Brexit: “alternative comedy” has choked on its own vomit

Back in the late 1970s British television took a marked change of direction. Traditional sitcoms such as The Good Life, George & Mildred and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which never sought to do anything other than make people laugh, were replaced by what became known as “alternative comedy”. This gave birth to such programmes as Not The Nine O’Clock News, The Young Ones followed by Saturday Live, where their stars would make a virtue out of railing against the Establishment, championing proactive democracy, “power to the people” and all that. It made careers for the likes of Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle and Jeremy Hardy, who most recently thought SNP MP Kevan Jones, who has publicly spoken about suffering mental illness throughout his life and doesn’t share his views on Trident renewal was fair game for this zinger: “I would have thought you could hazard a guess that if someone supports nuclear weapons, if your view of existence is so bleak you’re prepared to help with the extermination of the entire northern hemisphere, that kind of suggests depression, don’t you?”, self-styled “alternative comedians” who inflicted their unsophisticated dreck upon impressionable kids who sucked it all up with the gratitude and ignorance of a parched dog drinking from a public toilet.

In the Noughties and now we have Marks Steel, Thomas and Usbrigstocke, and still Jeremy Hardy. Little has changed. They always think they’re right – whether in comedy and politics – and everybody else are basically mentally deranged Nazi sympathisers.

They were and still are happy to take the Establishment shilling while shitting their political invective onto an eagerly wanking audience to the point where it’s adulation became rimming. Even Private Eye, born out of the satire boom of the early 1960s, would – often at great legal expense – seek to expose cronyism and corruption perpetrated by institutions of all levels of Government, local, national or international.

These stars, shows and satirical magazines sought to represent their audience in a way which “the people” couldn’t do for themselves, with a platform unavailable to the masses but cornered and guarded fiercely by those fortunate enough to enjoy their position of celebrity and responsibility.

Campaigning for change, to the political system and politics as a whole, was exactly what the self-styled icons of anti-Establishment had built their careers – and fortunes on, with some stand-up comedians earning millions of pounds per year from hard-working fans, doing a 90-minute set telling those same people without a modicum of irony how little money they have. Their livelihoods were dependent on fawning fans lapping up their bile, worshipped by those who could do nothing in the vain hope that their idols could make things happen. For decades, this was a bit like trying to sixty-nine in a hammock: an interesting experience but of uncertain duration.

And so over the years “alternative” became the Establishment lapdog, the mainstream, having lured an entire generation, incapable of forming opinions for themselves, into blind, unquestioning obedience. If you think of the mainstream media as the Stadio Sant’Elia, then the part that isn’t all gooey-eyed about political institutions would be roughly represented by the bit where Gary Lineker wiped his backside in Italia ’90, way back when diarrhoea would pour from the hole between his lower rather than upper cheeks. But the thing is, the enormous smug egos that form this mainstream media have finally succumbed to that well-known but most annoying of cholesterol problems: egg on face. They’d been found out. In the last few years, through the explosion of social media – Twitter in particular – Establishment figures have become more accessible. No longer did TV shows and magazines, once the sole purveyors of Establishment-bashing, hold a monopoly in anti-deferential behaviour towards the great and the good. And soon, people realised that not only could they throw out the odd snarky Tweet about the political issue of the day, or whinge endlessly about how disconnected they’ve become from the political system and politics as a whole, but with enough numbers they could have influence. They could organise. They could effect change. And given the right opportunity, that change could be massive.

And so to the most important political upheaval in modern times. In the General Election of 2015 then Prime Minister, David Cameron promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) and would therefore have a mandate – if Cameron won the election – to follow through on the result, whatever it was.

And so the referendum came in June 2016, and the electorate, fed up of having laws decided by an unelected body in a different country, with the EU, it’s institutions and regulations registering “gushing” on the cronyism cum-o-meter, over 17.5 million people – 52% of voters – decided that Britain should leave the EU.

In Britain people had voted for change. Massive change. In their millions people had chosen the option so progressive they’d provided the most disruptive, the greatest systemic shift in how politics was done, and most importantly over all, they had taken to the stage and performed their own anti-Establishment show. And their audience was huge.

It was like fucking someone up the arse for the first time. The thought of what they were going into may at first have seemed unpleasant, off-putting even. But that didn’t matter, because the experience would be wonderful, the climax majestic and for the first time they’d shafted something they’d never thought they would: Brexit. People were prepared to put up with the prospect of shit in return for lashings of hot spunk, the resulting creampie being deliciously satisfying. And you can’t get more progressive than that.

