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Lucy Porter: The way I see it

Artists on politics

Does art make a difference?

In comedy, maybe satire is the thing that can make a difference. There’s a difference between satire and political comedy, and there’s not much satire at the moment. There should be more rage and anger.

Should politics and art mix?

I have that problem with comedy – is it art? I’m still deciding. Some comedy can be art. The difficulty with political comedy is that it doesn’t really endure. I can’t think of the stand-up equivalent of Guernica. But that’s what I like about the live comedy form. One’s politics shift, and you’re leaving no record – you can radically shift your opinion and no one can really pull you up on it.

Does money corrupt an artist?

It has affected me. Certainly, there are things I’ve done exclusively for money. With comedy, it’s doing corporate gigs. You always know it’s a terrible idea. I did a show recently for a hundred men who work in the power-tools industry. But in the end, it was surprisingly good fun.

Artists often start with a love of the thing, but then it becomes your way of earning money. One of my favourite quotations, which is from Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, is when the clown says, “We are the whores of mirth.” With live art, you’re at work when everyone else is at leisure. Like whores, we pretend that we’re enjoying it, and live art is kinda like that.

Is your work for the many or for the few?

I’m just about to go on tour [until 1 June]. And I’m hoping against hope that my art is for the many.

If you were world leader, what would be your first law?

I really wouldn’t fancy the job. I want to be a florist! In all seriousness, though, I would return civil liberties to their rightful place at the top of the agenda. It’s terrifying, this encroachment on our right to privacy. My favourite Tony Hancock joke is when he rebukes the jurors (in Twelve Angry Men): “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?”

Who would be your top advisers?

Shami Chakrabarti would actually run things. I’d just be a puppet leader, surrounded by incredibly good, clever people.

What would you censor?

Well, I have a commitment to free speech, so nothing, really. There are things I wish I could wipe out – women’s magazines in particular. And Loose Women has set the feminist cause back several years. I wouldn’t actually force them to stop, but I’d have a word.

What would you legalise?

Protesting in Parliament Square, I’d make that legal. I’d make it compulsory.

Who would you banish?

Jim Davidson already lives in Dubai, so my work’s pretty much done.

Do you love your country?

Oh God, yes. Obviously not in a jingoistic way. I travel around a lot in Britain – it’s a brilliant country, from the Stockport hat museum to the rubbish theme park at Land’s End.

Are we all doomed?

We’re all scrabbling around at the bottom of Pandora’s box looking for the hope.

This article first appeared in the 09 March 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Planet Overload