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Guilty Pleasures: Can You Be Green and Still Get a Good Gag?

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On Wednesday 4 April the London Green Party will host its second comedy fundraiser at the Leicester Square Theatre, headlined by Alistair McGowan and Scott Capurro.

It will raise money for the forthcoming London elections, when I'm running for Mayor. We're also hoping to increase Green representation on the London Assembly, which will hold whoever ends up as Mayor to account for the following four years.

Our agenda is quite a serious matter: alleviating the hardship currently experienced by so many Londoners by expanding the London Living Wage, reducing the 4,000 premature deaths each year in London caused by air pollution, ending the fatalities and serious injuries of cyclists and pedestrians on London's roads, and promoting equality.

Death, poor health and poverty: perhaps questionable topics for a night of uproarious laughter. Add to this the perception that those of us fighting for 'Africa' and 'the whales' are generally considered to lack any real sense of humour, and you might start to worry that the night would have been better billed as "speeches by po-faced Puritans, punctuated by bouts of sobbing and intense feelings of mutual guilt."

Fortunately, with a line up of top acts, the night should be as successful as its predecessor, which met all three criteria of increasing awareness, making people laugh and bringing in money for our campaign as well.

But at the last night, as well as knowledge, the rafters and funds, a fair few eyebrows were raised too. The comics demonstrated their willingness to try the audience with material that a less informed commentator may have deemed off limits to such a lofty, lefty audience. And on that night, the heartiest laughter almost always followed the most risqué material. For such a highminded, ethical crowd, the acts seemed surprisingly to score low on haughty, high on naughty.

The reasons for this, I suspect, are simple. In reality, being moral and being funny very rarely correlate precisely. Nearly all of us have to stifle a laugh from time to time, not just because the situation dictates laughter as inappropriate, but because our conscious had kicked in far too late to prevent the chuckle that had emanated from our gut. Laughter is an instinctive, very human reaction, and there's no shame in finding fun in things that on reflection part of you might wish had not been said. In fact, what can be more human that revelling in that slight feeling of guilt that accompanies a joke that hovers on the line of comfort?

Of course, an appreciation that humour and morality are not the same thing does not make them wholly unrelated. I've witnessed plenty of occasions when a comment that was nasty, bigoted and wholly unfunny has fallen flat on its face, and those failing to laugh or raising objections were labelled as prudes. It may now be banished from our screens, but the hostile chauvinism you may remember from 70s sit coms lives on in workplaces and homes across the country. And whatever the hysterical reactions of the anti-PC brigades feeling persecuted by the alleged banning of Christmas or the rebuke they earned for the racist joke they told in the staff room, we've got to stand up to lazy prejudices and assert the distinction between good fun and outright bigotry, however uncomfortable that experience may be.

But laughing at the absurdity of the world - including on occasion our own sensitivities and values - is a truly cathartic experience and a very noble tradition on these islands and beyond. It's emotionally healthy for a big group of people, particularly those who spend their time trying to right wrongs, campaign for the oppressed and stand against discriminatory language and behaviour, to get together and let it all out. So if you're in town on Wednesday, why not come along? It'll be a fun night, and possibly a revelation about the fun side of being Greens.

For more information and to buy tickets go to http://london.greenparty.org.uk/region/london/comedy.html

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