Great comic writer but not all that observant

Snobbery is killing the great British sitcom, says Ben Elton

Most of them, of course, are about snobbery.

33 thoughts on “Great comic writer but not all that observant”

  1. He’s not entirely wrong. Most critics don’t even acknowledge the existence of Mrs Brown’s Boys; yet it’s very popular with working-class audiences.

    Looking at American TV imports, isn’t the sitcom format as a whole getting a bit stale?

  2. @AndrewM: I’ve watched ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ once. Well, half of it.

    If not liking it makes me ‘a snob’, well, guilty as charged!

  3. I much prefer American sitcoms like Modern Family, The Middle and Last Man on Earth. Mrs Brown’s boys is just shite, it isn’t even funny. Bloke dresses up to play Irish matriarch…ooooh edgy!! Les Dawson set the standard with Cissy and Ada, nothing else since comes even close.

    Most British sitcoms nowadays just are not funny – where has the great British sense of humour gone? As irritating as Ricky Gervais is, The Office and Extras were indeed funny. Everything else comes across as if it were originally written for Radio 4.

  4. I have no inside knowledge of how the BBC works, but W1A seemed to me very probable. In it a promising idea for a comedy had to make its way through various levels of committees and placemen during which process any originality or humour was gradually squeezed out of it.

  5. W1A is very funny. But it has nothing to do with snobbery, it’s taking the piss out of management speaking wankers at the BBC.

    Veep is brilliant – American but British scripted and directed.

  6. Pal of mine works for the BBC. He told me by far the most popular show (not just comedies) purchased out of the back catalogue is Keeping Up Appearances.

  7. “I have no inside knowledge of how the BBC works,”

    I got a glimpse of it a few years ago.
    I’ve an American friend, New Yorker, who moonlights doing stand-up. She’s also an enormous fan of British radio comedy from its heyday.She can probably recite the entirety of the Round the Horne scripts from memory.
    BBC were supposedly looking for new writing talent. She submitted some stuff, which was received favourably. Worked up a pilot for a sitcom for them. Flew over a couple of times at her own expense to meet with the woman at the Beeb was fronting for them (BBC seems to assess its own talent by mass as much as humour). And then… It all sort of petered out, really. They lost interest. Except… She still listens to Radio 4 a lot. Heaven knows why. She’s a fan of comedy. And she starts recognising some of her own gags turning up in their output. Obviously re-worked, but she knows her own stuff.
    Pissed off doesn’t quite cover it.

  8. Isn’t he supposed to be an observational comic? The great tradition of British comedy is falling on the sword of political correctness and the new hate crime laws. Snobbery has nowt to do with it. Still waiting for the repeats of love thy neighbour.

  9. Yes there is a lot of shite comedy on the BBC and the ref to that unfunny cvnt Brigstocke is apposite here.

    But then there is The Thick Of It

  10. BBC Radio comedy seems to consist of lightweight left-wing comedians I have never heard of saying that the Tories are Toffs.

    Except for “just a minute” and “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” (where Lionel Blair was reported as having been thrown into the river by the local rowing club but getting his own back by swimming under their boat and pulling their cox off)

  11. Given that comedy is in the hands of Brigstocke, Russell Howard, and Frankie Boyle, what do you expect? For these people just to say “Tory” or “BREXIT” constitutes a joke

  12. The irony is that ‘satire’ now is deployed exclusively in favour of the establishment culture, rather than its original aim, to lampoon it. Or “fuck the Torees!”, in short.

  13. I rather liked The Thin Blue Line. The way it took the mick out of itself distantly reminded me of the performances of Fats Waller. Though it didn’t have as many layers of mick-taking as the Great Man, obs.

  14. Actually, comedy is alive and well on the been. They call it the news channel. I particularly enjoyed the beed boob, but that was a bit obvious. Normally takes some effort to spot the jokes. It’s all a bit pythonesque – they don’t do punchlines.

  15. @AndrewC

    “Except for “just a minute” and “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” (where Lionel Blair was reported as having been thrown into the river by the local rowing club but getting his own back by swimming under their boat and pulling their cox off)”

    My favourite episode of Give us a clue featured Lionel Blair on his knees frantically bringing off ‘An officer and a Gentleman’ in less than 30 seconds

  16. @John Square

    I well remember the time that Lionel Blair’s impersonation of the author of ‘On The Beach’ was so uncanny that people were amazed to see Nevil Shute in Lionel’s face.

  17. I have some sympathy for Lionel Blair and the constant gay sex innuendo about him on ISIHAC.

    He’s not gay and there is not much difference between this and the harassment of another pensioner Andrew Sachs by the odious Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

  18. “My favourite episode of Give us a clue featured Lionel Blair on his knees frantically bringing off ‘An officer and a Gentleman’ in less than 30 seconds”

    Or the one where Lionel Blair was on “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” and had to build a boat to cross a river. Unfortunately it sank and who could forget the look on Ant’s face as Lionel went down with both hands on Deck.

    Think I laughed myself into a hernia with that one. Humphrey Littleton’s intros were wonderful. This is the funniest output any culture has produced, ever. Unfortunately the Progressive middle-class prigs have control of everything else and all ‘comedy’ must now have a ‘message’. The result is that no one laughs at it any more.

  19. @Rob

    “This is the funniest output any culture has produced, ever. ”

    I think I agree with you, and I have a theory as to why: they remember they are there to make people laugh, and (being clever people) they do it in a clever way. In fact they are so clever, they don’t think they have to be clever-clever, which the rest of BBC comedy is, being made by unclever people.

    I believe I have the complete run of ISIHAC episodes, or at least up until something like 2010. They were hosted on archive.org.

    If anyone would like them (and they aren’t there still), please let me know. If you areone of the people based near Southampton I could drop them off somewhere for you, or failing that, I could meet you at Whitely, on me lunch break.

  20. It would be an interesting social study to analyse the studio audience for “The One Show”. These people appear to laugh hysterically at unfunny and leaden political agitprop.

  21. @JuliaM, August 25, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I’ve watched ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ once. Well, half of it.

    If not liking it makes me ‘a snob’, well, guilty as charged!

    +1 me too. It’s not funny, entertaining or clever.

    However, I do enjoy Father Ted.

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    The early episodes of Outnumbered were excellent and even the later ones were watching.

    That’s despite Hugh Dennis rivalling Prickstock for smug twat of the millennium.

  23. One can tell when watching Hugh Dennis perform that one person at least finds his material uproariously funny.

  24. Mrs Brown’s Boys is total shite.

    The Ben Elton Shakespeare one is quite good, but really, the USA is where almost every sitcom I watch comes from.

  25. Episodes. Very funny. Most of comedy is complete rubbish though. Very little real thought has gone into it, just the standard formulaic jokes about stupid English or Tories. It’s almost as if they wonder what will make their right-on mates laugh rather than the rest of us.

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