TALKING TO DAVID BADDIEL
Comedian, writer and football anthem-maker David Baddiel is back in town with his brand new tour Trolls Not The Dolls. Following his five-star, Olivier Award-nominated hit one-man show My Family: Not The Sitcom, and the return to number 1 of his seminal football anthem Three Lions, Baddiel returns to the stage tackling the 21st-century troll – or rather the digital heckler of the internet age – in the only way a comedian knows how; by wittily taking them down. We caught up with David to talk about how to tackle the common troll…
WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT FROM THE SHOW?
Well they can expect a bit of that – they can expect a bit of me showing how I comically put down some of my most abusive trolls. But isn’t just about that.
For a start my sense of trolls goes beyond just the people that shout at you. I also talk about how online there’s a lot of people that want to tell you off in a very high and mighty, head teacher kind of way. There are other people that just don’t get jokes on social media. There are other people that just want to crowbar in absurd prepositions to whatever you said. So I show a range of trolls. I also show the difference between people who troll and people who take the p**s, because I actually quite like people affectionately taking the p**s.
And then the whole show is about how we live now and how everybody is on these various social media platforms, and how it’s creating a lot of anger, rage and strangeness in our lives.
And the other thing the show is, to some extent, is a diary. I could never write a diary when I was younger because I didn’t have the willpower. But since I’ve been on Twitter for the last 11 years and have written something every day, it covers the last 10 years of my life and the last 10 years of Britain. I can show on Twitter things I’ve said about Brexit, things I’ve said about antisemitism, things I’ve said about Trump. And also about my own life, growing older, having children…. there’s lots of things I can spin off from Twitter and talk about, but it always comes back to the response and what response it got. Everything now has a response if you’re posting online.
The show gets quite dark in the second half, but in the last bit I also say how brilliant and amazing social media can be. You can get all this joy and comedy and communality on there. So it’s not a complete critique of social media, it is a love-hate relationship.
WHAT CAN OFTEN BE A DARK SUBJECT – THE IDIOCY OF TROLLS – CAN ALSO AT TIMES BE LAUGHABLE – WHAT’S THE MOST HILARIOUS INCIDENT THAT YOU’VE HAD WITH A TROLL?
I posted a story that involves a picture of a cafetière with no glass in it. My daughter had broken the glass, cleared it up and just put it back in the cupboard. I tried to make coffee, didn’t notice and it made a terrible mess. I put the whole story on Twitter with a little picture of the cafetière. Lots of people retweeted it, but I also got someone saying, ‘don’t blame your daughter for this, it’s your fault for not noticing that the weight of your cafetière wasn’t what it was supposed to be’. I thought blimey, you’ve got angry about this – how incredible.
People want to get angry and its something I talk about in the show. Anger is a way of confirming their own identity really. That’s what social media is. It’s a place where people say ‘here I am’. One way of doing that is to be loud, and one way to be loud is to be angry. I think people can take comfort in anger. If they are angry about something, they can say, ‘yes – this is what I believe’. Somehow or other that’s comforting for people, I think, because the truth is no one really knows who they are and what they believe, and we all live in a confusion.
WHILE IT SEEMS THAT THE INTERNET HAS BEEN HERE FOREVER, IT’S EASY TO FORGET THAT WE’RE STILL IN A RELATIVELY INFANTILE ERA OF THE TECHNOLOGY AND THE CAPACITY THAT IT PROMISES – WITH REGARDS TO ONLINE BULLYING AND THE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT CAN ARISE FROM THAT, DO YOU THINK THAT WE’LL GET TO A NANNY STATE POINT WHERE AUTHORITIES NEED TO BE MORE STRINGENT WITH REGULATIONS OR SHOULD WE SIMPLY KNOW BETTER?
I am not a legislator, I am someone who basically reacts to culture rather than suggesting any way of making it better because I don’t have the answers.
In my personal opinion we’re all learning a new language here, and we’re all in a state of confusion. It’s only 11 years since Twitter and the other social media have been around and they dominate who we are now, they dominate history and they’re more powerful than governments. And that’s the point. These companies are so powerful now that I don’t know how much longer they can go on saying, ‘it’s not our responsibility’.
It’s really, really dangerous to have everyone saying whatever the f**k they want to everyone else. One thing I do say in the show is that if, 30 years ago, someone had said to you, ‘technology will come along that will allow everyone to share everything and everyone will know what everyone else thinks’, you would have thought that it would increase the sum of truth in the world. But it’s done the opposite, it’s decreased it, and that’s because people don’t tell the truth, they tell their truth, and everyone’s truths conflict.
I’m a fundamental atheist, but I do think the Tower of Babel is a believable prophecy, because that’s where we’re living – the Tower of Babel.
NO STRANGER TO ENGAGING IN A BIT OF CONVERSATION WITH THE COMMON TROLL, WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO READERS WHO MIGHT FIND THEM SELVES FALLING FOUL TO SUCH TAUNTS?
Well there are two things. I am a comedian and I am used to hecklers and I have chosen to engage with these people – don’t feel you have to.
I would say that if you do choose to engage with them the number one rule is not to get angry. Acknowledge them, and come back with something funny. In the very early days of Twitter someone said to me, ‘the only thing I want to see from you is your obituary’. And I said, ‘oh well, at least I’ll get one’. Meaning ‘you won’t – no one will remember you after you’re dead’. But I had agreed with him, and I’d not got angry, which is the key thing I think, because it’s essentially disarming.
David Baddiel brings his brand new one-man show ‘Trolls: Not The Dolls’ nationwide as part of a 53-date UK tour with upcoming shows at Dorking Halls on 31st January; New Victoria Theatre, Woking on 23rd February; Beck Theatre, Hayes on 12th March; G Live, Guildford on 20th March; Princes Hall, Aldershot on 3rd April; and Rose Theatre, Kingston on 3rd May. For further dates, visit davidbaddiel.com