It has been genuinely amusing to watch Nigel Farage rail against the “lefties” of television panel shows. He’s been reacting to a comedy industry debate about a pro-Ukip blog by a comedian which is far too dull to go into here. Bizarrely, Farage is enraged because he scents solidarity among performers, spluttering that “Luvvies look after themselves and look after their own, and when they sense a whiff of dissent in the ranks, first they close up, then they start flailing wildly.”
I doubt anyone has ever accused comedians of solidarity before. It’s hard to think of a less collegiate world than that of unabashed professional narcissists competing for attention; even when we reluctantly band together on panel shows, we’re only trying to sell solo tours. Indeed this article will be quickly followed by one from Stewart Lee pointing out that no panel show comedian is properly political and the only true comedy the left can aspire to is him delivering a half-hour monologue about not liking Celebrity Juice, and even then only if it’s followed by an episode about cheese. Even in this article about comedy solidarity, I have quickly descended into a pointless jibe at a fellow pro. This is what we are like.
This rare display of comic camaraderie has probably been prompted by the fact that the blog in question lambasted panel shows consisting of “women posing as comedians” and “surreal diversity targets” being filled by “ethnic comedians”. Comedians, being decent sorts deep down, maybe just don’t take kindly to what they see as their fellows being targeted because of their race or gender. I doubt any of us have a real bugbear with the comedian himself, because bitterness and disappointment is something most of us can relate to on some level. We might, at worst, reflect that better comics have faced greater disappointment with more dignity.
What I’d like to point out about Farage’s argument is, and this seems so unforgivably un-Ukip that it seems to be riddled with internal contradictions:
First up, Nigel wants to be seen as a pint-swilling man of the people, but simultaneously to be taken so seriously that nobody can even make a joke about him. He tells us how popular Ukip is and simultaneously how jokes against it is easy populism. Well, which is it?
Farage disparages a (very good) article by the comedian Ava Vidal on the debate and follows her name with “(no, I don’t know either)”. It seems strange that Farage hasn’t heard of such an accomplished black female comic, if television is awash with such performers. It’s almost as if black people, and women, are actually underrepresented in the media.
Enraged by Mock the Week talking about Ukip, he claims, “There’s no rational response. There’s no such thing as, ‘Ah, that’s interesting. We should discuss that’.”
Well, of course, a rational response about the interest of a subject might not be what one would immediately expect from a show designed to take the piss. Or possibly joking about something is the way that it is discussed on a comedy show. Perhaps that’s why it’s not called Let’s Have an Interesting Discussion about the Week. Equally, a rational response seems a lot to ask from a party making a wholehearted appeal to irrational fears and prejudices.
I’m not saying that there’s no rational response to Ukip, but maybe there isn’t one that doesn’t involve some general laughter. Still, Farage poses a few rhetorical questions and, as he seems to seek rational discussion instead of comic zingers, so I am happy to answer them here seriously.
“One week I’m Hitler’s buddy, then next week the Tower of London’s Poppy Memorial is hailed as “Ukip-style” attraction in the Hlcarpenter.com. Well – which is it? Am I pro-freedom, or anti-freedom? Am I a modern Hitler or a modern Churchill?”
Well Nigel, you seem to be pro-freedom for big business and rich people, anti-freedom for immigrants, asylum seekers, gay people and other marginalised groups. Does that also answer the second question or shall I go on? You ask if you’re a Hitler or a Churchill. Well, your party forms pacts with rightwing Holocaust deniers. The poppy memorial was described as “Ukip-style” not because your party is imbued with the same Churchillian values as the poppy, but because the stunt itself was viewed as the sort of crass politicisation of patriotism that your party is so fond of.
Honestly, next time you need an article explained to you, just give me a shout fam – I used to be an English teacher.
The idea of an increasing liberal, left-leaning bias in TV comedy seems to ignore all evidence. It’s harder than ever to get a joke on television about Britain’s wars, or US foreign policy. This is because of editorial policy, not “lazy” comedians. On channels terrified of accusations of bias, or political retribution, comics making jokes about the growing power base of far-right politicians aren’t taking the “easy” route.
Far from enjoying Ukip as an easy laugh, there looms before comedians the worst of all possibilities: the opportunity to have the Nazis back without the style. Say what you like about those awful bastards, but for failed artists they had a surprising amount of flair. Put Farage in jackboots and a leather trenchcoat and he’ll just look like a gay Dr Who. I’m depressed to think that if these wingnuts form a coalition I, as a comedian, will have to know the names of some real morons. There will be some dreadful frontbencher with a collection of Nazi trenchknives leading a campaign against sun beds or some such nonsense, and I will have to know his name. It’s genuinely appalling.