Apparently this blog has been chosen or voted – who knows? – on 31st January this year, as the 6th best UK Satire Blog on the planet “ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority and freshness”…
I had to be told this by someone who reads it.
It is, of course, compiled by a collection of barely literate teenage schoolpersons in the sweatshops of the Far East.
She is named after Titania, queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Andrew has said “it’s quite appropriate that she is named after the queen of the fairies” because “the people who promote this hyper inclusive culture are fantasists… all of this ‘woke culture’ is an utter fantasy world”.
Andrew Doyle and Titania McGrath – No Left or Right.
JOHN: So Titania McGrath is “an intersectional warrior queen”. I am a simple soul who can’t keep up. What does “intersectional” mean?
ANDREW: Intersectionality is a branch of Feminism that originated last century with a woman called Kimberlé Crenshaw who is a legal scholar.
There was a dispute in court between General Motors and some black female employees… General Motors’ defence in court was “We are not racist, because we can point to our black male employees. And, look, we’re not sexist because we’ve got all these white women employees.”
But, of course, black women fell through the gap.
So Kimberlé Crenshaw created this analogy of being in the middle of an intersection – a crossroads – where you can be hit by the traffic from more than one direction – in terms of race AND in terms of gender. So a black woman can be subject to racism AND sexism whereas a white woman is only subject to sexism not racism.
As a visual image and an analogy, it is very helpful. But it has now morphed into this kind of religion – a theoretical religion that effectively ends up pitting minority groups against each other – and formulating a kind of hierarchy of grievance.
And that’s not helpful for anyone.
When I talk about intersectionality, I’m talking about the current manifestation of it, not how it was originally intended.
JOHN: Is it another word for ‘woke’?
Andrew/TitaniaMcGrath’s 2019 book
ANDREW: The evolution of Woke is really interesting. In the various Black Civil Rights struggles of the 20th century, it had a very positive meaning which was simply to be alert to injustice, especially racialism. Then it was hijacked around 2010/2011 by certain types of very intolerant, illiberal, totalitarian type of Social Justice activists and it started to mean ALL of their causes: LGBT, women, trans, everything… and opposition to freedom of speech.
So to be ‘Woke’ became something completely different.
Then, what happened was that people like me started taking the piss out of the word Woke and I (as Titania McGrath) wrote a book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice and, through Jonathan Pie, we did a live tour where there was a whole section on Woke. So you had people ridiculing Woke.
And then the next evolution was when Guardian columnists and people on the Left who had always used the word to describe themselves started pretending they never had. They did this weird revisionist thing. They started saying “Woke is just a Right Wing fantasy. It’s a word that Right Wing people and conservatives have invented to mock Social Justice and to mock Equality.”
Afua Hirsch wrote a Guardian piece saying the word Woke is only used by Right Wing people. I remember replying on Twitter with some screenshots of lots of Guardian articles where they used Woke to describe themselves.
But because Woke has been ridiculed so much, they have moved away from the word and now what you are left with is just people on the Right and conservatives who use the word as a slur.
In a sense, that’s why the new Titania book doesn’t mention Woke in the title – It’s about ‘Intersectional Activism’.
JOHN: The Contents page of the book is very interesting. It’s very rare to see Torquemada and Nelson Mandela next to Hillary Clinton and Joseph Stalin.
ANDREW: The whole point of the book is that Titania is going through the Woke icons of history: all the people she respects. Not just the obvious Woke people – like Sam Smith, Brie Larson, Greta Thunberg – alongside historical figures like Emeline Pankhurst and Joseph Stalin.
I find it incredible when Leftists do these very contorted leaps of logic in order to try to justify Stalinism.
She also has Mary Whitehouse in there because I believe the Woke movement is the obvious intellectual heir to Mary Whitehouse in terms of their belief that popular culture needs to be censored otherwise the masses will be corrupted. It’s an identical view.
Torquemada, right-on trail-blazer of Cancel Culture?
Torquemada also makes sense, because he would burn heretics at the stake if they had the wrong ideas about the world. That is Cancel Culture. He is the pre-cursor to Cancel Culture. In particular, the Inquisition targeted scientists and people who were trying to make points that didn’t ally with their world view. Nowadays, of course, activists are trying to ‘de-colonise’ science because they believe science is a Western patriarchal, heterosexist construction and the phrase they use is “New ways of knowing”.
