It’s not been a good year for any of us. But it certainly hasn’t been a good year for Nish Kumar, alleged comedian and voice of perma-smug Britain. Last year, sensing a gap in the market for anti-Trump material, Kumar tried to break America with a topical Daily Show-style show hosted on some weird new streaming service called Quibi, only for it to shut down six months later. Now The Mash Report, the primetime BBC Two Daily Show-style topical show he fronted four four series, has been axed.
Even among the politically monochrome BBC comedy stable, The Mash Report broke new ground for liberal sanctimony and woke hectoring. It was the epitome of ‘clapter’ comedy, sparking amused applause rather than gut laughter. It was comedy that only works if you agree with the sentiment being expressed, and even then isn’t actually funny. Kumar and co-host Rachel Parris’ passive-aggressive monologues about Brexit and #MeToo became viral sensations, but the show had sluggish ratings from the start. It is yet another reminder that Twitter is not Britain.
The Mash Report’s demise has been written up as part of new BBC director general Tim Davie’s ‘war on woke’. Which suits him well, given that he seems keen to create the impression he is trying to bring more political balance to BBC comedy without actually doing much. Now he can gain some credit with the right-wing press by ditching a not particularly popular show. Those trying to suggest The Mash Report has been ‘cancelled’, in the newer sense of the word, should remember there’s a difference between ‘no platform’ and ‘no audience’.
That BBC comedy is dominated by woke liberals is beyond question. But that isn’t really what makes it so terrible. The issue is that these shows are profoundly unfunny. Somewhere along the line virtue-signalling has replaced wit, saying the ‘right’ thing has replaced pushing boundaries, and shouting ‘the Daily Mail!’ has replaced trying to think of an actual punchline.
The Mash Report was all of this and then some. In response to the show’s canning, Kumar has tweeted a pic of him from the show gesturing to a graphic that reads ‘BORIS JOHNSON IS A LIAR AND A RACIST’. Which is basically his comedy, such as it is, summed up.
Among the show’s only saving graces were periodic appearances by the right-leaning, pro-Brexit comic Geoff Norcott, one of the best British stand-ups working today. That he was explicitly brought on as a kind of ordinary people correspondent was telling. But he introduced a much needed bit of tension, and his ability to land jokes needling liberals in front of an overwhelmingly liberal audience reminded us you don’t need to agree with someone politically to find them funny.
The BBC says The Mash Report's departure is going ‘to make room for new comedy shows’. Here’s hoping an actual comedy show, as opposed to whatever this was, replaces it.