"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Monday, February 04, 2019

The Morality of Comedy

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, The Morality of Comedy

"With faith in our institutions, apparently, at an all time low, at least, partly because of the relentless scorn of the standups. Is comedy healthy for democracy? Or does it trivialize and caricature the most serious issues we face, dumbing us down and making society itself glibly stupid?...

'Totalitarian authoritarian leaders... don't like comedy because it undermines them'...

‘Shouldn't they make fun of the left as well as berating the right’

‘Yes’

‘And is it your view that they fail in that respect?’

‘That is changing. Comedy, it's funny because in the 70s comedy there was there was a lot of overtly right wing comedians. Jim Davidson, Bernard Manning, those kind of people and then you saw the rise of alternative comedy of which Ben Elton is perhaps the most famous proponent because he was so overtly left wing and his politics.

And what kind of happened in comedy in the 90s and the noughties is that the left had kind of took the moral high ground and anyone who stood for right wing values, because of the denigration that Thatcher came under, anyone who took the right wing viewpoint was just abused and smeared and undermined… what you tend to find with right wing comics or comics who believed in non kind of Guardian left reading values was that they just kept their politics to themselves because they wanted to get booked again. So you tend to find that the right wing politics tend to do things like absurdist humor or tell stories but they don't do overtly political jokes’...

‘On Brexit, comedians and satirists mainly line up with remain. They line up alongside the bankers, the CBI, The Financial Times, so they're lined up with the establishment. Doesn’t that strike you as rather funny?’

‘It strikes me as not only funny, it strikes me as deeply hypocritical. And it is a failing of comedy. And you're starting to see now, only now with Brexit that it has become acceptable to utter kind of non left values that you're starting to see other voices appear. And it's a great tragedy. And it's been a great failing of comedy, because comedy is supposed to be a bastion of free speech.’...

‘Effective comedy makes us think’...

‘If you look at the research what's quite good in some ways and quite worrying is that young people now don't turn to the news for their political knowledge, they turn to comedians, mockumentaries, late night comedy shows. Now that's good in some ways. But the research also shows that that viewing has a real influence on those young people's political attitudes. And a lot of the time it switches them off of politics.’...

‘I don't think being snarky has any skill to it at all. I think being snarky is easy. Attacking politicians is like shooting fish in a tank. It's easy, it's cheap laughs. We can do it all day long, 247. What is more difficult is educated, deep reflective satire that as you quite correctly say makes people think on the way home in the car after they've had a good laugh’...

One of the things that people say for comedy in a kind of political context is that it's, it's subversive. But I wonder whether actually watching comedy is an incredibly safe and actually rather smug way of feeling, you're feeling that you’re clever and subversive, and then returning to your semi detached house and not challenging anything at all... we’ve reached the stage where people respect a capacity to be funny more than they respect their capacity to engender hope or to be genuinely challenging...

'I wonder whether we’re just addicted to comedy, actually, because it makes us feel good about ourselves and in some ways it's a replacement for other things that we might be doing that could be more useful'"
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