We talk about this ‘Post Truth’ Society. If you think about the way Donald Trump will deny something he said last week, when anyone can just go to YouTube and SEE and HEAR that he said it… It’s incredible. And that is exactly what is happening among the Leftist Identitarians.
A few weeks ago, CNN did a report from Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying “These are largely peaceful protests” and, in the background were burning buildings and burning cars.
JOHN: You identify as Left Wing…
ANDREW: I don’t identify as anything, really. Objectively speaking, a lot of my views particularly when it comes to the economy and the Welfare State are on the Left. I suppose I have more culturally conservative ideas about education and the Arts, but then so did George Orwell and no-one accused him of being a rabid Right Winger.
There are some good ideas on the Left, some good ideas on the Right. As long as you’re not enslaved to an ideology, you’ll be able to recognise them. If you ARE enslaved to an ideology, then you are not thinking for yourself. You’re taking your cues from an existing set of rules and I don’t trust that.
JOHN: I blame the French for Left and Right and making it seem like it’s about opposites. I always think of it as a circle.
ANDREW: A lot of my friends on the Left see the Woke movement as a bourgeois luxury. It’s no longer about Left and Right. That argument is obsolete. But people are stuck in this mindset of what Left and Right used to mean about 40 or 50 years ago.
Titania’s latest book… Coming next year will be Andrew’s own Culture War book
JOHN: Why did you stop co-writing Jonathan Pie? An argument?
ANDREW: No. I did it for three years. I don’t believe in doing things for too long. I don’t anticipate Titania McGrath going on for much longer. If it does, it’ll have to develop into something else.
JOHN: So what next that will be intellectually stimulating for you?
ANDREW: Well, at the moment, I’m writing a book about the Culture War. It will be out in Spring 2021. That’s a non-fiction book and it’s my big focus at the moment. Trying to encapsulate what I’ve been writing about for the last five years, really. But where we are now and where we go from here.
Andrew Doyle is an interesting and controversial writer/performer.
He’s a stand-up comic in his own right. He co-wrote the Jonathan Pie character for three years. He currently writes political columns for Spiked internet magazine et al. And he writes and Tweets as the character Titania McGrath.
Until the coronavirus struck down live comedy, he also co-ran monthly Comedy Unleashed shows in London’s East End. They were billed as “The Home of Free-Thinking Comedy”.
For the last three nights, Comedy Unleashed has returned to the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. They were restricted under COVID rules to only having one-third of the venue’s capacity audience, so they ran a show on two consecutive nights. Both shows sold out well in advance – within a day of tickets being on sale – and they added a third night.
I had seen the non-existent Titania McGrath (played by actress Alice Marshall) perform at Comedy Unleashed last year. A live tour was planned for March this year but, because of COVID, it has now been postponed until next March. Coronavirus allowing.
This is the first of a two-part blog…
JOHN: So My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism says its target audience is six month old to six-year-old females… They are going to have trouble reading it.
ANDREW: It points out in the opening chapter that Titania doesn’t believe in talking down to children. So she will use words like “intersectional” because she thinks here is an innate wisdom in childhood, which is why she’s such a great fan of Greta Thunberg. She says that, when she was a baby, her first words were: “Seize the means of production”. She believes babies have this innate politicised wisdom.
Of course, what it means is that kids can’t read the book. Although a copy was sent to a friend of mine recently and her husband assumed, from the design of the book, that it was for their 4-year-old daughter and gave it to her. She was delighted.
But then her mother had to explain to her that it wasn’t for her and, of course, it’s full of swearing, so… It’s marketed to look like a children’s book. It has all the accoutrements of children’s literature. But I hope in a way kids don’t get hold of it.
JOHN: Might bookshops put it on the wrong shelves?
“I thought they were in on the joke…”
ANDREW: A couple of weeks ago, an American bookstore posted a display of all their favourite books about diversity and inclusion and Titania McGrath’s first book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice was there, next to Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo and all the rest of them. At first, I thought they were in on the joke. But no. When they found out it was a satirical book, they took the Tweet down and presumably the display down and also took the book off their website so you can’t even buy it from that bookstore any more. They were obviously very angry about it
JOHN: One of the drawbacks of very sophisticated satire is that people may actually take it for real.
ANDREW: Even today, some people think Titania is real. There are all sorts of people out there who haven’t heard of her, which is great: the joke can keep going. I like getting into arguments as her with people who don’t know.
JOHN: You like getting into arguments generally?
