Responding to claims of left-wing bias in entertainment shows, Caroline Raphael, Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor, Comedy, said that funny right-wingers were harder to come by than those on the left.
“It is very difficult to find comedians from the right. I am not saying they aren’t out there,” she said. “Producers… spend a lot of time in the comedy clubs looking for people with a range of views... But we are not seeing them come through, there isn’t a tradition in terms of stand-up, possibly the right feels more comfortable with a pen and paper and the left standing up on a soap box, or in a comedy club.”
But are those on the right really not as funny as the left wing? Try to find an outwardly right-wing comic today and you’ll struggle, let alone one who is popular. To even an impartial eye, the likes of Roy “Chubby” Brown and Jim Davidson come across as lazy, offensive and unfunny. In the US, Dennis Miller and Jackie Mason are the exceptions. Just like the question of gay actors in Hollywood, one could one assume that there are more right-wing comedians, they are simply not comfortable showing their allegiance in public.
One of the common arguments for the lack of Conservative comedy, is that most good humour comes from aiming upwards at targets, rather than punching downwards, which is easier when sitting on the left. So too is simple satire, believes Alison Dagnes, author of A Conservative Walks into a Bar: the Politics of Political Humor. “I think that the form of satire is such that it is anti-establishment. And that’s firmly in the liberal wheelhouse,” she said last year. “What political comedy does is try to reinforce the existing idea of who you are out there.” Indeed the funniest people on the right often seem to be the politicians, Boris Johnson, William Hague or Neil and Christine Hamilton have been given comic credence on the likes of Have I Got News for You.
Matt Forde, an ex-Labour party employee, hosts The Political Party, a monthly comedy and politics show at the St James’ theatre in London. “I’m on the left, but I’m on the centre left and that gets me enough stick,” he says. “I was very much pro-Blair, agreed with the war in Iraq and some people would say that I was on the right as a result.”
But Forde believes that there is a gap in the market for a true Tory maverick or “punk”.
“I would love to see a good Tory stand-up comedian... because when everyone’s left wing, it’s not that exciting,” he says, adding: “Because the consensus is now a left wing consensus... to be a punk comic now you’d be a Tory, purely if you wanted to be provocative.”