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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The joke has curdled and become poisonous

I have to say that I am coming to agree with Johan Hari. At least on one thing. His piece on Little Britain is very persuasive. Faced with the sort of criticisms levelled at the show by Hari, I have heard someone moan; “So who can we laugh at?” I think that this sums up Little Britain’s misanthropy. The ‘who’ in that moan refers not to an individual character, to a complex empathetic human being, but to classes and categories of people. ‘Who’ can we laugh at? You can laugh at whoever you want, but I prefer that my comedy is not built on appeals to my misanthropy by making whole groups of people seem alien, foolish or wicked.

Some will say; “But it is just entertainment – it is free speech!” To which I would reply; “Entertainment? That is debatable. And seriously? Speech has power, which is the basis on which we demand the right to free speech. But some people have louder voices than others, and in this case a couple of men have a much louder say than the millions of people who are the object of their ridicule. If they defend it by saying that it has no impact, then that ought be taken as a damning condemnation of the use to which they have put their privileged position. More, to defend ‘speech’ by arguing that it has no impact is to undermine the very foundations of free speech; why do we need the right to something that is no longer the foundation of political, social and civic freedom, but rather a mere economic (and show-business, no more) activity? But that is wrong; speech is powerful, speech is special. And the onus is always on the speaker to consider the effect that their words, magnified by the volume of their voices and refracted through the imaginations of their listeners, might have.”

My suggestion: watch Phoenix Nights for some comedy built on genuine empathy for the characters and the people they represent.

Here's the difference: Peter Kay is writing a bit about himself, so he's laughing at himself, which is why it's funny. Little Britain is just a couple of plutocrats making fun of the scum.
I prefer that my comedy is not built on appeals to my misanthropy by making whole groups of people seem alien, foolish or wicked.

Well I'd forgive any of that if it was actually funny, but as Hari says "it is as entertaining as a burning orphanage". Frankly I think that's very generous.
But surely there is a part of each of us - the part that turns up with a goatee beard and arched eyebrows after a transporter accident - that would find burning orphanages hilarious.

The resulting laugh might come out as, "bwah-hah-hah-hah", mind.
Are these singing orphans? That might be funny.

Little Britain has always troubled me. Not least because it's biggest fans are school children who, and I've seen this first hand, use the sketches as powerful tools of playground bullying.

The BBC should take a little more notice about what the put out at 9pm, cos many kids don't have bedtimes like 'we' used to, or parents that discuss what they're seeing with them.

(Christ, I'm starting to sound like Duff...)

If only we taught kids to be media savvy in schools - how to de-code shows as texts. But that would be too sensible for the Neo-Labs, who seem to want to ban coursework now. Seriously, why do we bother?

And Peter Kay is boring, Give me the Mighty Boosh any day. Or Man Stroke Woman, which seems like it'll be pretty good.
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