Pete Madeley: Allow us the freedom to laugh or switch off

Comedy has, and always will be, a subjective beast.

Hale and Pace were hilarious... honestly
Hale and Pace were hilarious... honestly

What tickles one person’s funny bone can trigger a blank stare in others, which in my view is a very good thing indeed.

In years gone by I was always partial to a duo called Hale and Pace, whose particular brand of smut and silliness was anathema to almost everyone else I knew.

On the other hand, I could not stand Morecambe and Wise or Tommy Cooper – a revelation which will surely have some readers throwing this newspaper down in disgust.

Monty Python was so-so. I may be among a very select group of people to have laughed at Citizen Khan. Once.

Every time I see an episode of French & Saunders I feel like a little piece of me dies inside.

Eddie Izzard is rubbish, as is Jimmy Carr, and I find the ‘topical comedy’ of Russell Howard deeply depressing. Jim Jefferies... now him I like.

Jim Jefferies

It’s all a matter of opinion, but please don’t tell me what I can and can’t laugh at.

The comedy police are out in force like never before, and already this year we have seen numerous comedians apologising for their past attempts to bring a smile to people’s faces.

Leigh Francis used to have the country in stitches with his Bo’ Selecta sketches – now denounced as racist and the subject of tearful apologies on Instagram by the comedian himself.

Former smash hits Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh, which both contain scenes featuring white actors pretending to be black, are no longer available to watch on Netflix.

It turns out that in those days vast swathes of the TV viewing public were knuckle dragging fascists, who mercifully have now been enlightened to the point where they don’t find Craig David funny anymore.

To be clear, I exclude myself from this group you understand, having never liked any of the three shows mentioned above.

In the past week an episode of Frankie Boyle’s BBC2 panel show New World Order, which was originally broadcast on September 10, has sparked controversy.

Frankie Boyle

In one segment, the panelists discussed, wait for it, if the Black Lives Matter movement “glosses over the complexities of a world where we all need to come together and kill whitey”.

Personally I would have already switched off by this point, but what followed was a dour rant from little-known London comic Sophie Duker, who joked that what we all really want to do is to “kill whitey”.

There were gales of laughter in the studio, and Duker rambled on about “white privilege” and something called “extreme capitalist rhetorics of supremacy”.

She certainly struck a nerve.

Twitter exploded with fury at the Beeb for giving a platform to someone who apparently joked about killing off an entire race of people.

In the past week there have been 42 complaints to Ofcom about the show, prompting BBC bosses to issue a statement defending its content as being “within audience expectations”.

I must admit that my expectation when watching any BBC comedy show is that I won’t be doing much laughing. And it is extremely likely I will be changing the channel within 30 seconds.

The broadcaster has increasingly specialised in the sort of tripe that is generally favoured by self-loathing liberal types, who tend to allow their thoughts to be guided by a desperate need to virtue-signal at all costs.

It is an issue that has not escaped the attention of new Director General Tim Davie.

Tim Davie

He suggested the broadcaster has driven away working class viewers and has vowed to tackle what he called the Beeb’s “left-wing comedy bias” – which sounds a bit like a genre in itself.

Just how he plans to do this is anyone’s guess, although I wouldn’t rule out a lot of Only Fools and Horses and Billy Connolly repeats hitting our screens in the near future.

Duker – who will have done her career no harm at all and is probably well on the way to becoming a fully-fledged BBC luvvie – may not be my cup of tea, but I’m sure she has her fans.

My advice is if you don’t find it funny, don’t watch it.

It’s not as if we are short of viewing options these days.

And there are so many more important things to get furious about – like BMW drivers or the scandalous cost of the television licence fee.

Comedy can fuel anger as much as it does mirth, but should we demand a ban on things just because we don’t find them funny?

Absolutely not.

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