ANDREW: Actually, I don’t, because I’m a very non-confrontational person. It’s something I avoid as much as possible in my life. But, through Titania, I’m not getting into an argument. I’m enacting a character. So that’s fine.
JOHN: Does that mean Jonathan Pie and Titania McGrath are ways to be aggressive and argumentative without putting yourself personally under pressure?
ANDREW: I suppose you’re really asking does that explain my attraction to the satirical genre? But I don’t think it does. I don’t think I’m looking for an outlet to be confrontational. It’s just a corollary of satire; you can’t avoid it.
When you’re writing satire you are exposing what you perceive to be the follies of Society and, by doing so, you’re bound to make enemies – particularly because you tend to be having a go at people with some sort of cultural or political power.
I don’t think satire can exist without offending people. Unfortunately, it’s a by-product of what I do, but that does not equate to having a confrontational personality. I go out of my way to avoid conflict in real life.
JOHN: Your work isn’t a way of getting something out of your system?
ANDREW: Probably my stand-up does that more. Because you get to embody a version of yourself that doesn’t exist. Often I can exaggerate my worst features. My onstage persona is a lot more waspish and – yes – more confrontational. Maybe – possibly – that’s me enacting the type of person I wish I could be.
JOHN: How does Alice Marshall cope with this? She must get hassle for saying things as Titania McGrath that she didn’t write and maybe doesn’t believe.
ANDREW: I spoke to Alice about this a couple of days ago and what was interesting was that she told me she did NOT get any hassle. I get a lot of abuse online but I think she doesn’t because people recognise she’s an actor.
JOHN: Is what Titania says going to change anybody’s opinions?
ANDREW: It depends what you mean. I had one woman who claimed I had effectively de-radicalised her. That kind of thing is very gratifying.
Satire does believe it can make a difference, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. But does it make a difference or just annoy people more? That has always been a conflict in my head.
When I get emails from people thanking me for standing up to this current creeping authoritarianism, that’s really gratifying and a good way to offset the anger that Titania generates.
JOHN: If you can’t change people’s minds, would you be just as happy simply annoying people?
ANDREW: No. I DO try to change people’s minds. That’s why I write political articles and articles about culture. I’m not doing that just to get it off my chest. More than anything, I’m interested in discussion and persuading people of my view – and also refining my own view.
By putting my argument out there in the most persuasive way I can, people will come back at me with counter-arguments that either refine what I believe or make me realise where I’ve gone wrong. And that is a really positive thing.
BBC Studios and E4 (part of Channel 4) have ripped-off Benjamin Bankole Bello’s well-established comedy character President Obonjo for their reprehensible non-broadcast comedy chat show pilot which looks remarkably like a wildly offensive piece of racism which could have come straight out of the 1930s or 1950s.
‘President Obonjo’, though, is not a former African strongman for nothing, even if ousted from his ‘Lafta Republic’.
In the last couple of days, a fight-back has been organised and, next Sunday, a (probably 25-minute) President Obonjo show will be recorded for unleashing on the internet. As both BBC Studios and E4 have said in writing that they believe there is room for two former African dictators in the comedy firmament (one original; one their own rip-off) no doubt they will both be rushing to take on President Obonjo. After all, surely no-one could believe there is any two-faced bullshitting going on by either.
Part of the Mama Biashara shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush
So I talked to comedy critic/judge (Scotsman newspaper, Perrier Awards, Malcolm Hardee Awards) and TV producer (Eurotrash and sundry sport and sex documentaries) Kate Copstick and ‘President Obonjo’ about their plans for next Sunday’s recording in Copstick’s Mama Biasharacharity shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
JOHN: So what is it?
COPSTICK: It’s a President Obonjo chat show with interview guests. It’s not a TV pilot. It’s hopefully a mind-boggling world wide viral video.
JOHN: And the basic idea is…?
COPSTICK: The conceit is that the President is not a stupid man and he realises, as I think many of us have, that Britain is falling apart, from the Mother of Parliaments downwards. Never has the time been better for a coup – a power-grab – and President Obonjo has got a bit of previous in this area.
OBONJO: I didn’t get thrown out!… Just over ten years ago. I came on a state visit to Britain to meet your Queen and discovered comedy. My people in Africa found out I was no longer on a state visit, there was a coup détat and I have been here ever since – President Obonjo has been performing comedy for ten years.
JOHN: Who took over in control of the Lafta Republic?
JOHN: So it is much like Britain.