You’d be forgiven for thinking, after all of that anti-Establishment anarchy and the now box-ticking British televisual representatives of cutting edge satire, swivel-eyed (sorry, lazy-eyed) race-baiter Jonathan Romesh Ranganathan and his ilk (to borrow the phrase used by William Keegan in The Guardian about Nigel Farage) would be dancing through the streets, their cause won, their careers vindicated, right?

Wrong. If there’s any truth in the phrase that we learn from our mistakes then these people should be geniuses, in fact they’ve been found out. Rather like those pub “brawls” you see when old men square up to each other, both happy to shout “come on then” but too afraid to fight. And that is exactly how those oh-so-brave stars of screen and print are. Spineless. Their bottle has gone. And so instead to try and retain some relevance, they enthusiastically, morbidly predict doom. Armageddon. World War Three. Billions in debt. Muslims deported. Chocolate made illegal (well, a tax on sugar). And when even the University of Cambridge, whose alumni include some of today’s “top comedians” admits that forecasts “were very flawed and very partisan”, lefty columnists have to resort to the ridiculous. Here’s Mark Steel in The Independent:

“And to comply with free movement of labour, the EU is going to ban teaspoons – if you want your tea stirred you’ll have to let a Bulgarian do it with his knob. All our pets will have to be handed in to Brussels in exchange for a huge European Superpet. Then, once Turkey is admitted into the EU, they’ll invite black holes to join too, so we’ll all be swallowed into perpetual darkness – costing us up to £12 a year extra in lightbulbs. The moon will be designated Slovakian and given a flat in Exeter, causing havoc with tides along the coast of Devon, and Jihadism will be taught at nursery schools that will be failed by Ofsted if they don’t explode once a week.”

There’s nothing they’d like more than for Brexit to go wrong, to justify their opinion, their careers, even their very existence. Even Eric Idle, admittedly the least interesting or funny of the Pythons but still a part of what was arguably the forerunner to “alternative” comedy (with apologies to Spike Milligan), described those wishing to leave the EU as “brain dead”.

And we were all stupid for making it happen, see? All that anti-Establishment stuff… “The EU wasn’t that bad…” and “the older generation have condemned the young to a life of misery” which led to 78-year-old Guardian columnist William Keegan to describe Brexiteers as “so-called people”.

The thing is, now the “so-called people” have seen the light, realise what they can achieve, the TV shows and magazines, once the sole purveyors of Establishment-bashing, can’t offer anything. No hope, no solution, no change. They’ve been found out. Their relevance extinguished, “alternative comedy” has choked on its own vomit.

Puns not points

In the last few years stand-up comedy has seen something of a resurgence, particularly on television. Not since The Comedians, the likes of which would give today’s left-wing brigade collective aneurisms, have comedians been showcased quite so prominently and prolifically.

There are three basic breeds of comedian: the middle-aged. middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-Saturday-evening-BBC One-schedules set (Michael McIntyre, John Bishop) with perfectly polished teeth and performances to match. They’re more Marks and Spencer than Marks and Gran – quality assured but all a bit beige. Mind you, if that’s your thing you’re guaranteed a entertaining evening, made all the better with an enormous glass of pink milk (two straws) and a pack of Blue Ribands.

Then there’s the jeans and T-shirt laddish messy hair type (Russell Howard, Chris Ramsey). The career paths for these are often very similar: start off with a spot at the local comedy club, followed nowadays by a podcast (usually with someone they became friends with at University only to ditch them when they have served their useful purpose), then a plethora of panel shows providing an easy earner (the £500-a-pop hopefuls sat at the end of the 8 Out Of 10 Cats or Mock The Week desk, with the regulars barely breaking into a smirk at the newcomers’ “witty observations” as Des O’Connor awkwardly used to call them) without burning up too much material before moving onto larger theatres and the obligatory Christmas DVD or download. Following that there’d be their own stand up or sitcom on BBC Three, repeated ad infinitum between Top Gear repeats and episodes of How To Masturbate With Reggie Yates (apparently the first episode is called “Knowing When To Pause”).

You see these comedians on the telly and you know exactly what you’re going to get: they’re likeable and charming in their own way and will unfailingly deliver an hour and a bit of “hilarious things that happened to my brother” – the sort of stuff you’d hear on the local radio phone-in after the “wacky” breakfast show but with added masturbation gags that’s more rooted in the ribald rather than reality – smothered with lashings of mildly amusing bonhomie. Nothing laugh out loud, nothing world-changing, they’re not out to make a point, they’re just there to make you happy. Fine.

