Tuesday 4 November 2008

Humour bypass

The coverage of the build up to the US presidential elections has had to compete with Brandgate (or Manuelgate or Sachsgate or Whatevergate). The US is about to elect a new leader and we have had another media scandal that engulfs the media in a cannibalistic feeding-frenzy. This alone is quite shocking.

I must admit my head has been spinning with issues that sometimes appear very trivial and then very serious, simultaneously. Ross and Brand weren't funny on this particular occasion - there seems to be a wide consensus on this one. (I'll come clean: I can find Ross funny and on occasions his cheeky childish wit can amuse but his rude, boorish, self-congratulatory shtick - a large part of his act - has started to wear thin. Or put another way, "sisters", I think if I were a female celeb I would think twice about appearing on his chat show. Juliette Binoche, Jane Fonda, Nicola Kidman and even our own Jade Goody have all been subjected to Ross's sexist, car crash sense of humour. Brand's humour has always been too obscured by his ego for me to appreciate his "talents").

Anyway... talk about a diverting issue. As some intelligent articles have pointed out this isn't about Ross or Brand. The column inches devoted to the subject aren't an extension of a public debate about the nature of humour and what makes us laugh. "Can the comedy of cruelty ever be justified. Discuss." No, the official liberal media response to "Brandgate" has betrayed a papable disgust with the thousands that have complained about the Brand-Ross Radio 2 show. Charlie Brooker's column - a very funny column that I read regularly - in The Guardian was entitled: "Want a rush of empowerment? Join the angry idiots registering their disgust with Ofcom". His opening salvo was: "So it's here at last. The dawn of the dumb has broken in earnest."

At the beginning of the week I must admit I was caught up in the fears of the liberal media elite (being a lesser member with aspirations). In particular, the worry that a "Daily Mail witchunt" against Ross and Brand might increase the likelihood of a knee-jerk and censorious response from the BBC, troubled me. But there was something else going on here...

...and then I stumbled on Neil Davenport's article on spiked: A revolt of the masses against the BBC?

Neil takes apart the issue and really explores the BBC's contempt for its audience. The Ross-Brand affair is set in the context of "the media’s low horizons and lack of faith in its audience". This article is a devastating critique of dumbing-down whilst also being a fresh clarion call for funny, and intelligent, comedy. I couldn't recommend it more.

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