If comedy has any role in a civilised society, it is to keep us alive to our double standards and frailties. There is nothing healthier than laughing at ourselves in order to ensure that humility outguns hubris.
I was watching an old vid of the US standup Bill Hicks last night. Unlike the people featured in last night’s Slogpost, Bill has gone to the Big Stage in the Sky: this is a shame because he was both hysterically funny and fearlessly outspoken.
The clip was from the late 1980s, and featured the comic talking about the sort of truly daft schoolbooks that are almost normal these days, but which he at the time found (to use his exact words) “utterly disgusting”. The books were called “Alice’s two Mommies” and “Daddy’s new room-mate” on the subject of single gender female and male parenting respectively. Bill had a fine old time tearing them to pieces – and taking the audience with him all the way – on the basis of cost, inappropriate teaching, minority lunacy – and mainly, just the sheer, cheesy, vomit-inducing misguided attempt to make the idea of single sex parents (and teaching infant kids about it) seem normal.
“You used to fuck men, now you fuck women,” he says at one point, “that’s cool, I have no problem with that, but if you need a fuckin’ book to rationalise it, do you think maybe you have a problem? And why do you imagine your five year old even cares?”
Now I know many of you don’t go along with my own view on this and I respect that: each to his or her own, and so forth. But I always reply, when asked about same-sex relationships, “To criminalise homosexuality is uncivilised, but to idolise it is insane”. Either way, watching Hicks (a bloke who despised bigotry and regarded the Democratic Party as “just one side of a coin, and what connects them to the GOP is being a coin”) call the pc army “deranged” about child sexualisation made me realise how even the most radical comics back then had basic common sense.
It also put me in mind of Richard Hammond’s recent ice-cream encounter with the Progressive fascists, and Ed Miliband’s endless tweets about giving more rights to LGBT people. Worse still, it reminded me of the New York Times journalist mother who, after Trump’s victory, tweeted, “How do I tell my six year old son the POTUS is a rapist bigot?” to which my immediate riposte was “Yr 6 yr old gives not a shit but might be pissed later in life when he sees that his Mom lied to him”.
Later last night, I watched a Channel4 documentary about old Pete & Dud sketches being played to contemporary performing artists. During one Australian tour, the two of them plus Barry Humphries played three Aussie gays in a satirical parody about their behaviour that struck me as funny because it was so accurate. Afterwards, card-carrying Progressive comedienne Josie Lawrence (reduced these days to Eastenders because nothing she says is funny any more) sniffily called the sketch, “really just taking the piss out of, you know, and not really amusing”. So relaxed was she about gay men, Josie couldn’t even bring herself to use the word: perhaps she was scared she might use the wrong one. This month.
On the scent by now, I went back to YouTube and found a series called “Jokes that got famous people into hot water”. They ranged from 1982 to 2005. None of them – not one – were right-wing standups. All but two of the gags were pertinent and funny in an anti-hypocrite sort of way. The two exceptions were a 9/11 fireman gag (funny, but far too near the event to be anything other than tasteless) and a Jewish comic taunting a black technician in a truly offensive way.
Just 12 years on, I can’t think of a single comic who would attempt any of the featured material in broadcast media.
It’s why Private Eye is no longer funny, HIGNFY is no longer funny, and Mock the Week was never funny: nobody dares any longer tell a joke parodying every minority and his mother’s attempt to silence critics. It is all a nonstop stream of strict pc obedience.
Let me just embolden the key point I’m making and then write around it for a bit.
The way to get a fair deal for minorities is not for those minorities and their supporters to put them above the same reproach and satire that the majority has to face.
Liberal Democracy is not a minority system of government, it goes with the will of the majority. I agree that is often a flawed idea, which is why I am a Benthamite in using the criterion of the greatest good and fulfilment of the greatest number.
It is a truly terrible idea to immunise minorities from criticism, because they too are human beings….and given an inch, they will take a mile. One only has to look at Islamic leaders and activists in the UK to see how appeasement simply increases the appetite for power and censorship.
By the end of the 1970s, this was what happened with a few fat, bald and undemocratic trade union leaders. My, didn’t that turn out well? Look at us now: labour stripped of its power, and worse off by 22% than it was 15 years ago.
It’s what happened with gay comics in the Naughties. They just went that bit too far and into too much detail. Julian Clary’s long article about how his career went downhill following his silly “fisting with Norman Lamont” crack at an awards ceremony is hugely instructive: Clary was smart enough to realise his mistake, and also that the remark wasn’t funny. Graham Norton, by contrast, is funny because he’s funny: occasionally he really camps it up, but one always goes with him.
Casual, unpleasant racism is still there under the surface of many people regardless of ethnicity. Education can remove a lot of it, but not if the student is thick. Thick people never get it; they always latch on to the simplistic, and they adore being part of The Mob.
A lot of young people on the Left are thick, most dyed in the wool neocons are thick, the majority of strictly religious people are thick, and so-called football ‘fans’ tend to be thick. Their ideological and catechismic fanaticism is no different to racism: they too get off on mob action designed to make contrarians cower, to shut other opinions up. Multivariate opinion is abhorrent to them. Using the term ‘politically correct’ is in and of itself a refusal to accept that a contrary opinion can be anything other than incorrect: it is no different to Stürmers burning Jewish books and Gobbels referring to nonrepresentational art as ‘decadent’.
What nobody seems to be auditing in any proper manner is the increasingly oxymoronic nature of the term ‘liberal democracy’. Lots of trends terrify these days, but the vandalism involved in this process frightens me more than most of the blithe ignorance among our Twatterati.
What in God’s name is ‘liberal’ about a majority – or a large minority – feeling that they cannot express what they feel in even the mildest of terms?
Where is the ‘democracy’ if government puts a tiny corporate cult (and equally homoaeopathic sexual or religious sects) before the genuine and self-regarding needs of those eligible to vote?
Who stands for reality any more – those who insist on the Inquisitional idea of ‘settled science’, or those empiricists armed with data that show an ideology to be ‘bad science’?
Looking back at the painfully awkward truths of Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Peter Cook and Lenny Bruce, I am finally awake to what they all had in common: just like the equally seditious Groucho Marx, they wouldn’t be seen dead in a mob.
I wouldn’t want to be found dead in an audience with Jim Davidson or Marcus Brigstock, because to my mind they’re just traffic cops giving parking directions for those keen to attend the stoning. Why be a traffic cop when you could be students of anthropology like Louis CK and Bill Burr?