OBONJO: Precisely. There is a gap in the leadership in Britain and I am the man to fill it.
JOHN: Parliamentary democracy clearly is not working. We need a strongman.
OBONJO: Change we can believe in. Now is my time.
COPSTICK: Also, this is the 21st century and we could be doing with a black man in charge.
JOHN: Are we allowed to say President Obama was not really black?
OBONJO: He was brown.
JOHN: And only half-Kenyan – his dad. Whereas President Obonjo is all Lafta.
David Lammy made an inspirational speech
OBONJO:David Lammy,when he became a British MP, was so inspirational in his speech about how he never thought he was going to be in Parliament and everyone kept rooting for him to be the first black Prime Minister… That was good, but it has not happened.
COPSTICK: Prime Minister, Shrime Minister. We wanna cut through all that because democracy self-evidently is not working. Boris Johnson has had a very good stab at being a dictator…
OBONJO:… and it has not worked.
JOHN: And, clearly, one-man rule CAN work in Britain because our absolute monarchs succeeded – Henry V took over France. Henry VIII did us proud and took us out of a European religious union. Elizabeth I, though not altogether a man, created an English Empire. It proves that absolute power in the hands of one person works in Britain. Let’s not mention the Germans.
COPSTICK: It absolutely works and President Obonjo has an absolute groundswell of support from the live comedy industry.
JOHN: You can create the Lafta Republic right here in Britain.
OBONJO: Change we can believe in. Yes we can.
COPSTICK: This show which we are recording next Sunday is a chat show, but it is also a show of force with the guests representing large special interest groups within the UK. It will be a tour-de-force.
Colour duplication is fully operational at the BBC in London. (Photograph by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash)
BBC Studios have become embroiled in what they are claiming is the theft both of one of their programmes and of their name by a company calling itself BBC Stewdios.
BBC Stewdios have sold a sitcom pilot idea – Stepson & Co – to E4 (part of Channel 4) about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team. The show is set in the 1990s and bears some similarity to the 1960s-1970s BBC TV father-and-son sitcom Steptoe and Son, which was also about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team.
However, BBC Stewdios claim their sitcom characters were independently developed by producers in their company, none of whom had ever heard of Steptoe & Son and that the setting – the 1990s – clearly distinguishes it from the BBC’s product… Steptoe and Son ran on BBC TV for around ten years.
As for any similarities in the company names, BBC Stewdios have issued a press release saying they came up with their name independently and they had not previously heard of BBC Studios. They say:
“Our name came about because our founder John Charles Walsham likes Irish Stew and his Spanish mother used to say it was their family’s God: thus the name Stew-Dios… and ‘BBC’ was decided on because our ideas are Big, Brassy and Creative – thus the name ‘BBC Stewdios’.
“There is a tradition of three-letter names being used by a large range of television companies – ITV, ABC, CBS, NBC – it is the Rule of Three. We believe there is room in broadcasting for two BBCs and we see a clear distinction between BBC Stewdios and BBC Studios, just as there is room in broadcast TV for two rag-and-bone men sitcom series and we see a clear creative distinction between our Stepson & Co sitcom and the BBC’s ten-year run of Steptoe and Son shows, of which we were honestly and innocently totally unaware.
Today’s BBC Stewdios Press Statement
“BBC Studios claim their Steptoe and Son sitcom is widely known and respected, but our producer Ken Bawdell had neither seen nor heard of Steptoe and Son.”
When contacted for comment, Ken Bawdell said: “I don’t take much interest in the broadcast television industry… They’re not nearly as important as they think they are”.
Meanwhile Carl Columbia, Controller of E4, has been quoted as saying: “Channel 4 has a statutory public service remit that it should ‘be innovative and distinctive’. We are satisfied that there has been no infringement of intellectual property by BBC Stewdios in this case and there is plenty of room in the industry for two companies called the BBC.”
A BBC Stewdios spokesperson said: “It is a case of pot-kettle-black. BBC Studios have a long-established reputation for ripping-off ideas. Anyone approached by them should expect and prepare for the worse and neither get their hopes up nor give up their day job. Sadly, it now seems necessary to give the same warning about E4 and Channel 4… #JusticeForObonjo“
JOHN: Doesn’t this go with my idea that politics is a circle not a line? Extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing eventually meet in the same place.
ANDREW: I get this a lot. Comedians hate Spiked and people who self-identify as Left hate Spiked. I say “self-identify” because I don’t believe they ARE Left. Unless you care about class consciousness and the redistribution of wealth, you are not left-wing.
