Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

What does it take to get you cancelled at the Edinburgh Fringe?

(PA Images/iStock)

So, let me get this right: at the Edinburgh Fringe, comedians who make jokes about killing and raping women are welcome, but comedians who defend women’s rights are not?

How else are we to explain the surreal situation where Frankie Boyle, notorious cracker of misogynistic gags, is having the red carpet rolled out for him at the Fringe, while Graham Linehan, whose chief thoughtcrime is to understand what a woman is, has just been ruthlessly cancelled by one of the Fringe venues?

Courage or cowardice – that’s the fork in the road when the mob’s after you

Yesterday, the Leith Arches in Edinburgh pulled the plug on a comedy night organised by Comedy Unleashed, which was due to take place this week. Mr Linehan was on the line-up, you see, and his wrongthink, his outrageous belief in biological sex, his insistence that people with penises should stay out of women-only spaces, apparently makes him morally unfit for the kingdom of comedy.

Yes, he may have created such comedy classics as Father Ted and Black Books. But his embrace of ‘gender-critical’ thinking, his solidarity with women who would prefer that men stay out of their bathrooms, refuges and sports, makes him persona non grata, it seems.

The Leith Arches’s (now deleted) announcement of its McCarthyite intentions was written in a fittingly infantile style. ‘We DO NOT support this comedian’, their statement wailed. ‘He WILL NOT be allowed to perform’, said their furious edict clearly written by someone who loves the caps lock. Then came the killer line: the Comedy Unleashed show is ‘CANCELLED… with immediate effect’.

It is such a craven statement. Bombarded with complaints by trans activists, those modern Mary Whitehouses who are hell-bent on extinguishing culture that slights their fragile souls, the Leith Arches was essentially pleading: ‘Please don’t come for us! We beg forgiveness for our moral error!’

When surrounded by a mob demanding the metaphorical scalp of some man or woman who has dared to utter a blasphemous thought, we have a choice.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in