Alice Jones: Bland comedy on the Beeb? Don't make me laugh

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The Independent Online

Sauciness. That's a word you don't hear enough any more.

Nor do you see enough of it, at least according to the comedy producer John Lloyd. This week the man behind Blackadder, Spitting Image and QI attacked the BBC for reducing its comedy fare to a "bland vichyssoise", its cheek checked and claws blunted by focus groups and political correctness in the wake of Sachsgate. "Sauciness is no longer allowed before 9pm anywhere on the BBC", writes Lloyd in the Radio Times. (Has he never heard the lunchtime repeats of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue?) "Heaven knows what they would have done to The Two Ronnies." While Lloyd's idea of what's funny – all ooer-missus and fork handles – seems somewhat stuck in the Seventies, if even the relentlessly middle-of-the-road Miranda has occasioned top-level talks over a gag involving a phallic lollipop, perhaps he has point. Has the BBC lost its GSOH?

Granted, Lloyd has an axe to grind, now that QI has been relegated from BBC1 to BBC2. And I don't really accept his description of that show as "uncompromising, eclectic, slightly saucy"; it's always seemed unbearably smug to me. But his comments make me wonder if there isn't too much attention paid to notions of offence when it comes to comedy. Just because something is inoffensive, doesn't make it unfunny (see Gavin & Stacey). And vice versa, edgy does not automatically equal funny (see Frankie Boyle). That mindset only gives rise to a particularly trying type of comedian out to shock for shock's sake. Perhaps comedy supremos should spend less time pontificating on what audiences find offensive, and more time simply writing jokes. We're all grown up enough to make up our own minds over whether we're appalled, amused, or, more likely on the BBC, just lightly titillated.


It's been a funny week to be a 29-year-old woman. Beyoncé's announcement of her pregnancy – a newsflash which spawned 8,868 tweets per second – has thrown the spotlight on this most awkward of ages. "I always said I'd have a baby at 30," she said in June. "I'm 29 now." And, lo, because Beyoncé is generally a woman who gets what she wants, it came to pass. So when the superstar enters her fourth decade tomorrow, she does so with the warm glow of knowledge that life is turning out exactly as planned. For the rest of us, for whom the stars are not quite so neatly aligned, various publications have offered up helpful lists of 30 things to do before you're 30. These imperatives range from the major – buy a property, have a baby, write a book, make a million, to the trivial – stop listening to Radio 1, buy a designer handbag, give up texting (really? But... why?).

For me, embarking upon the last month of my twenties and largely concerned with my next deadline and where to hold my birthday party, they make alarming reading. Still, I've got 38 days left to make my first million and write a book. Or I might just lose the checklists and get on with, you know, living my life.


Even in the debris-strewn aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the New York authorities have been busily poring over the small print this week. The reason? A federal law ordering that all of the city's 250,900 street signs be changed from upper case to upper-and-lower case, or from the shouty bombast of WALL ST to boring old, grammatically correct Wall St, by 2018. According to transport administrators, things in capitals are harder to read and therefore cause more accidents.

In fact, having realised that adding millions of dollars of sign-writing to billions of dollars of hurricane damage might be a bit much, they've softened the ruling a little so that from now on, any worn-out signs must be replaced with the new, typographically acceptable, versions.

Let's hope that some out-of-work actors take it upon themselves to begin a round-the-clock tending vigil of the BROADWAY sign immediately. Starring on Broadway simply doesn't have the same ring.