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Monday, December 08, 2014 

Satire: it's a little too ironic.

Is it ironic those who complain about the lack of satire often give the impression they've never told a joke in their lives? Perhaps, perhaps not.  It's difficult to know when irony smothers everything with such a thick layer of, err, irony, which is a bit like goldy and bronzey.  Or is it?

Owen Jones does it must be said have something resembling a point, almost obscured as per by sanctimony.  Few people like being laughed at, opposed to with.  When Nigel Farage took up Andrew Lawrence's complaint about UKIP having become an easy target for the pound shop comics and "ethnics" of Mock the Week, he transmogrified himself with the party's voters, as though laughing at him was to belittle Mr and Mrs Average UKIPer also.  Since then it's become apparent you can't poke fun at the affectations of someone who might be working class, although you can laugh and gawp all you like at the stupidly wealthy, so long as they've invited the cameras in first.  Does this disprove Jones's first book, or confirm his second, in that the establishment (and capitalism) always succeeds in co-opting what at first was radical?

If we accept Owen's point that we need satire more than ever, it could well be one of the reasons why TV has such a dearth at present is a result of the social media he praises for picking up the slack.  Taking the piss has never been easier, and as this blog has demonstrated time and again, that goes hand in hand with doing it extremely badly.  With the exception of the Daily Mash there isn't really anything or anyone consistently succeeding in finding that sweet spot where truth, humour and offence cohabit in an unholy menage a trois.  When you add in how a gag that once might still have been funny weeks after someone first came up with it can now be dead within a matter of hours thanks to constant retweeting and Facebook pasting, it leaves those who at best have to come up with jokes that are still relevant a week later and at worst months in advance in a quandary.

The other key factor is that quality, or the lack of it.  It's not for want of trying we haven't seen a true successor to Spitting Image, although those who eulogise it seem to forget that its final years were an extremely pale shadow of its 80s heyday.  There's been 10 O'Clock Live, which contrived to waste the considerable talents of Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell while somehow managing to make Lauren Laverne look even more out of her depth than usual (the less said about Jimmy Carr the better).  It proved you can put together half of a comedy dream team and still fail if the writing simply isn't good enough.  Also forgotten is 2DTV, ITV's sort of attempt to do Spitting Image again, only in animated form, and without the humour.  Nor should the TV version of Dead Ringers go without a mention, if only because its Kirsty Wark quoting song lyrics of the time Newsnight rip was amusing.  The rest of it, not so much.  About the best attempt of real note of late has been The Revolution Will Be Televised, and yet while funny, it still comes across as that little bit too consciously left-wing for comfort.

Dare it also be said that if the BBC was prepared or forced to ditch its trilogy of dead on their arse comedy panel shows, HIGNFY, Buzzcocks and Be Rather Smug About the Week all, it might just provide the space where a new format or talents could be properly nurtured.  HIGNFY was last satirical when presented by Angus Deayton, now a very long time ago indeed.  There's also the question of whether it's possible to be populist and truly satirical both - does the Margaret Thatcher puppet, along with her cabinet of vegetables really seem all that funny or cutting in retrospect, or rather just an exaggeration of the truth which fed in to her myth?  Nearer the mark was the grey John Major, although it could just as much be said that was simply following what the public had already decided.  Worth asking too is whether something like the Brass Eye paedophile special would be commissioned today, when social media opprobrium would deliver immediate outrage at satirists daring to suggest there might be just a hint of hysteria in media coverage of the subject.

It could in fact be politicians are completely the wrong targets for satire at the moment.  Politics has gone beyond parody - the leader of the fourth, possibly third biggest party urges women not to breastfeed in public "ostentatiously" lest they offend older people, some mothers presumably having taken to squirting milk into the mouth of their child while sitting on the other side of the table.  The same man blames immigrants overcrowding the M4 for his failure to reach a meeting on time, rather than it being a busy time of year.  Instead of his line in semi-offensive bullshit turning people off, it seems to only make them more determined to vote for him.  Meanwhile, the chancellor of the exchequer all but says "Britain can take it" when it comes to his proposed cuts, as the Liberal Democrats yet again confect to be outraged at what their partner in government is doing.  And Labour is just one big joke, exemplified still by the Emily Thornberry sacking.

No, if satire is to stay relevant it perhaps has to go after those newly powerful in 21st century Britain.  Let's see the mocking of the Twitter mob, whether it be those out for Emily Thornberry's head, or by contrast Julien Blanc's, or Matt Taylor's.  About the closest we get at the moment is Private Eye's From the Message Boards or the odd Craig Brown rip on a specific tweeter.  There could be a line drawn between the modern day censors who've succeeded in preventing children from seeing the hint of breasts on newspaper front pages or inside them and those who then rush for blankets to cover up feeding mothers.  Let's have all social classes and none ruthlessly mocked, whether it be the bell-ends who still have England flags up six months after the World Cup and who are so insular in their outlook they fail to notice there's a by-election on (and whom are ribbed by the rest of the working class more than anyone), the (upper) middle class prats obsessed with house prices and private schooling, and the 1% without the slightest idea as to how the rest live.  Most of all, let's see the leeches on society who make out they're above everyone brought to book, their weblogs laughed at, their own petty yearnings shown up for what they are (cont. p94)

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