This is not an open letter from accountants to comedians. Mainly because:
- open letters have been done to death recently. I mean there’s been lots of them, not people have been writing to the grim reaper. He’s more of a BBM guy.
- I am both a comedian and accountant, so it would sort of be like me writing to myself, which in the ‘7 signs of madness’ ranks above talking to yourself. I used to email myself (which is fine by the way), but now I use evernote.
Anyway, here’s the thing. In the build up to deadline day (tax, not football transfers), one’s facebook timeline is filled with status updates reporting various cases and levels of last minute stress, early submission smugness and general confusion. And then there’s the requests for recommendations for good accountants and help deciphering HMRC gibberish. Oh, how it all changes once January is gone…
For the other eleven months of the year, accountants are figures of fun. Easy targets for the lazy. I am tired of hearing “accountant” and “from accounts” or “in accounts” as a reference or even a punchline. Whenever a comedian or writer needs to have a dig at a generic employee or say “hey, you know, that boring guy (here he is in an unusual situation)” they just say it’s an accountant.
[Aside: Of course, the accounts department isn’t always concerned with financial accounting. Any Mad Men watcher can tell you that. Pete Campbell is an “accounts man”, and spends his time winning new business and keeping clients sweet. No self-respecting accountant would stand being likened to such a snivelling toad. Accountants have integrity. Even the wideboys in tax avoidance schemes have more morals than Campbell!]
Why is it always “in accounts”? Why not “in IT” or some other department? Is it the plosive consonants that give it the edge? Are there no other supposedly dull jobs? Surely there is a similar lack of fun in watching security monitors or washing dishes. Maybe it is a genuine lack of understanding of what accountants do. Maybe successful professional creative types haven’t ever had to hang around long enough in an office job to get a grip on the details. I heard one comedian say that an accountant (who still lived with his mum) was good at square roots! Mostly they just do a bit of adding and subtracting. Plus “in accounts” tells us nothing! Is it Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable? BE SPECIFIC!
But most of all, it’s just so played-out. Python did it several times 40 years ago (here are some examples) and even nowadays some of the best comedy minds, people I admire and respect, reach for their broad brush and paint the easily recognised code for ‘dull man’ in big red paint in the middle of their otherwise brilliant work. I’ve seen it in all manner of TV shows and stand-up sets. Someone dresses in a suit – they look like an accountant. Someone lacks social skills, they’re like an accountant. Even comedy clubs use it in their marketing blurb. If that’s not enough do a simple sickipedia search. Give it a rest!
Several of our finest comedians have come from accounting. Arnold Brown, Fred MacAulay, Bob Newhart… Eddie Izzard studied accounting… the list goes on… (actually, I’m not sure it does, but it’s a thing people say, isn’t it. Like Dave from Accounts, he probably says that). What would they say?
So, think about your tax return and how much you hate doing it. Now think about people who spend most of their lives doing tax returns and things like tax returns. Next time you need a handy description or reference point for a nerdy person or boring job, remember that the worst hour of your working year is EVERY hour of an accountant’s!
And put “Bob from IT”.
If you want to see me say jokes (and things like jokes), some of which will be about accounting and maths (yep!), have a look at my gig list here. And if you haven’t already done so, please sign up to my mailing list. Subscribers get a free mp3 download of my debut solo comedy show, and hardly ever get emails from me!