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EDITIONS
Friday, 5 April, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Jeremy Hardy: Caustic comic
Jeremy Hardy
Comedian Jeremy Hardy has been caught up in the violence on the West Bank, witnessing Israeli soldiers opening fire on peace protesters. As Bob Chaundy, of the BBC's News Profiles Unit writes, he's a man "veering towards anarchism".

As a stalwart of BBC Radio 4 programmes such as The News Quiz, Just a Minute and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Jeremy Hardy has the ideal vehicle for exercising that tetchy, ranting, coruscating humour so popular with the current generation of comedians.

As the Financial Times put it, "One minute lewd, the next blimpish, the next acerbic, he is always one step wide of insult, and one ahead of expectation".

Appearing on If I Ruled the World
TV is not his favourite medium
Reacting on The News Quiz, for example, to news of a government green initiative to get Britons to use fewer carrier bags, he let rip.

"Pardon me. I'm not some vast chemical corporation filling our seas with filth, I'm not Nato who's turned the Danube into a toxic soup. And the government comes on the news and says: 'Are you doing your bit? Why aren't you having your bath in a plastic carrier bag? Why not use BOTH sides of lavatory paper?

"And instead of making a cup of tea, why don't you just stuff all your plastic bags into a kettle and that'll cause a fire and kill your whole family, who won't then eat any food or walk on the pavement and wear it out by being individuals.' I'm fed up with all this." You get the picture.

Though he has appeared on television, most notably in another BBC panel game, If I Ruled the World, radio is his preferred choice of the broadcast media.

"It's a cliché, but TV supplants the imagination," he says, "whereas radio feeds it. People listen to me on the radio and think of me as a tall, handsome Afro-Caribbean woman because they haven't got a picture in their head of who I am."

Doing a stand-up act at the Jongleurs in 1988
He still enjoys doing stand-up routines
In fact, Jeremy Hardy, is a short middle-class Caucasian who was born in Aldershot 40 years ago, graduated from Southampton University, and lives in London with his wife, the American comedienne, Kit Hollerbach, and their 11 year-old daughter.

"They say life begins at 40," he says, "but I think it just takes you 40 years to realise it's already started."

If you encounter Jeremy Hardy in the flesh, you are just as likely to see him protesting outside the High Court or campaigning at a political rally, as seeing him doing the kind of stand-up routine that first made his name as a comic talent.

"Jeremy is sincere, passionate, loyal and gets angry at injustice wherever that may be. When he believes in something, he really believes in it", says News Quiz producer, Lucy Armitage.

As a committed member of the Socialist Alliance, an amalgam of groups that includes the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain, Jeremy Hardy likes to get his hands dirty.

He will protest against international affairs such as the current Middle-East violence, to causes nearer to home, such as Northern Ireland.

Campaigning for the Tottenham 3 in 1991
Campaigning for the Tottenham 3 in 1991
He is a firm believer in Irish reunification ("Northern Ireland is part of Ireland, not Britain, as can clearly be seen from aerial photographs") and famously stumped up the hefty bail for the nationalist activist, Roisin McAliskey, in 1998.

His radical viewpoint, sweetened with the dry charm that Radio 4 listeners find so appealing, is most successfully expressed in his Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation series in which he gives vent to his feelings on all the burning political issues of the day. Inevitably, it receives large numbers of complaints, yet a new series is in the offing.

Less successful, at least in the opinion of his employers, was his Guardian column. It was axed recently because it was said to be not funny enough, though it was thought the paper suspected Hardy of using it as a Socialist Alliance platform.

In his final piece he opined "I certainly believe that a sense of humour is essential, but as a way of looking at the world, not as a way of packaging it for public consumption."

Jeremy Hardy portrait
The Guardian found his column "not funny enough"
The future will see Jeremy Hardy expand into another medium, film. He is to appear with Burt Reynolds and David Schwimmer in the film Hotel, directed by Mike Figgis of Leaving Las Vegas fame.

But he will continue to rail against injustice and hypocrisy. "I do not see my job as keeping our rulers on their toes; I'd rather see them hanging by their feet."

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Jeremy Hardy tells the BBC's Ed Stourton about the horrific events in Bethlehem

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02 Apr 02 | Middle East
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