Opinion: Have Comics Let Politicians Off The Hook? By Vic Iyer


The homogenous, zombie-like world of modern politics is often ridiculed by satirists – but this election campaign has made me wonder if the comedians are any less on-message.

Let me state from the get go that there is nothing wrong with comedians saying what they think about politics – in the age of Twitter, as I can testify to, it's kind-of impossible to resist the urge. Especially when there's so much to get angry about.

No doubt there are many satirical shows airing right now but on Twitter, my timeline seems to have filled up with comedians sending out tweets that are barely-disguised memes designed to help Labour.

Worse still, I've seen other tweets which offer the kind of incredibly simplistic nonsense you'd actually expect from the very politicians we're all so (apparently) fed up of.

This isn't a right wing rant. For what it's worth, I'd quite like to vote for the SNP but they haven't got to London yet.

But what I want from my comedians is at least some pretty forthright, agitative devil-may-care rage at a system which is losing the support of its citizens at an alarming rate.  Isn't that the most civic duty that comedians could perform?

Instead, it's all a bit too jolly bonhomie. Take the register to vote campaign in which a number of high profile comedians tried to whip up enthusiasm among 'young people' (a phrase that already makes you sound like a confused dad) to get down with 'da ballot box innit'.  

The tweets were the kind of stodgy stuff you'd expect from a craven MP. Old people, we were told, vote and so get more from the parties.

Really? You mean the old people who are left to rot in care home dungeons, sometimes staffed by people who'd fit right in to a Ken Kesey novel.

Don't get me wrong, old people do wield influence but that is down to more than just voting.  The whole campaign jarred: it was patronising and it wasn't at all funny.

Another factor at play here is the cult of Twitter outrage. I believe comedians have become fearful of going against the groupthink.

Had Twitter been as powerful in the dying days of Blair, I can imagine the much maligned former PM taking a proper pasting.

But now the groupthink among liberals is very much 'get the Tories out'.  Comedians know jokes going against the groupthink will get less traction and maybe they're sheepishly holding fire until a safer time.

It’s not as if there aren't opportunities for humour at Labour's expense, what with policy monoliths being unveiled as part of Ed's election odyssey. There's satire to be had too,  in the way Labour demand we remember all the Libdem betrayals but completely forget their's.

And then there's Russell Brand.

Perhaps it rather summed up things, when dear old Rusty went from demanding revolution to sort-of backing Labour. Sorry Russell, but can a revolutionary really be on the same side as Alastair Campbell? I'd suggest not.

There are exceptions of course. I've loved Al Murray's campaign because he hasn't seemed bothered about the groupthink and what I've seen of his bid for the Commons has been scattergun and surreal.

Frankie Boyle may have calmed a bit these days but he's one of the few mainstream comics I know who's happy to confront his audience, politically speaking.

There's a 'sameyness' about life in general, I'd argue – whether that is panel shows, festivals, our High Streets or politics.

Comedy should be reacting to that, slapping us with the unbridled energy of idealism and anger if it aspires to be political. Instead it seems as bored and as cautious as the election campaign itself.

I hope another five years of the same politics will elicit a better response from whoever the comic doyennes of the day are. I'm not too hopeful though.

Vik Iyer is editor of spoof news and satire site Newsfox. @thenewsfox



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