JOHN: And you care about them.
JOHN: So you ARE left-wing.
Spiked – “believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote”
ANDREW: Of course. Everything I write is left-wing. Everything. Spiked is pro-freedom of speech, no ifs and buts as an indivisible liberty; pro democracy; believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote, because the European Union is essentially undemocratic and pro-corporate. Spiked is pro-migration with no such thing as borders; it does not believe in any form of borders whatsoever. It is anti-Trump, anti-New Labour, anti the Tories. It is anti-racism; anti the alt-right; anti men’s rights activists. It is pro-freedom, pro individual liberty, sceptical about climate change.
JOHN: Sceptical about climate change?
ANDREW: Yes. I am not. But, with Spiked, I agree with more than I disagree.
JOHN: The one thing you did not mention there about Spiked views was the current Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party.
ANDREW: It is very anti-Corbynistas. Hugely. Hugely.
JOHN: It seems very anti everything. What is it pro?
ANDREW: It is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, pro-democracy, pro the human race.
JOHN: Who else is supporting liberty that Spiked likes?
ANDREW: Well, there are so few people doing that.
JOHN: Is it pro any other organisations?
ANDREW: You mean party political affiliations? I don’t think it is pro any of them. There is not a political party it supports, which is sort of where I am at the moment.
JOHN: But, as a Marxist…
ANDREW: I never said I was a Marxist. I don’t think of myself as a Marxist.
JOHN: So what are you?
Living Marxism in its heyday…
ANDREW: I would say I am… I dunno… a Socialist? Somewhere between Socialism and Social Liberalism. Do you really want an answer?
ANDREW: I dunno. I think that’s where I am. I don’t trust any ideology. Why should you just choosean ideology and stick to every point that ideology represents? Why can’t you say This element of Socialism is good and This element of Conservatism is good? Ultimately, I oppose identity politics in whatever form it takes.
JOHN: What is identity politics?
ANDREW: That the way you perceive people is through their particular demographic or group. Seeing people collectively rather than as individuals.
JOHN: Isn’t that inevitable? There’s a man over there in a T-shirt and another one is wearing a tie. I am going to have immediate pre-conceptions about them.
ANDREW: You are talking about prejudice. I am talking about self-identification. What I resist is that, just because I am in a particular demographic, then I should identify myself with that demographic. Everyone is an individual.
JOHN: So you think certain things are wrong. Why are you not into active politics? You are very, very bright, very thought-filled, very fluent.
ANDREW: You are very kind. No. I don’t want to be a politician.
JOHN: But all these people you disagree with are in control of the world and you think they are making wrong decisions.
ANDREW: I would rather just complain about it on the fringes. Every time you write any polemical piece, you are trying to effect some kind of change or, at least, trying to persuade people of the validity of your point of view. That is a valuable exercise, but I am not naive enough to think I have any type of clout.
JOHN: Is being a writer more influential than being a politician?
ANDREW: Maybe. I would not want to be a politician because, for a start, you have to adhere to the Whip and you sort of surrender your integrity to an extent. You have to compromise to get anything done and I am not a compromiser. I am not suggesting compromise is a bad thing, just that I am not very good at it.
JOHN: You studied English at Aberystwyth University. Why Aberystwyth?
Aberystwyth University – accidentally alphabetically lucky
ANDREW: Because it was first alphabetically in the list. I went to a shitty comprehensive school where we didn’t really have any guidance about where to go. Had Aberdeen University been there, I would have applied there. It wasn’t in the list.
So I went to Aberystwyth and, after that, I wanted to do a Masters in Renaissance Literature but they didn’t do one, so I went to York and then I wanted to do a doctorate in Renaissance Poetry and work with manuscripts so then I went to Oxford University and I became a part-time lecturer at Oxford, teaching the Shakespeare module to undergraduates. At that point, I was going to be an academic.
JOHN: Why the specific interest in manuscripts?
ANDREW: Because I was very interested in early modern literature – Renaissance. I developed a particular interest in a poet called Richard Barnfield. My thesis was on Richard Barnfield, Shakespeare and Philip Sydney. Shakespeare and Richard Barnfield are the only two poets of that era in England who wrote love sonnets from one man to another.
JOHN: Are you just interested in Elizabethans?
