Blog:
Brennan Reece

The comedian was horrified when someone used the N word in front of him recently

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I am a white, working class, Lancashire-born, millennial, male stand-up comedian – not something to brag about nowadays. It’s basically one step away from being a self-sufficient, locally-sourced, free-range vegan who has their own stall selling cupcakes. Either way, in the grand scheme of things I have been dealt a really good hand in life. A first world white man with access to his parents’ wifi password is the equivalent of buying Mayfair in Monopoly. And as a result of that I have never experienced any form of prejudice… until recently.

A few months ago I, a skinny white boy, was called the N word. Yep – the N word. I was invited by a producer from a well known telly company in London (near the Queen’s house and that big watch), and we sat and chatted about what we could potentially work on and develop. And it was all going swimmingly until she said “Sorry, we don’t really have any opportunities for your lot. What you do is a bit outdated. You know, with you being…” and then used the N word. She didn’t even do the checks over her shoulder to see if there were any “of my lot” around. So I smiled and nodded and said “That’s OK. Don’t worry about it. It’s just the way it is” because that’s what you do when you speak to someone wearing a pant suit and shoulder pads.

And I left. Got the expensive electric choo-choo train back to Lancashire and became more and more frustrated that someone could use the N word in such an open yet negative way. I couldn’t believe that in broad daylight she just called me Northern!

 So Reeves and Mortimer are the same as Peter Kay? Steve Coogan is a copy of Ken Dodd?

She is not allowed to say that. Only Northerners are allowed to say that. We can say it to each other and rap about it – but she is not allowed!

Then it got me thinking even more. Which doesn’t happen a lot. With me being Northern and everything, she thinks that Northern comedy is a style and it’s not. There are people from the North who do comedy. There are comedy clubs in the North. But to suggest that 1) it is a style and 2) it is outdated is completely untrue. So Reeves and Mortimer are the same as Peter Kay? Steve Coogan is a copy of Ken Dodd? I don’t think so.

The term “Northern club comic” is thrown around quite a lot in the comedy industry, and not in a complimentary way. I wish it would change. Some people have this image of us in working men’s clubs, in frilly shirts and smoking jackets repeatedly shouting “my mother-in-law” into an crackly PA system. And it is nothing like that. Modern Northern comedy is diverse, exciting and ultimately downright funny.

Northern comedians range from Edinburgh Award-winning Funz & Gamez to arena-touring Jason Manford. From politically driven Asian comic Tez Ilyas to character comedian Diane Morgan, and from the delightfully dark sketch group League Of Gentleman to myself, Edinburgh Best Newcomer-nominated, English Comedian Of The Year-winning, self-proclaimed mummy’s boy Brennan Reece (sounds like I am bragging. Sorry about that, Mum. I am just trying to make a point).

Northern comedy is something I am proud of. Something I grew up with. Something I adore. So the next time I hear anyone ever use the N word in a derogatory way, I am going leg it out of my terrace house, unchain my whippets, scold the culprit with a pan of hot Bovril and stick them back on a Megabus to London. You cannot use the N word. It’s our word – and we are taking it back!

Brennan Reece: Everlong is at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2-27 August. Tickets available from www.edfringe.com.

Photo: Duncan Elliott

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