Opinion: Comedians & UKIP

john sessions

I was intrigued, surprised and generally horrified to read that John Sessions is a UKIP supporter. The interview in The Guardian didn't make as big a deal out of it as I would have thought. Which was curious. Surely it would be interesting to hear someone as intelligent as the Stella Street star to go into great depth about his support for this party.

It is usually assumed - with a few obvious exceptions – that comedians of the post-alternative stripe tend to be left of centre. They tend to be queuing up to do benefits for worthy causes and many have happily lent their support to the Labour Party in the past. UKIP is surely the ultimate four-letter word taboo for comedians unless they are cracking a gag about Nigel Farage.

When younger comedians emerge as right of the centre it unsurprisingly attracts attention. Back in the 1980s I seem to recall that Bob Mills, who presented ITV's seminal late-night telly trawl In Bed With Me Dinner mentioned that he had a soft spot for Margaret Thatcher and I don't think he meant a bog in Ireland. I don’t know if it hindered his career, but I doubt if it helped it.

On the other hand a unique selling point can be a bonus in a crowded market. A couple of years ago there was a comedian in Edinburgh whose publicity blurb made a point of saying that he was right wing. I’m not going to give him the oxygen of publicity here. Oh, alright then, I admit it, I can’t remember his name (actually I just checked, it was Geoff Norcott, who claims to be “The UK’s only ‘openly’ Tory comic.” There is also Simon Evans. I'm not sure if he's officially a Conservative – Chortle called him "a stealth Tory" – but he is certainly fogeyish enough to pass himself off as one. What a pity he is also funny. Bang goes my theory that Tory comedians are a humourless bunch.

But voting UKIP? That feels even odder than voting Tory. In fact a couple of weeks ago I was asking around for stories for my Evening Standard column and – entirely unprompted – somebody whispered in my ear “did you know XXX supports UKIP” as if it was a terrible dark secret. They were referring to quite a well-known comedian and they said it as if it was the worst thing imaginable. OK, it’s not Savile territory, but I honestly can’t ever see "UKIP Supporter" being something a comedian is going to put on their posters.


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