Every year, at about this time, and for about a month, I receive emails from persons known to me personally, with the following subject headings, "COMEDY FESTIVAL - THOUGHTS?" or "COMEDY FESTIVAL RECOMMENDATIONS" or even sometimes "HOW DO I EVEN READ THE COMEDY FESTIVAL GUIDE MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING PLEASE HELP". 


Now, when it comes to arts festivals, I am very good at recommendations. I know what people are likely to enjoy and what's going to freak them out, piss them off, or bore their whole face off. I know what the safe picks are and what is likely to leave you feeling like you've been on a roller-coaster, naked, being chased by a bear. If that's what you're into? Fine. If not, I can recommend a bunch of other options.


But comedy is different. One of the things I found fascinating when I first started working in comedy is how people feel like they can contribute. People come up and suggest jokes. They tell you, straight out, when they don't think you're funny. It's bizarre - given nobody would approach a plumber and tell him they don't like the way he's used a piece of hose, or even criticise a writer/performer telling their tragic life story on stage - but that's the great thing about comedy: it's accessible. It's universal. Everybody does it. Everybody appreciates it. And everybody knows what they like. 


Different strokes, as they say. I know an academic - very clever, most sophisticated - to whom the funniest thing in the world is Eddie Murphy's laugh in the Beverly Hills Cop movies. Can't get enough of it. Nothing clever or witty about it. It's just an open-faced teeth-baring laugh and it kills. How the hell am I supposed to predict that?


I have thought of writing an official disclaimer to hand to people after they ask this question. You may consider this it. 


I know what I find funny. That's about all I can tell you. That and: if it involves audience participation, I will be the one in the back row behind the tallest person I can find. Weeping.