As I rocked up to Starbucks to not record the 4th episode of my Halloween podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” it wouldn’t be a lie to say I was in a foul mood. It would actually be the truth.
That morning I’d had yet another knock back from iTunes, saying they can’t put me on their platform unless I “provide them with an audio file”.
What happened to these people? Remember when Apple’s slogan used to be “Think Different”?
I’m generally quite a positive, upbeat person who dances through life, but the difficulty I’ve had in getting support for this project sometimes takes the rhythm straight from my feet. Surely Apple can see how much it would help their brand if iTunes hosted something as original as an unrecorded podcast.
When I was growing up, Apple were a symbol of innovation, but this unwillingness to get behind something that challenges the status quo just shows how much they’ve changed. They were always bringing out unique products, constantly looking for new, inventive ways to numb our brains with technology. But now it feels like they don’t even care.
I bet Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave right now.
(Side note – I don’t get that saying. Why the theatrics? Just have a little frown in your grave, mate.)
All this got me thinking more deeply about art and what its role is in society. Is the artist’s job to describe what they see within the framework the current culture gives them, or should they break away from that framework in search of something beyond? Should they water down their message, ensuring their work is accessible to the masses and sufficiently diluted to be deemed acceptable by the elites, or should they stick to what they think’s right and express themselves with such beauty and authenticity that eventually people have to listen and even those in power are forced to yield ground?
Ultimately, the question is: should the artist reject conformity, or should they be a little pussy?
Well, there’s no one that embodies the anti-conformist stance more than today’s guest Donald Mackerel a.k.a. “Mr. Badger”. It is said that traditionally a comedian should be 1 – funny, 2 – likeable and 3 – not-creepy. If this is true, then Mr Badger presents a triple threat to the status quo. With this in mind, I literally jumped at the opportunity to get his take on my concerns about art.
“You’re an act that no one really likes.” I said, landing back on the ground. “Is this the result of an intentional artistic decision?”
“Yes,” Mr. Badger replied. (Donald showed up in character.)
To be honest, I haven’t really seen much of Mr.Badger’s set, as whenever I’m gigging with him I always remember to bring a good book. But although I’ve heard it’s terrible, there’s something I admire about the way he still carries on doing his art and doesn’t care about what others think. Donald started performing as Mr.Badger in the late 70s and has spent 40 years traipsing round the country suffering rejection after rejection. I wanted to know how this has affected him. What about the man behind the mask?
“Are you happy?” I asked. “Do you have much of a life when you’re not being Mr. Badger?”
He paused for a second.
“I’m a total social outcast really,” he said eventually. “Never had friends. Never had kids or a wife. Never had fans. Never had anything really. But I have my jokes. And that’s something. I guess.”
As he said this, it felt like I could see him for the first time: an old man in a badger costume, weeping.
Maybe conformity isn’t such a bad thing.
See you next time! X