ANDREW: I’ve written introductions of republished versions of a novelist called Forrest Reid,who died in 1947. I’m writing a biography of him. Up until the 1970s, it would have been accepted he was the best novelist to emerge from Northern Ireland but, because of the fickle nature of literary trends, he was forgotten. They are a very specific type of novel. He was a pagan; he worshipped spirit gods; he was an animist. All of his novels are set in Belfast, but infused with this sense of another world lurking beneath the surface, centred on male adolescence.
JOHN: Why are you not still lecturing?
ANDREW: It’s quite lonely.
JOHN: I saw one of the Jonathan Pie live stage shows at the Apollo Hammersmith and the first third or more of it took pot-shots at what I thought was the easy target of the Conservative government, but then you turned it on the audience.
“…Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs…”
ANDREW: That’s why we have to have the first third in that way. So many of Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs. The fanbase is predominantly the liberal Left – Guardian readers – so, in order to have a show that essentially attacks the fundamental principles that they represent, you need to get them on-side. It’s a strategy. The first third of the show is exactly what you would expect.
JOHN: Is that the ultimate idea? To attack the liberal Left?
ANDREW: No. It’s not as confrontational as that. As with all satire, it is exposing the excesses and deflating the pretensions of those in control.
JOHN: Equal offence to everyone?
ANDREW: The character does not just scatter-shot attack everyone. The character believes certain things.
JOHN: What IS the character? A left winger who hates the Right but has doubts about the Left?
ANDREW: Yes. Basically he is an old school Bennite Leftie who is pro-Corbyn, Socialist, hates the Right, hates the Tories, hates what they are doing to the NHS, but also thinks the Left need to do a whole lot better in order to beat them… and that the Left keep losing because of their own shortcomings. And that’s where the frustration comes.
JOHN: Sometimes the phrase ‘Guardian readers’ is used as a put-down.
ANDREW: Well, the Guardian and Daily Mail are very similar.
ANDREW: They are both explicitly partisan and misrepresentative; they push an agenda relentlessly; and they are not to be trusted.
JOHN: Is Jonathan Pie risking his fanbase – the liberal Left – by attacking them?
Jonathan Pie’s 2017 book Off The Record
ANDREW: Sometimes. And sometimes you get your ideological opponents supporting what you say, which is a bit weird. But I think we have retained the sensible people who can stand having fun being poked at them. The people who think.
JOHN: So where do you go with the character?
ANDREW: That’s up to Tom. I just go along with it.
JOHN: Do you feel overshadowed by the fame of Jonathan Pie? No-one knows who you are.
ANDREW: No-one knows who I am, but that doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not hungry for fame.
JOHN: Not doing anything new?
ANDREW: I am working on a couple of musicals at the moment. One is about Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon in World War II for airmen who were surviving their terrible burns and had to reconstruct them.
ANDREW:Paperboy. It was recently staged at the Lyric, Belfast, based on Tony Macaulay’s memoir of being a paperboy on the Shankill Road at the height of The Troubles. But it’s really a coming-of-age story. Another musical I wrote is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s book Soul Music. He specifically asked us to do that book. Youth Music Theatre UK put it on in Kingston with 40 kids – but it has not yet got a producer to take it forward.
The last Jonathan Pie live stage show has just been released to download.
Jonathan Pieis a fictional UK TV news reporter, played by Tom Walker, in satirical political videos posted online and in stage shows. The scripts are written by Tom Walker and Andrew Doyle.
Andrew Doyle on his return from Scotland
Andrew Doyle and I met in London just after he had come back from Scotland, where he had filmed a half hour TV documentary about a man who had been prosecuted and found guiltyof training a pug dog to give a Nazi salute. The man – calling himself ‘Count Dankula’ – then posted a video of the dog on YouTube; he said he had done it as a joke for his girlfriend.
Probably all my blogs should come with the warning that I do not necessarily agree with all the interviewee’s opinions. And, equally, I do not necessarily disagree with all of them.
Make of that what you will.
JOHN: Why the interest in the pug dog?
ANDREW: Because it is such a landmark case in terms of free speech. Lots of people have been found guilty of telling jokes in this country, but we don’t hear about them very often: they’re mostly just unemployed teenagers on Facebook. It’s the first case of its kind that has got widespread attention and it has caused a real division within the comedy community, which I think is fascinating.
JOHN: And that division is?
ANDREW: Well, when I wrote a Jonathan Pie video about it with Tom Walker, we fully expected comedians to be up in arms about the case. There were a few who were annoyed about it – Shappi Khorsandi, Ricky Gervais, David Baddiel – but most comedians were silent about it and quite a few sided with the court’s decision. It was the opposite reaction to what I would have expected.
