The decline of British television comedy. The elitist iceberg of Brexit and Trump.

The Grouchy Club Podcast

Below is a short extract from the 100th Grouchy Club Podcast in which the (yes she certainly is) controversial comedy critic Kate Copstick and I ramble on about anything that takes our fancy, occasionally stumbling into the subject of British comedy. Occasionally, too, we stumble into cyber-trouble.

This may be one such example.

JOHN: There is a sort of bizarre snootiness in comedy where the Oxbridge elite…


JOHN: …who, by-and-large, don’t get (big) ratings for their shows – are very snooty about people who do get ratings. For example, Benny Hill.


JOHN: …who at the height – the height – of his fame and his ratings success and his foreign sales for Thames Television – He must have been churning money out like nobody’s business for Thames Television – was dragged into – was it Brian Tesler’s office? Someone’s office… and told they were getting rid of him because he was in bad taste.

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: He was staggeringly popular. I heard that when he died – I dunno if this is an urban myth – Chinese television broke into their broadcasts to announce it as a newsflash.

COPSTICK: I’m sure that’s absolutely true.

JOHN: But I mean he was staggeringly popular. They didn’t like him because they said he was sexist.

COPSTICK: But I think that… I’m going to get a bit political here, John…

JOHN: Oh God! We’re going to be in trouble!

COPSTICK: Only mildly…

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: …and fleetingly.

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: Just fleetingly.

JOHN: That’s never stopped her before.

COPSTICK: I think that is exactly the same thing – talking about the Oxbridge elite and all that running TV, so they say what gets dumped because they don’t like it – They are the ones whose voices are out there but Benny Hill had gazillions of viewers – I think that’s exactly the same thing we got with Brexit and the Trump vote – because the people at the top…

JOHN: This is Copstick!

COPSTICK: …the people at the top are completely unrepresentative of the mass of the voting iceberg that is underwater. And somehow, when the bottom mass of the iceberg rises up and votes for Brexit or Trump, it’s all Oh! Shock! Horror! How can this have happened? Well, it happened because it was always there. You just weren’t listening to it.

JOHN: Also, I was talking to someone the other day and said that, in my erstwhile youth, when they had sitcoms, they used to have them on at 8 o’clock or 8.30 at night or 7.30 at night. Nowadays, sitcoms are on at 10.30 or 11.00…

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: … because, in my youth, the sitcoms got massive ratings and now the humour, the comedy is not getting big ratings because it’s being scheduled and programmed and decided on by people who don’t like what the public like.

COPSTICK: Which is why Mrs Brown’s Boys is the highest rated…

JOHN: Yes and that’s only on at 10.30 because he keeps saying Feckin’ or something, doesn’t he?

COPSTICK: People are very snotty about it: Ooh! Mrs Brown’s Boys!

JOHN: I saw one episode and thought: Oh, that’s not really for me. But, of its type, it’s well done. I mean, Mrs Brown’s Boys and My Family must be, recently, the biggest sitcoms on…

COPSTICK: Absolutely. And surely somebody somewhere in some television company must see that.

JOHN: There is a lot of Emperor’s New Clothes going around.


JOHN: I have to say Vic & Bob – sorry – I never ever thought they were funny. There was one pilot for, I think, Granada, which I saw and liked: it never got made into a series because no-one else liked it, but I have never ever ever thought Vic & Bob were funny. They were always in minority slots and, when the BBC I think it was tried them at peak time on a Saturday night they came a phenomenal cropper. With good reason. Because they ain’t funny… (LAUGHS) …in my populist opinion! (LAUGHS) But what do I know?

COPSTICK: I have almost stopped watching comedy on TV because there is very little that appeals to me and makes me laugh.


Filed under Comedy, Politics, Television

2 responses to “The decline of British television comedy. The elitist iceberg of Brexit and Trump.

  1. Anna

    I think I mentioned this before, but new readers might want to know that Benny Eel is idolized by working people in Guatemala ( and probably everywhere else ).

    When I first met my Guatemalan relatives and told them I was a stripper in England doing comedy (in the 80s) they looked overjoyed Radiant with expectation, asked ” Benny Eel ? Benny Eel ? You know Benny Eel ? ” and I’d have to disappoint them by saying ” No…unfortunately I was in another kind of comedy, (alternative comedy) where the audience booed or threw things (like their shoes) at me if my tits popped out…

  2. Owen Morgan

    I totally agree that the Oxbridge elite are being unfairly prioritised in defiance of what the public majority like, and it’s bordering on the offensive. Stephen Fry was funny when he was doing Fry & Laurie and Jeeves & Wooster, but has since grown to be self-important, opinionated and pompous (though useful to have on side as a celebrity supporter on campaigning issues that you agree with).
    It’s a trend that’s been going on for some time as well- Ben Elton (Oxbridge material if ever there was one) was given priority airtime, but was a complete hypocrite, refusing to mourn the death of Benny Hill because he said he was sexist, yet himself making jokes about things like child abuse that would’ve made Benny turn in his grave. Elton also sold out to New Labour after having claimed to be a real Socialist pre-Blair, until people got so VERY sick of him that his ratings level plummeted and the media were forced to drop him because he was losing them revenue. But I’m afraid it’s a reflection of what the media are these days- nowadays most of them are THEMSELVES young Oxbridge products who will give the best breaks to comedy that they personally like and which reflects their upwardly-mobile tastes.
    I also never found Reeves & Mortimer funny, even when they were trying to do serious stuff like a remake of the ’60s series ‘Randall & Hopkirk (deceased)’- it didn’t work. The funniest thing they ever did in my view was the ad. for the Renault Clio.

    As for Kate’s comments about Brexit and Trump, all I can say about that is that the negative outcomes to both the EU referendum and the US Presidential election were only very narrow- the UK only JUST voted ‘No’ to staying in the EU, and Trump only JUST beat Hilary Clinton. Re. the latter, there’s also the Russian hacking to take into account, which could have prejudiced people who might otherwise have voted Democrat….

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