TV review: Are You Having a Laugh? Comedy and Christianity, BBC1

Parks and Recreation, BBC4

There is, it appears, one person left in Britain still offended by The Life of Brian. Thankfully, and presumably in response to accusations of atheist bias in the BBC's comedy, someone has seen fit to grant an hour of TV to her for Are You Having a Laugh? Comedy and Christianity.

Ann Widdecombe is unamused because "jokes about Christianity are everywhere you look". Her evidence is mild at best – a clip of Dara O Briain asking, "If we're all God's children, what's so special about Jesus?" here, another of (the Christian) Ian Hislop taking mock-offence to being called a Christian on Have I Got News for You there.

Her arguments, meanwhile, are from the Worzel Gummidge school of straw-manism: "Why is it now so funny to call Christians stupid? Why is Christianity easier to ridicule than other faiths?" (a) It's not and not one of her examples does this. (b) It isn't – ask Jerry Springer: the Opera's Stewart Lee.

One can empathise with Widdecombe's hurt at gags about her religion – as Marcus Brigstocke does when she interviews him – but it's hard to have any sympathy with her argument that Christians get an overly hard time on TV. Better that than being strip-searched every time you go through departures, eh?

Widdecombe's cause is further undermined by two of her examples of what she "regards as most sacred" now being "fodder for a cheap gag". The first is a decade-old Goodness Gracious Me sketch in which characters are confused at Communion and try to dip the bread in mango chutney. Producer Anil Gupta has to patiently explain that it's a joke at the Indian characters' expense rather than the Church's.

Then there's The Life of Brian. Which Ann hasn't seen. We get a careful explanation as she watches it for the first time. "This man's name is not Jesus, it's Brian," she says while everyone watching, shouts, "and he's a very silly boy!" Then an aghast Ann watches the crucifixion scene. She doesn't love it.

Rather than gags at the Church's expense, Widdy wants more shows like the mid-Sixties ecclesiastical sitcom All Gas and Gaiters – "where the humour was based on the quirks of characters rather than their faiths" – as if Father Ted kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse was a Hitchensesque polemic against the Holy See rather than doing exactly what she's describing.

For a woman who spent a large part of 2012 complaining that free speech was under threat by gay marriage, she's on thin ice hypocrisy-wise in this blinkered and naive film. But look on the bright side of life, Ann, at least you can turn these shows off. As, one imagines, many did last night.

Religious interference into secular life was skewered in the first episode of the second series of Parks and Recreation, too. A week after series one finished, we're straight into the 24-part second series and it's becoming clear why the show is so revered. Tonight's first episode saw Leslie Knope – Amy Poehler's Mr Smith in a world of Francis Urquharts – accidentally become a local gay icon when the two penguins she "marries" in a PR stunt for the local zoo turn out to be gay. And prove so in front of a crowd of children.

Under pressure from the Widdecombe-like leader of Society for Family Stability ("when gays marry it ruins it for the rest of us"), Leslie goes double-or-nothing with an appearance at Pawnee's gay bar, the Bulge: "I guess I'm like Queen of the Gays," she tells her boss, Ron (Nick Offerman) later.

It's a nice take on the wider political discourse in the US and would be funnier were it not for the fact that right-wing fury over two gay penguins marrying sounds like an all-too-real Fox News story.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor