Is comedy dead or dying?… What I gibbered about on GBNews last night

A couple of days ago, I was asked to appear on GBNews’ today to give my opinion on the future of comedy. 

And, sure enough, last night I appeared briefly on the Mark Dolan Tonight show. That will teach them never to invite me on a TV show again!  I can be quite fluent verbally – in writing – but I am in no way vocally fluent. I’m not a fluent speaker. I gibber.

Anyway, I was one of three comedy ‘experts’ on Mark Dolan’s show, the others being US podcaster and author Drew Allen and the wonderful British showbiz legend that is Christopher Biggins.

I think GBNews may have mistaken me for someone else, as I was called a “highly-respected comedy journalist”.

Anyway… because this is MY blog, it’s all about Me, Me Me… so here are the excerpted bits with me. Spot the inconsistencies…

Mark Dolan Tonight with (L-R) Mark Dolan, me, Drew Allen and Christopher Biggins


MARK: You’ve written extensively for many years on the subject of comedy. Do you think it’s dying?

JOHN: I don’t think it’s dying. I think it’ll probably change. I mean, it goes through periods, doesn’t it. Hello Biggins! I used to work with him on Surprise! Surprise!

I think television has changed now. In the days of Surprise! Surprise!, what producers did was they made programmes that they themselves liked which appealed to viewers. 

Alan Boyd at London Weekend TV produced Surprise! Surprise! because he liked the sort of programmes that people wanted to watch. Nowadays, I think people are producing the sort of programmes they THINK the ‘lower classes’ want to watch.

So all these Oxbridge people are making programmes for people in Essex they don’t really know.

MARK: John, do you think Brexit has been a problem for British comedy? That sort of dividing live between Remainers and Brexiteers has been a really divisive aspect in comedy. Because I do know of comedians, John, who have been cancelled for being pro-Brexit.

JOHN: Well, I think it’s a problem in Society, isn’t it? I think by-and-large – a gross exaggeration but – by-and-large comedians tend to be Left Wing because they possibly rail against authority and that’s a good thing for comedy. So most comedians are Left Wing and, if you’re Left Wing, you take certain views. And, by-and-large – by-and-large – Brexit was a Left/Right divide.

MARK: What about shows like The Mash Report which seem to be one long attack on the Conservative Party and Brexit.

JOHN: I think again, that’s because television producers nowadays make programmes for themselves and their mates who have lunch in Soho wineries. They don’t make programmes for the punters.

In my glorious days when I was young in the late 17th Century, comedy television programmes were on in peaktime. They were on at 7.30/8 o’clock at night. Nowadays comedy tends to be either on minority channels like BBC Three or very late night or at 9 or at10.30.

In my day, comedies were populist. Nowadays, in a strange way, it’s elitist, because it’s made by people for their chums not for the people who are actually watching the programme.

MARK: We’ve seen, haven’t we, some comedies being given a trigger warning at the start of the show… We saw an episode of Fawlty Towers which was actually removed from its platform for a while, even though the episode contained a message of anti-racism which the Woke Warriors didn’t seem to get the memo on. That one. 

And then you’ve got shows like Little Britain which have been Cancelled by the organisation that made them – the BBC. I mean, Little Britain – OK, it was hit and miss – but at times it was wildly offensive and wildly hilarious, John.

JOHN: Yes, I think you have to be offensive to be… I think the key thing is the word ‘PUNCHline’.

At the end of a joke there’s a punchline and you laugh at the punchline. The reason you laugh, you lose control of your body, is because you’re getting a release because there’s a surprise – something you don’t expect. It’s a release. I gibbered there, but a punchline triggers a release.

MARK: John, last word goes to you. You’ve been writing about comedy for a long, long time, who are the greatest British comedians of all time in your view?

JOHN: Oh, you and Leo Kerse, obviously. (THEY HAD TAKEN PART IN THE PRECEDING SHOW ON GBNews)

MARK: (LAUGHS) God bless you. Have you been drinking again, John?

JOHN: (LAUGHS) I don’t drink. 

It depends what you mean by ‘greatest British comedians’. Michael McIntyre is a great comedian, but I wouldn’t go and see his show because it’s gonna be the same every night. It’s a very slick show, I prefer to see very uneven shows – rollercoasters – so… I wrote Malcolm Hardee – a great comedian – ’s autobiography. So I’d like to put in a plug for Malcolm Hardee as being an anarchic comedian who should be better known.

MARK: A wonderful comedian. I was doing a show at Up The Creek, his legendary comedy club in Greenwich, and towards the end of the set I said to the audience: “I’ll be back.”

And he shouted from the side of the stage: “No you won’t!”

There you go. Comedy’s always got a victim and on that occasion it was me…

(THE ENTIRE EDITION OF THIS MARK DOLAN TONIGHT SHOW IS CURRENTLY ON YOUTUBE)

4 Comments

Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Television

4 responses to “Is comedy dead or dying?… What I gibbered about on GBNews last night

  1. GORDON BRESLIN

    Well gibbered John. Thought your comments were apt. Not sure Benny Hill would appeal these days to anyone other than Christopher Biggins.

    Going to the Fringe for first time on 15th. Any words of wisdom appreciated. I asked Martin for his top Edinburgh tip, he said “Eat”.

    Cheers Bres

    • Don’t assume that, because a show is tucked away at 0930 or midday or 1600 that it is any less good than one at 2000 or 2300… and see lots of shows by people you have never heard of – take a punt. If you have already heard of them, you can probably see them in London, so ignore them in Edinburgh.

  2. Trish B.

    Excellent points, John – and not at all gibbered.

  3. This is possibly the only time I’ll get to use this reference, so here goes:

    Gibber? Ye not!

    (Please see my agent for bookings)

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