And then there’s the left-wing comedians. For convenience (and descriptive accuracy) let’s call them “Leftards”. They really do make me want to vomit. In the 1980s and 1990s you had Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle and Jeremy Hardy, not laughingly self-styled “alternative” “comedians” who inflicted their unsophisticated bile via Saturday Live upon impressionable kids who lapped it all up with the gratitude and ignorance of a dog drinking from a toilet.

In the Noughties and now we have Marks Steel, Thomas and Usbrigstocke, and Jeremy Hardy. Little has changed. Leftards always think they’re right – whether in comedy and politics – and everybody else are wrong, nasty, evil people. But, as with those on the Left in politics, Leftards aren’t as popular as they’d have you believe or wish to be. That’s why they usually occupy the sixth-form socialism at six-thirty slot on Radio 4, or write for common room communist rags like The Guardian. They’re never happier than when making a point, and their latest fetish is the anti-austerity “movement”. I, too, have just had a “movement” and couldn’t tell the difference.

The thing is, when making their points, they’re usually not borne out by much in the way of facts. Plus, their fans/supporters are usually so intellectually bereft the Leftards have to resort to the absurd or distasteful to get that much needed attention and to ram home their message.

Here’s Mark Steel writing about how wages are starting to rise, and with the deftness you’d expect, manages to be both absurd and distasteful in the same piece:

“it would be greedy to expect that after only four years of austerity and cuts, we can swan about in the carefree 24-hour party lifestyles enjoyed by our lucky grandparents in the Great Depression, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

“Presumably, as we’ve all been in this together, this good fortune will be shared out equally. For example, the people who now rely on food banks could be said to have endured their share of austerity.

“So maybe next week their food bank will give them an extra pickled onion each, or a Cheesy Wotsit to share, providing more compelling evidence that George Osborne’s methods have worked.

“There’s even more good news, because it was also announced that the amount lost to corporate tax ­avoidance last year was down £2.5billion. That’s down £2.5billion to £18.8billion.

“It’s like if Oscar Pistorius said in his trial: ‘In my defence I shot three people the year before, so to get it down to one last year is a change that should be welcomed, m’lady.'”

Now aside from the absurd references to pickled onions and a maize-based cheese flavoured snack there are a couple of gems here, the stand-out one for me being the flippant use of the horrific murder of his wife by a South African paraplegic athlete shooting her four times in cold blood as a metaphor to measure the reduction in corporate tax avoidance. Had, say, Johnny Speight written about a disabled South African man who murdered his wife, whatever the context, for comic effect he’d have been vilified by every Leftard in the land. But maybe we live in enlightened times, and the audience should be credited for knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, a concept left-wingers, and particularly left-wing political parties have always failed to get hold of.

The other is the subject of corporate tax avoidance itself. Now, when the Marks and their buddy Owen Jones, 31, are enjoying their game of soggy biscuit at a food bank on the outskirts of Manchester while sharing naked videos of Spain’s Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias (and, just like when any left-wing political party scaremongers its way into power – Labour in the UK or Syriza in Greece – after a brief period of euphoria there’s the inevitable sticky mess for someone else to clean up) they might reflect on the fact that those nasty vicious evil corporate tax avoiding bastards who put their money into subsidiary companies in the Cayman Islands such as, er, thinking off the top of my head, the Guardian Media Group, who are paying Owen Jones, 31, his £30k a year to write about how terrible everything is.  His solution, in an article written for the New Statesman today in his role as it’s Lost Causes Editor, is for a resurgence of Social Democratic parties across Europe, which would be about as welcome as Daesh winning the contract for Channel Tunnel security, funded by selling body parts of anybody who isn’t part of Momentum.  You see?  You’ve got me at it now.

That’s the point about the Left. It’s riddled with hypocrites who’d enjoy nothing more than for everybody to have the same as everybody else. Except themselves.

Maybe the reason the lefties haven’t reached the heights of your McIntyres, Bishops, Howards or Ramseys is that they’ve hit the glass ceiling that socialism seeks to inflict on others. An allergy to aspiration. And it’s the same glass ceiling that sees the Leftards and left-wing political leaders only ever play to those who agree with them. The security of a faithful following with the certainty of never quite making it. For those devotees of The Guardian, The Independent, Radio 4 or Her Majesty’s Opposition, unless you look somewhere else for something better you will forever remain a captive audience.