Julie Burchill: We still love a joke, it's just that the real funnymen left the building long ago

The ignorant bigotry of Bernard Manning has been replaced by the cowardly, preening, calculated bullying of comics as different as Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle

Share
Related Topics

Listen to BBC7 radio a lot, and one of the most charming things about it is that before The Navy Lark or whatever, the links-person will warn us that the comedy contains "humour acceptable at the time". This usually means that some bloke will say 'knickers' halfway through, and the studio audience will roar unrestrainedly.

At other times, BBC7 will air excellent examples of modern comedy – The League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, Knowing Me Knowing You. I don't recall these coming with a warning, and that must be because it's a given that modern humour is based on giving offence.

Paradoxically, the general acceptance of offensive humour came up alongside the knowledge that there are certain things we shouldn't make jokes about. What was outlawed – the straightforward ignorant bigotry of Bernard Manning – was replaced by something far worse; the cowardly, preening, calculated bullying practised by comics as different as Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle.

Don't pick on anyone who might hit you – that's the first rule of modern comedy. That's why the jokers steer clear of race, while bashing women and the handicapped.

It started with Thatcherism, like a lot of things: "Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!" crowed Kenny Everett at a Tory rally.

And now Labour MPs mock a Tory with cerebral palsy. Pigs, walking on two legs? Ooo, I bet they feel as cool as Frankie Boyle bullying a Down's Syndrome kiddy!

When Steve Coogan broke ranks to scold the Top Gear seat-sniffers for jeering at Mexicans, you could sense the bafflement on both sides. So much said about so many people, such rotten slurs allowed to go unremarked – just joking! – and Coogan decides to get worked up over a heap of refried beans.

But it looked good, his priggishness – shocking, and fresh, like the New Comedy used to. Not getting the joke is the new rock'n'roll.

"There's nothing as sad as the laughter of those who have lost their faith," someone once said. Something happened awhile back which literally left people not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and while it may have made them free, it certainly didn't make them happy.

I think rap music had a hand in it; n-word this, ho that, bitch the other. When white middle-class liberal men started quoting, gloating and getting off on the gynophobic geometry of rap, that's when it started, this climate of abuse.

It was being stopped, and then it was restarted – just because there was now a culturally legit way for men to call women names.

It's interesting to observe how the same sort of political activists who once sneered at the sexual chastity of the white working class now defend the medievalism of Islamist morality by claiming that the young fundamentalists have been "provoked" by the licentiousness of young proletarian women.

Misogyny is the cultural coin that draws groups together whatever their differences; the brotherhood of man bonding over the broken bodies of women.

Men showing off to each other, in the manner of the old Flanders and Swann song – "Ma's out, Pa's out, let's talk rude! Pee, Po, Belly, Bum, Drawers!" – that's what comedy is.

Talk about a boys' club; the rise of Miranda Hart is remarkable in that even those who praise her see fit to marvel that she has triumphed as a comedian despite her alleged ugliness. She is in fact a tall, pretty woman who for some reason colludes in this fiction by claiming that she is often mistaken for a man. Has she SEEN what male comedians generally look like? They could barely be mistaken for human.

A GSOH has always been the ultimate non-negotiable when modern people seek to attract mates: we would rather admit to being bad in bed than to being humourless.

But in the wake of Coogan's magnificent Mexican stand-off, this may be about to change. The moronic chorus of snickers which saw fit to sanitise Jimmy Carr's rape jokes may well melt away now that one man has drawn a line in the sand and said that HE JUST DOESN'T GET IT.

We can but hope.

Post-Imperial smugness that ignores history

It's a great time to be a channel-surfing Zionist dupe. We wait years for a televisual demonisation of our beliefs – and then get two in a week! Louis Theroux's documentary on Jewish settlers and Peter Kosminsky's drama The Promise shared a similar bogus premise – that Zionism would be revealed in all its uniquely vile calumny.

I'd have had more time for both if they just acknowledged the fact the Jews built the country we call Israel centuries before Islam even existed. ("Revert", not "convert" to Islam, my eye!) Keep perpetuating the myth that a bunch of white Europeans pranced out of the sea in the 1940s demanding a land in a foreign region, you half-witted Jew-baiters, when the fact is the Israelites were in the Middle East from the start.

Yes, I KNOW it's puzzling that such a small. persecuted tribe can keep surviving, thriving and achieving the way the Hebrews do – such as, winning the Nobel Prize: 22 per cent of recipients from a world population of 0.2 per cent: how'd they do that? – but just because so many of us Gentiles aren't up to scratch, is that any reason to nag the Jews indefinitely?

In both Kosminsky's and Theroux's baseline attitude to the Israelites who rejected the endless trials of the Diaspora and made it home, there is the same post-Imperial smugness, seen when William Hague tells Israel to behave. Butt out, bulldog – whatever Israel does, old Blighty's say-so is unlikely to be a factor. This border skirmish was settled long ago.

Women's words hide a sad truth

Words I hate: LUXE. It SO sucks, and it's everywhere. Why? Because the old words "luxury" and "deluxe" no longer have any snob value – you can get a deluxe car wash or buy a luxury prawn ring at Iceland.

LUXE is just another way of keeping out the masses in order to feel good about yourself.

There's a bunch of words a certain sort of woman likes that are like LUXE. PAMPER. SPA. WELLNESS. DETOX. MANI-PEDI. I know it's childish, but if a woman uses these words, I always assume she's afraid she smells really nasty, left to her own devices, and will go to any lengths to hide the fact. Childish, but true.



React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

History Teacher

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a teacher o...

IT Teacher

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a suitably ...

Legal Cashier - Oxford

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Legal Cashier - Oxford We have an excellent ...

Legal Cashier - Oxford

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Legal Cashier - Oxford We have an excellent ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul
 

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor