Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Where are the Right-Wing Comics?

They exist. They just don't shout about it, perhaps due to not wanting to be associated with 70's throwbacks like Jim Davidson. There are many who'd not describe themselves as "right", especially at the Libertarian end of the spectrum.

The problem is that comedy should always "punch upwards" taking aim at people in power. Conservatism is Traditionally about the defence of the status quo. The spectre of rich, smug people denigrating the choices of poor people is often cited as a reason for there not being "right-wing comedy", but this is a staple of left-wing comedy: Think of Labour-supporter, Harry Enfield's "The Slobs" or much of Little Britain. Indeed the assumption that rich people are the only people to benefit from "right wing" solutions, is part of the problem. People commissioning comedy don't mind laughing at the chavs, if there's a Labour supporter doing the laughing.

Listening to the 'now show' on BBC radio 4, where the song (series 41, episode 3, about 8 minutes in) lamenting the privatisation of the Royal Mail, was basically a paean to nationalised industry. Surely there are comics out there who can write a gag about how totally useless the Government's been at running everything, and why do they still run ANYTHING? If only for balance.

"But Labour are the butt of jokes too..." as they are. However attacking Labour from the left, and the Tories from the left isn't balance. It's advocacy. When Ed Miliband is the butt of jokes, it's about him being weak, or giving into right-wing policies. Tory policies and politicians are routinely derided as stupid, ignorant and heartless. This isn't balanced at all. What is political comedy for if not for challenging the entrenched ideas? Laughing at the Conservatives as they try to shrink the state bit is simply bullying by the new establishment, from a position of power. It's little better than the jokes about blacks moving in next door, from the 1970s.

Thanks to Labour, the state now spends 50% of GDP, borrows more than any peace-time government in history, and despite the cuts, is still doing so. The idea that all would be ok if only the Government had more to spend, has been tested to destruction yet comedians still set up their gags with the assumption that the cuts are unnecessary and evil.

We're the 6th largest economy on the planet, giving nearly 25% of GDP in direct fiscal transfer to the poor. Instead of this vast transfer of wealth reducing poverty, it has entrenched it. Surely naiive, but well-meaning social workers not ACTUALLY solving anything lest they lose their jobs could be the butt of the occasional joke? Surely left-wing politicians cynically fixing it so the poor are worse off in work, to ensure their nicely concentrated vote, could be the butt of a joke or two? Instead of comedians swallowing the Labour line about the 'bedroom tax' and regurgitating it for laughs, maybe, just maybe, they could point out the hypocrisy of the Labour position (they introduced a near identical policy for private tenants)? Or is that too much to ask?

There are ideas challenging the status quo - attacking corporations, not from a profit-shy left-wing perspective, but an anti-corporate welfare, small government perspective, which are crying out to be turned into comedy. Maybe, just maybe, the butt of the joke could not be a rich, posh guy after profit, but a spiv, abusing regulations to avoid competition? The predictable, but unintended consequences of popular but simplistic policy could surely be turned into comedy?

"Alternative comedy" in the 80s worked because it attacked the new power - Thatcher. The Ben Eltons and Alexi Sayles and the remaining political comics of the UK are too stuck in this narrative. It's Lazy to blame Thatcher and business for everything when she left power nearly a quarter of a century ago. The time is ripe for a new Alternative, attacking the lazy assumptions of a bloated state and asking where half our money goes, and why it achieves so little of what it sets out to do. Perhaps a comedian could find another punchline than "profit is bad" when talking of business?

Had I any talent at all at stand-up, I'd give it a go myself. In fact, there's an 'open mic' slot at my local... anyone want to help me write a few gags....



4 comments:

Botzarelli said...

The problem is, the way modern humour works would make an overtly right wing comedian just sound a lot like Frankie Boyle (even though he himself is unsurprisingly a leftie). And we don't need another one of him.

The genre of pro-establishment comedy is dead and it is hard to see a modern Mike Yarwood coming. The nearest we have is comedians who are so avowedly apolitical that they stand out for it (eg Michael McIntyre, Peter Kay).

We'll just have to make do with Boris Johnson. He provides more hilarity and humanity than the entirety of Radio 4's current affairs comedy.

http://botzarelli.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/rocks-off-is-there-any-right-wing-music/

Martin Seebach said...

Off topic, but responding to Botzarelli's blog post - for rightwing music, there's Frank Turner. Start with Sons of Liberty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kk_6kwZbNJs

He wrote an anti-Thatcher song (Thatcher fucked the kids) but all but apologised for it.

These Guardian pieces on him are hilarious (comments not to be missed):

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2012/sep/04/frank-turner-right-wing

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/apr/24/frank-turner-death-threats

Steve Clark said...

Doug Stanhope is a libertarian stand-up. Not to everyone's taste mind you (although I think he's fantastic and have seen him about a dozen times)

Hail the Tripod said...

i don't know if he would identify as right wing explicitly but Steve Hughes is great for attacking the big-state mindset. And he's genuinely funny too.

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