ASHES TO ASHTRAYS

Authority, pomposity, hypocrisy – what I consider to be the key trio of perfectly valid targets to satirise, and the ones I persistently aim at via my YouTube video sideline; if anyone ever takes umbrage because I’ve somehow gone where no so-called ‘comedian’ on TV dares to go in these sensitive days, that’s a fault in them, not me. I don’t claim to be breaking new ground, nor do I believe I’m doing anything that wasn’t once commonplace. Maybe my stuff only appears risqué because the alternative today is so lame, having had the fire in its belly dampened by committees, focus groups and the overwhelming craving not to offend. ‘Offensive comedy’ was once the province of deliberately belligerent comics like Bernard Manning, but now any comedy that fails to adhere to the unwritten rules of what can and can’t be said is placed in the Manning or (even worse) Chubby Brown bracket.

Comedy on television used to be rather fearless and now it’s fearfully toothless – as are the broadcasters who don’t want to be battered by a Twitter storm so therefore play it safe with Michael McIntyre for the mums and dads, whilst panel shows do likewise for the kids with their virtue-signalling stand-ups. It’s a pity this is the state of affairs we’ve fallen into because there’s such an abundance of targets asking for it today, yet we’re somehow ‘not allowed’ to poke fun at them. Bollocks to that. Did Chaplin relent from satirising Hitler in ‘The Great Dictator’ at a time when the US hadn’t entered WWII and was still trying not to be beastly to the Germans? No, he didn’t. Why should we be so bloody cautious almost 80 years later?

Of course, there are always politicians, and politicians are an absolute gift to a satirist – they fulfil the criteria re the trio named and shamed at the beginning of this post and always have, bringing out the best in everyone from Swift to ‘Spitting Image’; but even then there are rules as to which of them we’re allowed to ridicule. White male Tory – fine; black female Labour – ooh, racist and misogynistic. No-go. Yet Diane Abbott offers up so many open goals, how can anyone resist? There’s no need to descend to the lazy online level of simian-based insults (which those who use them are too stupid to realise gives her additional ammunition); Abbott is such a Grade-A car-crash every time she opens her mouth that it only takes a little imagination to nail her.

In this week’s strange climate, the lines one can cross have been reinforced with renewed mortification, beginning with the outrage over Michael Gove’s Weinstein joke – which he, naturally, had to apologise for. It ends with Harriet Harman, the high-priestess of po-faced Political Correctness for the last twenty-odd years, exposing the double standards inherent in her agenda on live television as she shared the sofa with Michael Portillo on ‘This Week’. Quoting a rag-mag gag from her student days, Harperson highlighted her smug arrogance in assuming Andrew Neil wouldn’t take offence at a blatantly anti-Semitic joke before she told it. There’s no real need to recite it, as it’s all over Twitter and YT already; but had the joke been about black people, Muslims, women or ‘The LGBT Community’ (as Owen Jones likes to call it, as though it’s a stop on his bus route) and had been told by a Tory, Harman would have headed the queue demanding an apology, a resignation and a public execution.

The context in which Harperson told the joke was, ironically, a discussion on the subject of what can and can’t be joked about, but it backfired on her spectacularly. One could be generous and suggest Harman was simply stupid in telling it, though I think it’s more likely she didn’t regard its potential offensiveness as being on a par with Michael Fallon once touching Julia Hartley-Brewer’s knee. It’s interesting that the main offence taken by the Labour side on social media was the fact that Andrew Neil then told his guest to shut up. What a sexist bastard! But a party whose leader has hung out with Hamas and then conducted a belated investigation into its anti-Semitic elements (the main outcome of which appeared to be Shami Chakrabarti’s elevation to the House of Lords) evidently doesn’t regard Jews as being in the same ‘worthy victim’ category as the rest of its pets. Mind you, there are so many Labour seats in the midlands and north of England dependent on the Muslim vote that it’s no real surprise.

One overlooked aspect of this week’s Westminster sex frenzy has been the contrast between the allegations levelled at politicians from both sides of the House. The Tory stories in the main seem to be ‘Carry On Conservative Party’, whereas the Labour members to have had fingers pointed in their direction sound far more serious. Only today, the party has suspended Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins pending an investigation into his conduct towards a young activist two years ago. It goes without saying that we haven’t heard every allegation yet and there could well be one or two alleged rapes emanating from the Tory camp as well; but, as ever, glass houses remain vulnerable to those a little too eager to throw stones at their neighbours.

Anyway, time for a commercial break…

© The Editor