After pious leftist orthodoxy is mocked by several comedians at the Edinburgh fringe, po-faced Guardianistas suddenly decide that comedy is too divisive
The Guardian is up in arms because several stand-up comedians performing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival fringe have dared to include material poking gentle fun at the Left’s growing elitism and obsession with identity politics in their routines.
Comedy critic Brian Logan wails:
Identity politics has gone too far. PC has gone mad. These aren’t unfashionable opinions: they’re practically mainstream. What’s new in fringe comedy is that we’re now hearing it from leftwing comics. That’s both a fascinating phenomenon, and a troublesome one. Fascinating because there may be some truth in these propositions, and the left needs to interrogate them. Troublesome because standup doesn’t always favour nuance and fine margins, and one or two of these leftwing comedians – whether they’re mocking champagne socialists, rehabilitating slavery or defending the Iraq war – can start to sound (accidentally or on purpose) pretty rightwing.
Dear God. Jokes made at the expense of leftist orthodoxy are insufficiently nuanced, and therefore fail to reinforce the point that left-wing groupthink is actually correct and inviolable? The horror!
Arousing the particular ire of Brian Logan is standup comedian Fin Taylor, who receives this cool response to his routine:
It begins with Taylor recalling his resolution to give up being leftwing for January; to stop, in other words, “being a whiney little bitch”. Leftwing people, he goes on, are dismissive, pedantic and smug. Labour has been captured by the middle classes, who can afford to be blase about actually winning. Virtue signalling is their (our?) obsession, alongside political correctness, which “is about demonising and shaming people”. You’ve probably already identified the problem with all this – as an argument, if not as comedy. In short, Taylor’s screed is a carnival of generalisations and misrepresentations. Again and again, he alights on legitimate arguments, then comes at them from the most extreme or crude available position. It’s fair enough to mock Stoke Newington’s (hipster, “ethical living”) local economy, but to argue that those communities “don’t know what reality is”, or that their lifestyles “aren’t making the world better, just making it worse in a different way”? Not so much. Likewise, the left’s lack of clarity on Islamic fundamentalism – that’s fair game, but Taylor’s assertion that “white liberals don’t want to criticise Saudi Arabia” is nonsense.
Another left-wing “apostate” (Brian Logan’s word, not mine) comedian, Andrew Doyle, is also called out for failing to cast leftist thinking in a sufficiently positive light:
I have seen Andrew Doyle at the Stand, whose show describes – with as easy a recourse to generalisation as Taylor’s – his post-Brexit falling out with all his liberal friends. Again, the bogeyman is the middle-class lefty, caricatured as ever as a privately educated, quinoa-guzzling exile from reality. Against them, Doyle claims – via a working-class grandad, seemingly – a hotline to the common man, whom the left now hates.
Logan frets about whether “these shows are … starting the conversation” that needs to be had – because comedy can’t just be comedy, it has to be a vehicle for social change and browbeating people into accepting one’s own political views.
And he closes his review by plaintively asking “whether, in these antagonistic, divisive times, we really need this kind of divisive, antagonistic comedy”. Yes, heaven forfend that comedians do anything to demonise people or be divisive. We certainly wouldn’t want that, would we? Except that it was apparently just fine when nearly every British comedian from Frankie Boyle to Russell Howard eagerly divided the country into decent moral (left-wing) people and evil (far right-wing) eurosceptics.
No, the only kind of division that leftist Guardianistas can’t stand is the kind which places them anywhere but first place on the podium of wisdom and moral virtue. They happily threw nuance out of the window and chuckled along when their favourite leftist comedians mocked, misrepresented and demonised conservatism and Brexit, but having dished it out in such generous portions they seem unable to take even the smallest amount of similar treatment in return.
How awful that they are now experiencing what it feels like to have their own dearly-held political beliefs less than lovingly, accurately and sympathetically treated by comedians. Conservatives and Brexiteers certainly couldn’t possibly begin to imagine how that feels. Could we?
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