Rod Liddle

Background has nothing to do with being funny 

Background has nothing to do with being funny 
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There’s a piece by my friend Dominic Lawson in the Independent yesterday, eulogizing the comedian Michael MacIntyre. At last, Dominic suggests, here is a comic who is not afraid to be middle class and nor is he coarse or cruel. Perhaps; but he is not terribly funny, either, whatever class he belongs to. You sometimes smile in recognition of his observations – as Dominic puts it – “of the everyday domestic engagements of bourgeois life.” But you are rarely arrested by what he has to say; pulled up short, gasping with incredulity at the sharpness of the observation, of what it uncovers and what it says about us. And still less are you offered the release of a belly-laugh.

You might argue, a little cruelly – for I have nothing against the chap – that MacIntyre provides the sort of comedy which suits the Independent down to the ground; genially broad, sometimes overstated, unchallenging and unremarkable. The newspaper has recently taken it upon itself to attack comedian after comedian for what it deems tastelessness, beginning with the genuinely unfunny Russell Brand and ending recently with attacks upon the viciously sharp Frankie Boyle and the clever, nihilistic, Jimmy Carr. It has a vision of humour which it thinks we should all share and it is determined to bully the broadcasters into following its agenda.

To be sure, the BBC often gets it wrong; I tire of its endless of procession of leftie comedians who are not remotely funny (Marcus Brigstocke, Jeremy Hardy) and also its conviction that all Muslim comedians are funny simply because they are Muslim comedians. But Dominic’s argument that he can watch MacIntyre with his adolescent children and not be embarrassed seems to me a thinnish commendation, and a very poor definition of comedy. The best comedians, such as Gervais, are inclined precisely to provoke embarrassment, because they know that embarrassment is inherently funny. What a dull world it would be if only Michael MacIntyre was allowed on our screens to make us laugh.