ED2013 Columns ED2013 Comedy

Chris Stokes: Telling it like it possibly could potentially might be

By | Published on Friday 16 August 2013

Chris Stokes

At this year’s Fringe, Chris Stokes is telling it like it possibly could potentially might be. And here in his ThreeWeeks column he explains why…

We have conquered the skies and the oceans, scaled the tallest summits of the planet, created pocket technology that affords us access to all manner of human knowledge and Rizzle Kicks B-sides while on the tram (eventually, Edinburgh), and invented musical toilet seats. Despite all this, I am beginning to think the most astonishing thing we as a species have managed in recent times is the manner in which we have found ways to be rude to each other and be able to get away with it.

The technique lies in the subtle shifting of blame from the offender to the offended so that it becomes their fault. If they get upset with you for telling them that their haircut makes you want to vomit, it is because they cannot handle how honest you are, the fools. There is a quotation that goes along the lines of, “Everybody has the right to offend and everybody has the right to be offended but nobody has the right to NOT be offended”. This, I think, is true. However, I think that quotation fails to mention one very important thing, which is that the person who offends has a pretty large obligation to think long and hard about doing it.

Fewer and fewer people seem to question now whether or not the ‘truth’ they are telling even needs telling, let alone whether or not it is an objective fact instead of just their own opinion that everybody else around them is lucky enough to hear. As for those shocked by the impertinent, impolite sound-bite that has just been delivered, the ‘truthsayer’ can simply brush it aside with “I’m only being honest”.

Yet this has rather changeable parameters. It is a truth when a beloved family member passes away. A doctor can either sensitively take the relatives aside and explain that, “We tried our very best but I am sorry to say she didn’t make it”. Or, he could take a leaf out of the book of the straight-talking brigade and casually shrug, “Dead. But I don’t know what you expected us to do, she was 98 and still tight-rope walking so…”

This is a somewhat extreme example but it serves as a good test; “Does the truth being told NEED telling?” If yes, go to, “Do I NEED to tell this truth in such a cutting and insensitive way?” It is a trend now to be seen to tell it like it is, as if we are all Jeremy Clarksons and Lowri Turners. Some people define themselves by it.

“That’s the thing with me, I just say it how I see it”. The thing, the one thing.

Thankfully, most of us do realise that how we see it may not be exactly how it is and can engage each other politely and, if we disagree, can respectfully beg to differ. We know when we have to tell uncomfortable truths, and that we HAVE to, rather than WANT to. We know when those truths need to be more aggressive than others, and we would rather they didn’t. But some relish this loophole and delight in jumping through it as they work on their scathing remarks about that woman’s personal choice of footwear and about that man’s decision where to do his food shop gleefully cackling to themselves, “My truth is really going to hurt their feelings”.

I, like many others, am doing a show at this year’s Fringe and expect people to come and listen to what I have to say for an hour. Mindful of this, I have decided to acknowledge that while I am saying what I think, I am not saying it petulantly believing everyone should agree. This is why I’ve called it ‘Chris Stokes Tells It Like It Possibly Could Potentially Might Be’. That’s the thing with me.

Chris Stokes ‘Tells It Like It Possibly Could Potentially Might Be’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2013.