Enter stage left: Leftist comedy means Corbyn and SNP are escaping parody


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The Independent Online

Why is comedy so left wing? This is hardly a new query, but has been raised once again in our report on  Andrew Lawrence, the only right-wing joke teller at the Edinburgh fringe, and one of a very few anywhere.

Controllers of comedy at BBC Radio 4, in particular, have found this more vexing than most. Most of their panel shows and sketch programmes are unrelentingly “progressive” in their humour, not through some conscious or unconscious liberal bias on the part of the producers, but merely because the wit of Mark Steel, for example, far outshines that of most people who vote Conservative. The nearest we have to a funny reactionary is, of course, Jeremy Clarkson. Which rather proves the point.

Some right-wing comedy is impossible to perform today – if you count primitive attitudes towards different races, women and LGBT people as amusing and right wing, that is. What were once popular mainstream shows, such as It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Mind your Language, featured such openly racist stereotypes and ridicule that any broadcaster that attempted to repeat them now would be prosecuted, and rightly so. Other seams of humour easily mined in the past – grotesque mothers-in-law, “dolly birds” and ugly wives – are similarly unacceptable today.

Leftist humourists of every kind sometimes imagine that they are working to change society by subtly changing mindsets and exposing the wickedness of those in power, whether they happen to be Conservative, Liberal Democrat or, especially, New Labour. This may be why the SNP and the ubiquitous Jeremy Corbyn seem to escape most of their jibes.

The pretensions and hypocrisies of the left, though, are many and varied, yet seemingly, literally, beyond parody. Which leaves us with one last thought: Michael Gove once wanted to be a right-wing comedian. Did he succeed?