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Tim Clare: The Art Of Stand-Up Poetry

Updated on December 5, 2013

The rare and unique combination of stand-up comedy and poetry has transformed both the meaning and expectations of the two genres, proving that the two can in fact, co-exist in peace. The perfect example for that notion is Tim Clare, who has successfully embraced the crossing of poetry and comedy, and has performed several popular stand-up venues with his poetic material. Clare has won numerous awards, including Best Memoir for his book, We Can't All Be Astronauts, and a Brighton Fringe Best Show award for his comedy show, How To Be A Leader. His compelling and energetic comedic voice reflects throughout his poetry, and the rarity of his style has been showcased on popular networks, such as BBC2 and Channel 4.

Clare's poetic style is innately heavy on sarcasm and self-derision, in which he infuses humor in his lines, rather than an absence of it, in order to bring serious thoughts to light. The topics that he presents are extremely odd and eccentric but at the same time, reflective, and lightly illustrates his personal thoughts and emotions. The energy is especially apparent in his wording, as the reader can clearly imagine the performance and the delivery of the material through his voice. That performance element in his poetry is demonstrated through the rambling thoughts and constant asides, mirroring a more natural and off-the-cuff feel that's found in typical stand-up comedy.

Although the comedic aspects are more heavily implemented, Clare's work shows a great amount of thoughtful and emotional depth, locking the reader in a continuous suspension between unpredictable comedy and contemplative subject matter. His primary intent to offer humor throughout is constantly ingrained with some form of insight, whether it be love, death, or even the meaning of life. The level of emotional content can be surprising, considering the pure madness and seemingly aimless material that it presents. However, his ability to demonstrate his life, thoughts, and opinions through his own unique style of random, bizarre humor allows the reader to perceive common knowledge with a fresh perspective.

The Stand-Up Comedy Of Tim Clare

Cancer and Divorces

In Cancer and Divorces, Clare comments on the inevitable ideal of fate, and the tragedies that the future holds for those who are in their prime. This poem is told through Clare's perspective on the future, and illustrates his personal thoughts on the beautiful tragedy of youth and maturity.

The line, "There will be cancer and divorces" is not written as a possibility but a sure fate that represents the tragedies that will no doubt appear in our lives with time. Although he pokes fun at the reckless antics of a younger generation through comedic description, he gives an honest take on humanity's constant battle with the future, and our fear of old age. The first line of the poem, "This then, is happiness" indicates that happiness is merely a temporary state only reserved for a younger generation. He reflects on a time when he and eight friends drive to a summer festival in a minibus, drinking alcohol and loudly singing out of tune. This memory reminds Clare of an instance when he was young and content. However, Clare also introduces the notion that his future could never live up to the happiness that he experiences now, and asks God to murder them in order to stop the inevitable suffering;

I'd kill us now, I'd snip the tape

Unhitch a tractor trailer

Blow the left tyre then pitch it

Straight through our happy windscreen

The whole fucking thing

Lord you would be doing us a kindness

This line, although hilarious, effectively portrays the level of fear that humanity has of the future. He also compares the future to a fairly "disappointing Christmas", as we all unwrap a series of presents, only to find that each gift is crappier than the one before. And it is a common idea that life only gets more difficult as time goes on, which is why the future is perceived with such a negative outlook. I personally can definitely relate to Clare, as I've often wished of dying a peaceful death by age 50, so I wouldn't have to deal with any fatal illnesses as predicted in my family's medical history. I can also identify this on-going battle with time in society, as we're always creating products that make us younger, and supply media that embraces youth. Clare's commentary on society alludes to the reason why we don't have depressed divorcees and eighty-year old women as our Victorian Secret models. He characterizes our battle with fate, with our "bloody fists tight in red gloves, in a fight so intense that he compares it to a bloody, murderous boxing match. In the last line of the poem, Clare says:

The noble man bleeds for the things that he loves

Hang by the phone for when happiness rings

But it's hard to pick up when you're still wearing gloves

Here, Clare makes the point that society is stuck in a mindset that happiness is for the young, and people of old age are merely to reflect bitterly on the happiness that they used to have. With this last stanza, he leaves the reader with the idea that when we constantly battle with a future that we're too afraid to face, we won't be able to embrace the happiness that's given to us in old age. Although, there will always be tragedies in our lives, Clare asks a very significant question: "Are you beaten cos you walk away or cos you keep showing up for a beating?"

