The Plastic Hippo

December 2, 2011

Funny peculiar

Filed under: Media,Society — theplastichippo @ 10:49 pm

A neutrino walks into a bar. Neutrino who? Neutrino. Who’s there? Knock knock.

It is a popular urban myth that all stand up comedians are inherently left wing. It might be true that the bierkeller circuit in 1930`s Berlin wasn’t exactly awash with the likes of Sandi Toksvig or Alexie Sayle, but it is fair to assume that the third Reich had a sense of humour. Joseph Goebbels, for example, had a stunning routine about Jews, gypsies and cripples. They were laughing in the aisles during the night of the long knives.

The left do not hold a monopoly on humour which can only be a good thing. A quick peek at the work of Harry Enfield, Ricky Gervais or the two blokes from Little Britain will reveal a bedrock of prejudice and ridicule against the poor, the fat, the stupid and the disabled. Anyone who is different from the perceived norm is fair game as a source of humour and, after all, it’s just a bit of a joke, no offence. A new entrant into this panoply of comedy gold is failed Express and Star journalist and self proclaimed petrol head, Jeremy Clarkson. No stranger to controversy, all lorry drivers are rapists and all women are stupid, Clarkson has adopted the Gervais model of not actually being funny in the first place.

There is a theory of humour that argues that we laugh at things that frighten us. The relief that we are not the butt of the joke provokes the chuckle muscles as evoked by the genius that is Ken Dodd. So jokes about inferiority make us laugh because we do not want to feel inferior. The French tell jokes about the Belgians, the Americans tell jokes about the Polish and the Canadians and the English tell jokes about the Irish. The Irish tell joke jokes about Kerrymen and in their turn, Kerrymen tell jokes about the English, the Yanks, the Canucks, the Poles, the Frogs and the Flems. Geddit?

Clarkson`s WYSIWYG persona is his only defence against claims that he is not in any way funny. Many years ago, this humble author found himself behind a sound desk at a Bernard Manning corporate gig. After verbally abusing the predominately young, black, female waiting staff, many of whom were in tears, the “comedian” suddenly found that his microphone no longer worked and had to curtail his act. At the disciplinary hearing a few days later, I explained it was just a bit of a joke, no offence intended and that some of my best friends are comedians.

In terms a balance and, of course, the absolute right of free speech, every Frankie Boyle being offensive and, at times, disgusting, requires a Jeremy Clarkson to prove that those of us who are less well off are not actually brain dead. What unites the Top Gear host, Frankie Boyle, single joke merchants like Gervais, Lucas and Walliams and even the racist tram rant woman is a failure in education to deliver an understanding that a cheap laugh or opinion, no matter how amusing or heartfelt at the time, is not necessarily funny or correct.

Bernard Manning died in 2007. Good. No offence intended. Clarkson, Boyle and Gervais still draw breath which is a shame. Bye bye Jeremy. Think of another way to flog your latest book.



  1. David Walliams should NOT be included here. If you’d read his interviews and books you’d understand what was actually meant with the jokes.

    Comment by Donna Noble — December 3, 2011 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  2. Why is it that you hear so many openly racist commints on trams? Though it was on a train that I heard that the 2006 fatal accident in Walsall bus station was caused by ‘a Polish driver turning left as he would have done at home’ Er?? Even the Express and Star managed to report that it was caused by a poorly maintained bus running away…

    Comment by Tony Martin — December 4, 2011 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

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