The problem with BBC comedy is not that it’s Left-wing, but that it’s too establishment

From Telegraph blogs, March 18, 2013

Many of you will be shocked to read this, but it appears that the BBC may have a slight Left-wing bias. The Sunday Telegraph has analysed jokes on the national broadcaster’s comedy programmes, and found that “perhaps unsurprisingly, as the main party in power, the Conservatives were most ridiculed, on the end of 35 separate punchlines. Their Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, were the subject of 10, while Labour was targeted by seven.”

The paper reported:

The most common political subject in the surveyed comedy shows was the Government’s austerity programme.

The recent complaints from listeners over an alleged Left-wing bias have focused on the new series of Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation. After Hardy, a former member of the Socialist Alliance, described Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne as ‘braying hoorays’ on a recent show, one listener contacted the BBC’s Feedback programme to describe the show as ‘30 minutes of incessant Tory-Coalition bashing’.

I can’t pretend to represent anyone else, and I’m sure this is probably just a symptom of premature middle age, but I can’t stand most BBC political comedy at the moment; once they design a digital radio that automatically switches off as soon as a pre-programmed slot comes on (I’d call it the “Thought for the Day function”), I’ll happily block it out of my life.

Political bias is part of this, but it’s not just because I’m one of those crazies who gets wound up by the BBC, which obviously I am. It’s not that the BBC comedy output is Left-wing, although it is; comedy is a young man’s game, and it’s always going to have a Left-wing slant. Almost all the top comedians in Britain are identifiably on the Left, many quite stridently so. Political comedy is fuelled by anger at injustice, poverty and oppression, and the best ones are genuinely angry.

Comedy is also a genre that involves mocking ideas that seem obviously idiotic, and lots of conservative principles are on the face of it absurd; in practice they often work out but Edmund Burke’s ideas need some explaining, and an understanding of paradox, and comedy is about timing.

It’s also about power. Great sitcom characters are marked by their frustration and impotence, and comedy is often about the powerless attacking the powerful (a baby punching a man in the face is funny, a man punching a baby less so).

My problem with BBC comedy is that it’s not the comedy of angry, defiant outsiders but of a liberal establishment laughing at people below them. BBC jokes are made at the expense of Daily Mail readers – even mentioning that paper will raise a chuckle – who are so thick they don’t understand establishment-endorsed enlightened attitudes to immigration, sexual politics and a variety of other political-views-as-status-markers. Even their jokes about the Tory party are not a sign of rage against the establishment, but gags about another school house.

And although conservative beliefs are superficially easier to make fun of, some Left-wing ideas are just as easy targets. Take the notion that because the country is so hopelessly, desperately in debt, the Government should be spending our way out of it; it may, paradoxically, work – who knows? – but it’s obviously, superficially absurd. And yet, like Barack Obama before drone strikes became a legitimate subject of Obama-criticism, it’s an area that seems out of bounds. Instead there are endless, and pretty tedious, jokes about “Tory cuts”.

I don’t mind Left-wing comedians. I will always listen to Mark Steel and find his Tory-bashing amusing, probably because his whole shtick is that his type of firebrand Left-wing politics has become so marginalised that, as he wrote somewhere, when you say you’re a socialist people look at you like you’ve told them you worship Zeus.

That’s funny. A group of comfortable Oxbridge graduates in BBC headquarters laughing at Daily Mail readers isn’t, especially when it’s the Mail readers paying for it.

What do you think?