Last weekend I went to see the UK’s self-proclaimed most notorious homosexual and national trinket, Julian Clary, in his latest show Position Vacant Apply Within. The concept was simple: Clary takes a wonderfully funny view at relationships, the ups and downs of being with a man, in love, and then realising actually you want to do the boy next door.
Trademarks in Clary’s shows include his short stories, some of which you may even have seen him read a couple as part of tasks while in the Celebrity Big Brother house. Full to the brim with innuendo and twists, on this occasion a lovely ditty about Portsmouth and the arrival of several sailors, leading to the town being filled with discharged seamen. Oh how the audience roared at the double entendre, whaling into the second half.
Part two did not disappoint either, building up to a farcical 1990s style Saturday night dating show. As he walks through the audience with a strange taser like contraption, every member looked terrified. He aims his gun at any poor man he’s near, and those he shoots from behind are then invited onto the stage. After choosing his seven (willing) participants, he asks them all several questions and then encourages them to take part in the practical challenge. From gargling while singing, to whipping your trousers off in thirty seconds, the challenges had hilarious commentary, and amusing consequences. The winner of the games was to then take part in a very panto style wedding, and marry Clary himself, of course being full of references of rimming, bumming and inappropriately touching each other.
The stand-up, stories and concept, funny and filthy as they were, for me meant something more. There was a deeper meaning at the heart of the show when Clary climaxed with a more serious message. He sang a song themed around remembering that, although in the UK we still have a long journey ahead of us on the road to equality, some of our fellow queer folk around the world don’t have any opportunity to express their true identity and live the lives many of us take for granted in the Western world. The song entitled Cool to be Queer made reference to gays hanged from cranes in Iran and in Africa how loving leads to jail. So I wanted to continue the thought trail Julian Clary had set me on, by reminding myself that although the fight goes on here in the Western world, homos have never had it so good.
Let’s take Clary’s reference to Iran. In 2005 newly elected president Ahmadinejad passed capital punishment laws meaning acts such as sodomy could lead to the death penalty. This was after the President pledged to crack down on ‘moral corruption’. As a result of the law, last year four Iranian men were sentenced to hanging after the court found them guilty of partaking in male intercourse.
But imagine this: you’re a teenager trying to discover who you are, you’re 17 and 18, you’ve not even had gay sex, yet you are arrested, held captive for a year, raped by ‘authorities’ and then publicly hung in the street because you are suspected of being gay. That’s what happened to two teenagers shortly after President Ahmadinejad was elected. Abused and raped for a crime deemed worse than both of these offences. It seems he has a wonderfully superior understanding of ‘moral corruption’.
Although Clary singled out Iran as just one country, these horrendous acts against homosexuality exist in the world. There are more than 80 countries with laws condemning such acts, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Uganda and Jamaica to name but a few. Yes, even the country that gave us the laid back vibes of Bob Marley still have laws in place criminalising homosexuality. Last year Porta Simpson Miller was elected Prime Minister of the country and promised to hire a gay member of society to take a post in her cabinet. Despite this pledge laws still exist condemning acts such as buggery, one law states “it’s an abominable crime, buggery, committed either with mankind or any animal” and another law states an act of buggery between two men is just out and out gross indecency. Little wonder that enforcing such laws means Jamaica has one of the highest gay murder rates in the world.
So, as Julian Clary in his new show proves, comedy can have a heartfelt, serious meaning. It perhaps shows us all that there is always time for a bit of reflection, to take note, that we do ourselves down, but that we are by no means the most unfortunate ones in the world.
Position Vacant Apply Within continues its tour with dates until Sunday 2 June.