Seriously funny

We talk to comedian Dan Antopolski about how laughter can change the world.


Cornelia Parker’s recent Poison/Antidote exhibition
at Whitechapel Art Gallery inspired a day of debate, organised by Friends of the Earth, on the future of our planet.

Among the celebrity speakers at the sold-out event was one of Britain’s most inventive comedians, Perrier Award nominee Dan Antopolski.

Antopolski’s work has often been described as surrealist – but that doesn’t really do it full justice.
His manic association of ideas is as reckless as it is grin-inducing and marks him out as one of the most intelligent talents on the comedy scene.

We interviewed Dan afterwards and he told us his views on humour – and its power to change the world.

How do you tackle serious subjects, such as climate change, in comedy?


Nervously. Comedy has an uneasy relationship with serious issues. Luckily everyone was charming about it, because everyone’s aware of the tension. But if you care about something… it’s tricky. I don’t know the answer.

Can comedy change people’s opinions?

I think comedy can sensitise people to issues.

If a comedian is being contemporary then they’re embodying something that has a political dimension and all of those things will sit with an audience to
mull over.


But [comedy] is also art: a painting isn’t political but a painting can still change things. It’s an abstract argument to make, of course, but I sign up to it.   Why are people sometimes reluctant to accept change, even when it may improve things?


It’s simply a case of an inconvenient truth. Doing the right thing is inconvenient a lot of the time.

How does humour relate to politics?

The comedy of the 1980s was overtly political – it was about lampooning the right wing as baddies. Thatcher was a baddie.

The comedy of the 1980s was overtly political – it was about lampooning the right wing as baddies. Thatcher was a baddie.

It's difficult these days to caricature people along those simple moral lines and you’re expected to know more than you did about how the world works. People don’t know anymore.

I don’t trust people who express strong opinions (laughs). I want to know what their credentials
are. On the other hand, a comic is just a self-appointed mouth.

There’s a lot of really smart comedy that’s not about politics necessarily but it’s an exploration of hypocrisy, paradoxes - the whole thing.

It’s the role of the comedian to question things and challenge assumptions.



Comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who has endorsed our book How Can I Stop Climate Change?, talks about finding humour in climate change.