Thursday, 28 March 2013

Left Wing Comedy and the BBC

The other night I was listening to BBC Radio 4's comedy Podcast Friday Night Comedy, specifically The Now Show (because I am a middle aged man, apparently). For those of you who don't know Friday Night Comedy is a weekly podcast which alternates between series' of The Now Show (hosted primarily by Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt but frequently featuring Jon Holmes (whom I will be addressing in a moment), Mitch Benn, and a whole host of other comics),  and The News Quiz (hosted by Sandi Toksvig and frequently featuring Susan Calman, Jeremy Hardy (again, more on him later), Andy Hamiliton etc etc the list goes on). Both shows are satires of the weeks news, one in the form of a quiz, the other in a series of segments (stand up, song, sketches etc).

Last week, in Jon Holmes' section, he addressed complaint which many people have with the BBC - it is too left wing. Now, this is problematic for the BBC who are meant to be a non-biased broadcasting institution. Having an partisan take on social, political and economic news stories is very much not in their job description. However, in my opinion for the most part I believe that the BBC does this very well, and in its serious news style programmes (ie, BBC Breakfast, various news programmes, and The One Show) it walks the line between entertainment and reporting very carefully. The Friday Night Comedy shows are not serious news broadcasting shows. Their sole objective is to entertain through mockery and satire. Firstly, I think many of these complaints have arisen because there is a Conservative (right wing) political party in government at the moment, so therefore there is a lot of anti-conservative jokes appearing on these shows. However, when Labour (traditionally left wing) were in government, an equal number of anti-Labour jokes were made. Therefore, I believe it is less about the BBC's political stance, and more about the requirements needed for the show.

However, I think it goes even deeper than this. In the criticism, it was especially picked up that Jeremy Hardy is a very regularly featured comic. He is also rather left wing (as Jon Holmes put it he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, in particular his left sleeve) and isn't afraid to voice his (very funny in my opinion) views. When I actually sat down to think about it I couldn't really think of any out and out right wing comics who I found funny. This got me asking a question: are the BBC putting on left wing comics because their perpetuating a political stance, or because they are trying to provide the best entertainment? Personally I think it's the later.

Comedy works at its best when you are mocking the system that we live in, when you are picking out something from society and saying 'look, this is wrong, it's funny, but we should also probably change it'. Right wing comics never portray that message. In right wing comedy all you tend to get is mockery of left wing 'utopian' ideas: unattainable dreams that can never be realised. What are these 'unattainable dreams'? Well, they tend to be the desire for equality in society, not only in a monetary sense between rich and poor, but also between men and women, black and white, lgbtq, the list goes on. Left wing comedy mocks the people in power, right wing comedy mocks the victim. I don't know about you, but I don't think that mocking the people who are worse off in society is a very funny thing to do.

Let me know if you know any right wing comics who don't do this, if there are even any right wing comics at all (I'm seriously struggling to think of any, other than Jeremy Clarkson). Tell me if you agree with me, or if you have the same issues in your country.

Oh, and give Friday Night Comedy a listen. It's really rather good.

Best Wishes!


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