The Hilarity – and Horror – of Curb Your Enthusiasm

Larry David
Divine comedy: even if Larry David is as big a prize twonk in real life as he is on Curb we can hardly begrudge him for it.

Larry David is both the tragic hero with whom you identify and the comical idiot whom you love to see humiliated – long may he go on suffering!

The best episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm are the ones that make you want to hide behind the sofa, cover your ears and drown out the horror by screaming: ‘No, Larry, no!’ I’m thinking, for example, of the one where our hero attends a victim support group for survivors of incest and, in order to fit in, decides to concoct a cock and bull story about how he was sexually abused by his uncle. This, of course, comes back horribly to haunt him when out one day with his blameless real uncle…

But no, I shan’t try to elaborate, for the plots in Curb Your Enthusiasm are as convoluted as any farce. And besides, you should see it for yourself. So long as you don’t mind writhing in embarrassment, and wishing the ground could swallow you up, there really are few things more excruciatingly funny than Curb.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

Women Can’t Do Comedy

If there’s one thing everyone knows about BBC comedy it’s that it’s going downhill. According to Danny Cohen, now Director of BBC Television, it’s too white and middle class; according to producer John ‘Blackadder’ Lloyd, it’s run by idiots like the bureaucrats in the BBC satire W1A who don’t understand what comedy is; according to the gag-inducingly PC Dara O’Briain, it’s too gag-inducingly PC (he means the quota system they’re trying to introduce whereby every comedy panel show must have a token female); according to John Cleese, it’s never been the same since John Cleese left; etc.

Probably they’re all right. I hardly ever watch comedy series any more because they’re invariably full of young people being free and having lots of messed-up fun while yet asking us to feel sorry for them. But this week, just to check what the kids are up to, I thought I’d have a look at Comedy Feeds — the BBC’s now-annual newbie talent contest for sitcoms and sketch shows.

Read the full article at the Spectator

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Edge of Darkness

I’ve got this idea for a book, when I get the time, called Everything You Know Is Wrong. Its job will be to attack all the idiot received ideas of our age — what my father-in-law calls ‘notions’. High on the list of candidates, most definitely, is the commonly held belief (especially among stand-up comics) that Bill Hicks was the greatest comedian who ever lived.

Would people be saying this if Hicks hadn’t died of pancreatic cancer at 32? Probably not. Dead young people are so much easier to project your fantasies of unimpeachable greatness on to than people who are alive and fat and ageing and part of the establishment and just not as funny as they used to be. ‘He never sold out,’ say all his fans. Well, sure. He never had the time.

(to read more, click here)

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10 O’Clock Live Is Shedding Viewers. Oh Dear

Channel 4’s groovy, topical, political comedy show for the nation’s yoof 10 O’Clock Live is being hammered in the ratings. It launched in January with 1.4 million viewers. Now its audience has slipped to less than half that. Its commissioners at Channel 4 are putting a brave face on this. But it doesn’t sound like the definition of a great success story. I wonder why that could be.

Actually I know why, as I explained when I reviewed the abysmal first episode in the Spectator. (Since when, I gather, it has gone even further downhill.)
Just before Christmas, a TV production company asked whether I might be interested in appearing in a zappy new live and topical political series they were soon to launch on Channel 4.
‘It’s called 10 O’Clock Live,’ they said. ‘You probably saw our pilot. The one-off special with Lauren Laverne, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Jimmy Carr? It got pretty good ratings.’ No, I replied. That isn’t the sort of programme I’d watch in a million years. Lefty comedians making lefty jokes to a lefty audience about politics from a relentlessly lefty perspective? No, thanks.
‘But that’s exactly why we’re approaching you. To give it a bit of political balance,’ they said. ‘You mean, to come on as your token right-wing nutcase to be reviled and jeered at?’ I said. ‘Nooo,’ they said. ‘We want every point of view to be represented, we really do.’ ‘Yeah, right,’ I thought. But I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait for the first episode.
And guess what? 10 O’Clock Live is so relentlessly left-wing it’s like attending one of those Maoist re-education lectures the Chinese used to impose on captured British and American prisoners during the Korean war. Only without the levity, rapier wit and penetrating intellectual sophistication.
Look, you’re just going to have to take my word for it that this isn’t a case of sour grapes. Really, I’m absolutely 100 per cent sure that had I been chosen to be one of the presenters, I too would have made just as appalling hash of the job as Laverne, Mitchell, Brooker and Carr do with such cackhanded verve, week-in, week-out.
But the real point about all this is that the problem with 10’O Clock Live has absolutely nothing to do with personalities. (As I say later in the Spectator piece, I’m actually a massive fan of all four of those presenters: I just think their talents are wasted on this particular misbegotten show.) The problem lies with its relentlessly left-liberal politics.
Now I would concede that greenie, left-liberal politics are more likely to be in line with its yoof demographic. But the programme’s tacit assumption that all people today between 18 and 34 are Israel-loathing, high-tax-loving, believers in an expanded welfare state, man-made global warming, waterboarding for bankers, compulsory homosexuality, free university education and so on is not only demeaning (and, to a degree, false) but also the makings of excedingly dull TV.
Sure, granted, a lot of the nation’s “uni-” “educated” yoof do think in this way. But what you get if you make a topical news programme in this way is an amen corner for the received orthodoxies of the green, liberal-left. What you definitely don’t is the cut and thrust of real, exciting political debate.
As much as anything else this is a psychological thing. There are many fine, entertaining figures of a right/conservative/libertarian persuasion. But if their job is merely to be tossed like scraps of raw meat into a bear pit of salivating lefties who wouldn’t know what a free market was if it bit them on the bum, they are simply not going to perform to their best advantage.
Not everyone reads the Guardian or the Independent, you know. (In fact, hardly anyone.)

