Tales From The Water Cooler: Don't give up the day job, George


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The Independent Online

Poor George Osborne has failed to learn the first rule of comedy: know your audience. Actually, that may not be the first rule. But I expect it's one of them. In any case, at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, where the Chancellor took home the prize for (male) Politician of the Year, he appeared to imply that politicians, not to mention the readers of GQ magazine, were "wankers".

Perhaps he thought he'd go down like Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, edgily alienating some of his audience, to the amusement of the rest. But the joke killed, and not in a good way.

It's not Osborne's first badly timed gag. At the despatch box last year, for instance, he likened the gay Labour MP Chris Bryant to a "pantomime dame". Bryant didn't think this was funny at all and accused him of homophobia. Again: know your audience.

All this must be jolly frustrating for Osborne, who used to write William Hague's jokes when he was Tory leader; as a result, Hague was widely hailed as Westminster's wittiest man.

After a recent appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, James Corden claimed Osborne was the funniest fellow in the green room. Friends of ex-Chancellor Gordon Brown always claimed that, in private, he was charming and jovial. (When he wasn't throwing things at them, that is.)

Similarly, Osborne's chums say he's really a riot. But his GQ Award citation describes him as the coalition's "most important strategist [and] the lieutenant to whom the PM listens most closely." A backstage man, then – great in the writer's room, rubbish under the spotlight.