
• Brexit was like the UK got drunk and accidentally unfriended Europe on Facebook.
• Let’s get one thing clear, personally I in no way believe that all those who voted for Brexit are racist or stupid. People voted based on the information (albeit limited and misleading) put before them by politicians. We could just as easily have arrived at a result by counting belly buttons. Innies Vs Outies. Turns out we are a nation of outies.