It has really illuminated the fact that actually a lot of comics are not in favour of free speech at all. And that fascinates me.
JOHN: Any particular type of comedian? Left wing or right wing?
ANDREW: Well, virtually all comedians are left wing.
JOHN: But the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing are just a quirk of French history,aren’t they? If you take both to extremes, they end up in the same place. It’s a circle not a straight line.
ANDREW: Well, most comedians are middle class Blairites who call themselves ‘left wing’ but they don’t really know what ‘left wing’ means. I think because they identify as left wing and because the Left is often so hostile to free speech and has not done a very good job defending it, you now see people like Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins defending free speech and that makes the Left even more suspicious of free speech. It’s a really dangerous situation.
The Left needs to reclaim free speech – I am passionate about that, although I have been called a misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi.
A misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi??
JOHN: But you are gay. Why are you allegedly a homophobe?
ANDREW: Some of the jokes I make, apparently.
JOHN: So the Left are not very good on free speech?
ANDREW: No. They used to be. If you go back to the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s, they understood that free speech was at the heart of any…
JOHN: So you’re saying the New Left and the Blairiteswere OK but the Corbynistasare a bit Fascistic?
ANDREW: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Fascistic. And I don’t think the Blairites were particularly strong on free speech. There have been increasing attempts at press regulations and Hate Speech laws are now enshrined in our way of life. That is not a free speech position.
JOHN: But it’s not opinion, only incitement to violence, that is criminal.
ANDREW: No. The 2003 Communications Act deems that anything you send online that could be ‘grossly offensive’ is a criminal offence.
ANDREW: I don’t use the term PC. I associate political correctness with a different thing. To me it is a good thing. It is about a general, shared, agreed discourse that we have in public, in work, where we basically agree to be polite to each other and agree not to say certain things. It’s a social contract.
Andrew writes regular articles for Spiked magazine
Obviously I am not in favour of enforcing any type of speech law but, say, if you agree to work in an office, part of that is an obligation not to use the word “faggot”. That’s not a free speech issue. You can say it elsewhere but not in the office you have chosen to work in. I don’t think the idea of society encouraging people to be polite is a bad thing – and that is all I see political correctness as being.
What is happening now is not political correctness. It is a transformed, perverted version of political correctness, creeping into authoritarianism.
JOHN: You seem to be saying you are not in favour of any restriction of speech laws.
ANDREW: That’s right. I am not.
JOHN: But someone should not be allowed to say: “I think you should go out and kill all black people…”
ANDREW: Yes, that is a terrible thing to say.
JOHN: Surely saying that should be illegal?
JOHN: Is it not an encouragement to commit a crime?
ANDREW: No, because whoever commits the crime should be held responsible for the crime. I am really uncomfortable with the idea of diminishing the responsibility of someone who breaks the law.
JOHN: But, by that logic, Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust because other people did the killing.
ANDREW: He explicitly ordered and orchestrated it so, yes, he is responsible. He was not trying to persuade the SS to do it for him, he was ordering the SS to do it. They are responsible too – the people who did it – but he is too, because that is part of a military chain of command. That is not the same as someone standing at Speaker’s Corner shouting out that gay people should be castrated.
Just because he shouts that out, does not mean that people are going to go out and castrate gay people and, if they did, they would be responsible. It is not the same thing.
JOHN: But, if someone goes out and does something criminal as the result of hearing a speech, that speech was incitement to commit a crime, isn’t it? Which is illegal.
Andrew’s stand-up comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017
ANDREW: Yes, but the problem I have with this is that, on balance, I do not think it is safe to allow the state to have the power to criminalise speech – even if that means some really horrible people are going to try to persuade people to do horrible things. On balance, I think that is deeply unpleasant but it is not as frightening to me as the state having the right to lock people up for what they say and what they think.
We cannot trust the state. We know that now. They have convicted in a court of law a man for making a joke video about a pug dog giving a Nazi salute. And they call that Hate Speech. We cannot trust them to distinguish between a joke and some psychopath in a park shouting and inciting murder.
JOHN: The pug dog video case was in Scotland. Would it have been illegal in England?
ANDREW: Yes, The Communications Act applies to all of the UK.
JOHN: This is all a bit serious.
ANDREW: Do you want to talk about something flippant?