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3 thoughts on “10 O’Clock Live is shedding viewers. Oh dear”

  1. JimmyGiro says:20th March 2011 at 10:16 amA depressed man asks the psychoanalyst what he can do for relief?The analyst replies: “The treatment is simple. The great clown Terrifini is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up. Man bursts into tears: “But doctor . . . I am Terrifini.”

    I think the main problem with ’10 O’clock Live’ is the audience. Comedians, and popular public speakers alike, are inclined to react to the audience, which becomes their audience.

    Would Bernard Manning’s style of humour be the same if he were not playing to North Manchester working class men? Would Hitler have chosen a different angle if he couldn’t depend on the inherent anti-Jewish sentiment of the German people, in his early political career?

    If the organisers attract a crowd of brown shirts, the show is going to be different than if it was populated by people that want a laugh after a hard days graft. The Guardian reading crowd seem to want self affirmation rather than a belly laugh, as witnessed by the cheering and clapping, dominating the paucity of natural, non-forced laughter.

    When Nigel Farage, who was introduced amongst Pavlovian jeering, gave his typically cogent responses to David Mitchell’s questions, despite the latter desperately trying to force the answers to a simplistic level of xenophobia, the audience where stunned, and eventually collapsed into polite applause at the end.

    So I conclude that it is the neurosis of the audience that is wearing away the credibility of the show, and it took someone of Nigel Farage’s confidence to expose it.

  2. Velocity says:21st March 2011 at 1:24 amLeftie (and liberal) comedians are sooooooooo not funny. Dross in, dross out.
    But maybe you should take up the challenge James as first we need some right wingers (libertarians), second lefties are a (easy) target to be hammered and third times are a changing. and becoming more receptive
    They take the piss out of austerity you take the piss out of State bankruptcy
    They take the piss out of bankers you say it was the socialists that bailed them out
    They take the piss out of higher Uni fees you say State education is the most expensive liability
    They say Cameron is a clown you say ‘Agreed, but not as big as the last Labour Govt’
    They want more for the NHS you say the free market works better
    They want more for trains, green energy, Euro subsidies etc you say the free market works better
    They complain about cuts you complain about high taxes on everything (fuel, VAT up, ciggies, drinks etc etc etc)
    They want more Govt you want a whole lot less (zero someday when the penny drops)
    You could have a field day slapping these lefties in the face… remember they’re soft as shit and haven’t a leg to stand on after Labours destruction of the country… a missed opportunity James
  3. Colin says:22nd March 2011 at 9:52 pmI watch it, I laugh.

Comments are closed.

Religious conversion

The other week Simon Hoggart had a go at Rev — the new comedy about an inner city vicar played by Tom Hollander (BBC2, Monday) — and I don’t blame him. We had a similar reaction in our household when we watched about ten minutes of the first episode before deciding it wasn’t for us and switching off.

(to read more, click here)

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One thought on “Religious conversion”

  1. yaosxx says:30th July 2010 at 2:01 pmHa Ha Ha! Though I did think the fur coat bit stood in their favour – at least it meant they were less likely to be lentil-munching vegan nutters!

Comments are closed.

Et Tu, Eddie Izzard?

Does anyone else share my dismay that comedian Eddie Izzard is thinking of standing, not just as an MP, but as a Labour MP?

In the days before Izzard, comedy was aggressively, tediously political: all you had to do in the Alternative [to] Comedy Eighties was say “Thatch” in a sneery Ben Elton voice to get a roar of smug, consensual, right-on approbation from the audience.  Izzard – and his contemporaries – changed all that. They took the politics out and put the humour back in. They made it safe for even evil fascist bastards (as they would no doubt secretly term people like me) to laugh at comedy again.

So why must they all insist on ruining it by outing themselves as card-carrying libtards? Ricky Gervais is a genius, one of the funniest people ever to walk the earth. But how, exactly does it help his reputation for fearless irreverance towards the politically correct pieties of the day when he talks about animal rights – and supports the campaign for guardsmen’s bearskins not to be made of real bear fur?

Peep Show: again, pure comedy genius. As indeed were the first few series of Mitchell and Webb. But now David Mitchell appears on Question Time and has a Observer column in which he finds new ways each week of saying “I think Tories are a bunch of chumps” and suddenly it becomes that little bit harder as a right wing person to laugh at his funny sketches about Nazis because you’re thinking: “If he had his way, he’d have people like me up against the wall and shot.”

I felt similar disappointment a few years ago when I heard Bill Bailey – dear, lovely, warm Bill Bailey with his peace-and-love long hair and his Klingon impersonations and his genial brand of gentle, surreal comedy – talking about fox hunting with such snarling hatred you could have mistaken him for a member of the ALF. (Duh, Bill: fox hunting is the BEST!)

Whatever next? Russell Brand turning up to  support a G20 protest rally? TVs “Mister Angry Geriatriac” Richard (”I don’t believe it”) Wilson revealing himself as a life-long Labour supporter? Baldrick from Blackadder turning out to be a member of Labour’s National Executive? US comedian Bill Maher turning out to a rabid libtard with not a scrap of humour in his entire DNA?

You may laugh, readers. But mark my words, stranger things have happened in the bizarre world of comedy.

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