This comedic perspective on such an existential ideal creates an honesty that is both thoughtful in its expression and universal in nature.

The Impossible Deathbed Lament of Scrooge McDuck

Clare explores the last moments of a popular cartoon character in The Impossible Deathbed Lament of Scrooge McDuck. The speaker reflects on his past memories and regrets of the dying McDuck, questioning life and its meaning.

Although the language used in the poem is very somber and reflective, the comedic overtones of a man mourning over a cartoon's imminent death is apparent. In order to underscore the grief in the speaker's voice and his questioning of life's cruelty, the poetic device of question marks is placed at the end of every line, emphasizing his confusion as well. The choice to narrate this poem through the eyes of a grieving friend or relative rather than McDuck himself is made in order to relate to the reader. The speaker's intimate knowledge of McDuck's life indicated a very close relationship, which mirrors the relationship that we have with our own loved ones:

Forcing a requiem down silted arteries?

Here's the tree that never grew?

Here's the duck that never flew?

Oblivion unhinges its dull, dull maw

The afterlife for McDuck is described as an oblivion, which represents a question that humanity asks throughout history: What comes after death? When our friends and relatives die, we ask the same question, reflecting on their lives and subsequently questioning our own. The fear of making the same mistakes that our loved ones made, or living an unfulfilled life with no chance for redemption are universal thoughts and feelings that we all share. Depicting such a serious topic as mourning and grief through a comedic illustration of a cartoon character is very unusual, as death and comedy don't pair well with each other. However, the poem is surprising relatable to my own memories and feelings on grief; and although the feelings expressed by the speaker are for a fictional character, I can relate to those feelings nonetheless.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

My favorite poem of Clare's is Manic Pixie Dream Girl, where he points out the many similarities between love and insanity.

His use of odd and eccentric language creates a comedic reflection on the chaotic aspects of love, creating a relatable commentary on the extreme lenghths that we go through to find love and keep it. The term manic pixie dream girl refers to a specific type of female character in films, where the role's only purpose is that of a romantic interest that is illustrated with an eccentric, quirky personality and an optimistic outlook on life. Although this type of character has been critized for being misogynistic and unrealistic, Tim Clare focuses on man's pursuit of this woman, and provides some honest insight on the phrase, madly in love:

When you're in love

Everthing is a message

From the sun beaming brilliant and bronze in the sky

To the wind through a cornfield

A woodpigeon's cry

The world seems exotic, so complex and new

All the bands on the radio sing just for you

When you're insane

Everything is a message

From the fluorescent runes that dissolve at your touch

To the backwards Latin whispers

Rising out of your crotch

Amor et melle et felle est fecundissmismus

The worlds seems exotic, so complex and new

All the bands on the radio sing orders to assassinate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall just for you

In this comparison, Clare addresses the universal concept of love, illustrating it as a mental illness. Through his odd, unusual language, Clare is able to provide commentary on a common ideal that we all strive for, and twist it around to create a more negative perspective. He presents the notion that although love is followed with happiness, it can also be followed with obsession, delusion, grief, and depression. With that in mind, he accurately expresses humanity's constant desire for love, despite the bitter obstacles that we all face to acquire it. It's a commonly known fact that love can sometimes incite happiness or brutal agony, but in spite of all of our knowledge and wisdom, we throw all that invaluable experience aside, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it.

Contradicting stereotypes found in both poetry and comedy, Tim Clare has become one of the most famous stand-up poets in Britain with help from his fresh style and unique comedic voice. The poems of Tim Clare delve into universal concepts that arise day to day, allowing the reader to think on these concepts in a new perspective. His ability to create an entertaining performance that creates a thought-provoking and amusing message is both an influential and groundbreaking development in the art of these two genres. In light of that, the humor presented is not what makes the poem compelling, but the honest and real subject matter that is being conveyed.

Tim Clare's ability to blur the lines between comedic poetry and reality can incite our own personal thoughts and memories. Cancer and Divorces reveals thoughts of future happiness, and whether it'll be filled with tragedy or bliss. The Lament of Scrooge McDuck opens memories of past loved ones, and feelings of grief and mourning. The universal themes of stand-up poetry emits an honesty that creates a genuine effect on the reader, demonstrating the powerful significance that comedic poetry can have on the world.


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