Does Comedy Do Enough to Reflect Cultural Diversity?

Mornings on Channel 5 continue to bedevil me, and amplify my cries for Mr Wright’s return. Therefore I’ve gone with something a little different – some aural entrées before breakfast, yet ones from days gone. I ended up rewinding 1989 and Anti and let me say this – had I stuck to my guns, I would have shot myself in the foot. Least said.

As is the standard, here I’d declare the triumvirate for Brexit awareness and bemoan every political development from the past fortnight. Because that’s what you do, right? Politically charged news is supposed to bemoan and bet – for the vainglory of the writer, at least. But such a dull, permissive edge tends to have a dissociative effect as would any self-indulgent drama or Amy Schumer monologue. So while it’s not my duty to whore myself through this column for some attention (or God forbid have to gain it back), trying something new should be quick and painless. It being memorable is up to you.

History students don’t always need to bring the work home, yet this one does. As an old frump who sees vintage TV for the delight it is, BBC4’s ace remains ‘80s Top of the Pops and calling it mediocre is to name Emma Thompson a pompous wastrel (you better believe we’re coming back to that). Now where do we start? The stage is set with this golden oldie, and it’s miraculous. The future was here back then, so as much as that phrase is nonsensical, so is the fact that guitars from 1987 spewed chords with no amps. So is the fact that plastic pop echoed vocals through a microphone where no one sung.

Wonderful as that is, however, my primary interest in history stems from and relies upon comedy. For good reason, too – history demands a degree of tact and sensitivity when it comes to certain issues and I have found that if I can’t smile through a facet of tragedy, then I’ve been had. And when I’m had, I’m rather down so we should try our best to avoid that. Now, I venerate Cleese’s brainchild; it’s known as Fawlty Towers, and it was revealed a fortnight ago that a Radio Times survey has voted this maniacal little ditty the greatest British sitcom of all time. Those old British attitudes to sex have always percolated under the nation’s consciousness, and now we have the proof.

But I love a curveball. The family rally round the sentiment that the old ones are the best – the classics, and how one came of age watching ‘em. Which is no surprise – to feel and to laugh in tandem makes a memory for any man. But should comedy move with the times? Picking up a copy of the Daily Mirror meant my eyes glanced over to yet another survey; this time, we’re looking for the greatest comedian from these fair isles. What struck me first was the quality that adorned the page – Kay, Saunders, Aherne – but I then discovered what I found was ineffable. Apart from Lenny Henry, every other comedian adorning the double page was white.

So I showed my father. He chuckled – frankly, he felt smug for he’d been joking about this disparity for as long as I could remember. Even the number of deceased comedians on the page outnumbered Lenny. Speaks volumes, that. So I am really asking – is comedy supposed to be so regressive? Is it supposed to appear so exclusive?

You’d expect that after so much time (Fawlty Towers finished in ’79, by the way) we’d see breath in who’s providing the punchlines. But as of yet, it doesn’t seem to be represented. That’s a shame – so promote the odd ones out. Get people thinking and get them laughing. Comedy is an exceptional tool to broach controversial topics, but without diversity such tools will dull. I’d be rather down about that.

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