MOST people like to laugh, but these days too many are worried at being seen to find something funny that they shouldn’t.
I’m not saying anyone should crack up at Jim Davidson, but a joke can still take aim at a target and provoke amusement.
I once bought an album from a charity shop which featured the “best of” The Comedians TV series and it featured plenty of material that would have those talking heads on programmes such as It Was All Right in the 70s/80s desperately trying to dredge up a reaction that displayed the appropriate amount of shock.
One “gag” had a “comic” talking about the ethnic make-up of his local authority, which he said had been re-named Oldham Turban District Council. Funny or not? You judge? Acceptable? Certainly not now.
Yet back then it was both funny and acceptable to people whose entertainment was gleaned from three TV channels and the comics on the Working Men’s Club circuit.
It was an era in which many jokes started with “An Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman” with “Pakistani” often used as a substitute for the hapless Irish chap. The third on the list was always the butt of the joke and coach drivers were still sticking on “100 best Irish Jokes” albums as they took groups around the country only a few years ago. There’s probably one playing on a road between here and Blackpool right now.
Bernard Manning was a genuinely funny bloke — his joke about a Yorkshire couple staying on a caravan site in Spain but forgetting to pack their gravy is still one of my favourites. His nights at his comedy club in Harpurhey, Manchester, were always sold out and no-one complained at the content. Acceptable in the 2020s? Obviously not.
Even moving into the 2000s, the likes of Brendan Burns and the wonderful late Bill Hicks would probably have to modify their content, the latter in particular — “By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing…kill yourself” would be unlikely to escape the ear of the censor and would, if enough people took notice, see this paper out of business!
Kevin Bridges, Frank Skinner, Ricky Gervais and, in particular Frankie Boyle, edge towards the line of what is deemed acceptable or not, but surely that is the point of comedy. It makes you think, and if you don’t like it...
Comedy’s not always just a laugh, it’s there to provoke a reaction while obviously not being performed by a racist or sexist meathead.
The likes of Michael McIntyre and Matt Lucas/David Walliams are allowed to rip through the lower classes with impunity, laugh at the lifestyles of the very people who watch them and read this paper, but that is deemed okay and, after all, it’s probably only a public forum for what they actually say behind closed doors. Which, sadly, is why Jim Davidson still pulls a crowd — a lot of people are quietly nodding along in agreement.
Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton once said (something like this anyway) while we still have the remnants of free speech he will speak out, and South Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender sings of smug liberal arrogance being ammunition for the right-wing media. Both are right. Privileged sneering and sensitivity never wins a war.
People are quick to be offended by comedy, but the only one winning is the offender.