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Just caught up with @zinovievletter's piece on the liberal comedians against Corbyn (who ushered in the new far right government.) Agree about how they are responsible and unfunny, but I think the historiography is off. Alternative comedy was rotten from the start. Here's why:
the whole conceit of alternative comedy was to provide entertainment for an ever-increasing class of university educated people. It set itself against racist, misogynist comedy that had predominated before. But it always had the problem of thinking that racism and sexism were
just some ugly opinions that less educated people had. It always had this disdain for the working class - and an admiration, alternatively, for the out-of-work bohemians of the 1980s, who ended up often with media careers. Like seriously, when the political credentials of your
culture is "well at least I'm not Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson," or "yeah but I was at the Rock Against Racism carnival in 1979, and look at my ANL badge," it's not going to end well. Increasingly as a movement it demonstrated the the tastes of a self-admiring elite. Like even
at its polite endpoints in shows like The Vicar of Dibley its main quip was "look at all these think people in the countryside." Meanwhile, by the beginning of Blair most of these people had shifted to making shows about being half well-off in London, with shows like Men Behaving
Badly or This Life. The truth is that "not being Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson" didn't go far. No doubt precisely the class of people who enjoyed shows at The Comedy Store in 1983 would end up either boring everyone into submission on Radio4, commissioning racist, sexist filth
like Little Britain on the BBC, or in the worst case making up the entirely grim entertainment of Big Brother, where the much-derided working class with ugly opinions were zoo-like locked in a house for "everyone" to laugh at. And it's no surprise that they all became precisely
the sort of Remainers who believed that the Brexit vote was just a consequence of some working class oiks with ugly opinions, which they were above. All this time, racism and sexism has flourished in Britain, precisely as the class of people who patted themselves on the back for
being university educated and liking alternative comedy took the reins. The truth is that most of them were less interested in actually challenging racism than ignoring genuinely powerful racism while perpetuating the twin myths that racism is a working class phenomenon and that
the entire working class is composed of white men. And yes, there were a few with a slightly more nuanced analysis but, as @zinovievletter rightly says, they were effectively bought off.
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