What the hell is happening to comedy? For most of my teenage and adult life, 'alternative' comedy has been pretty much mainstream, with the Jim Davidsons and Bob Monkhouses of the world being viewed as bigoted has-beens. Jokes about nagging mothers in law, black people with 'hilarious' accents and mincing, prancing gay men were disdained as offensive or, more damningly, unfunny. Comedy got surreal, monologue rather than one liner based, and was even occasionally delivered by the women, ethnic minorities and queers who had previously been the butts of the joke .
I'm not saying that the new breed of comedy was clean, wholesome and politically correct. Where would the fun be in that? It was just that prejudice and bigotry were perhaps more likely to be the target of the comedy than its basis, also with the more culturally diverse collection of comedians, routines about minority cultures were more likely to come 'from the horse's mouth' than from a platform of straight white male superiority.
I suppose my generation has been spoiled by the range of alternative comedy available. The old-school hasn't gone away, it just stopped being the be all and end all, and a generation rejoiced.
But in the newish, now somewhat shop-soiled millenium, a scary new trend has taken place. Comedians show up making jokes about the queen both being old and having a vagina*, smelly gypsies** and gay men liking musical theatre***. Are they washed up, old school comedians on tired reruns on 'the worst of the 80s' compilations? Nope, they're just "edgy". It's postironic, apparently. These guys are deliberately being provocative and making us laugh out loud in shock as they break the taboos no-one else will touch. They're laughing AT the racism and sexism and homophobia we all secretly harbour. That's the theory, anyway. To me it just sounds like old recycled crap. I heard some of it on radio 4 the other day. RADIO BLOODY FOUR! (think NPR if you're in the US) If you can't get PC liberal bias on radio 4, what's the world coming to? And yet, I was hearing jokes about the collective noun for young frogs being 'french exchange trip', a German guest was ridiculed for having an incomprehensible accent (it wasn't) and laws against women drivers were touted as a good idea in a panel game hosted by David Mitchell. Mitchell is pretty funny, and is definitely not old hat, so why is he, like so many comedians, going for this tired old material? Is it an eighties trend too far, or was the halcyon decade of jokes not based purely on the prejudices of the hegemony an abberation in a centuries old tradition of comedy?
Watch out women, queers and foreigners: Normal service has been resumed.
*Frankie Boyle, **Jimmy Carr, ***Demetri Martin for god's sake! Is no-one safe?
That silly woman and hairy lesbian Word Geek