By the look of things, we’ve had the last laugh – for now, anyway. From what I can see, comedy seems to be very far down in the list of important things in 2021.
Social commentators moonlighting as comedians are left scrolling desperately, bereft of material for their endless monologues, now that a certain person is no longer welcome on social media. Who will US TV host Bill Maher accuse of being half orangutan now?
Once Joe Biden takes to the Capitol with a normal, possibly bland inauguration speech and the dust settles on Donald Trump and his posse of buffalo-horned deplorables, US comedians like John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and the Saturday Night Live team will be desperately trying to squeeze some comedy out of our daily drudge.
They should at all costs avoid Montrose, where comedy goes to die. RTE’s most recent unfunny offering, the much maligned New Year’s Eve skit, where god was depicted as a sex offender was offensive to many Christians.
But according to the woke book of ethics, offending christians is fine, but offending anyone else is wrong. I don’t mind a comedy going too far, but the golden rule is- it has to be funny. This wasn’t funny.
We are not living in hilarious times. Even Borat and Mr Bean have hung up their comedic boots for good. Rowan Atkinson, who has been playing the childish character since the 1990s told the Radio Times last week, “I don’t much enjoy playing him…and I look forward to the end of it.” He’s in his 60s now and wobbling around like he did 30 years ago is physically demanding. Meanwhile Sasha Baron Cohen told Variety that he brought Borat out of retirement because of Trump. But now Trump has been banned from public life, and his unruly mob have been de-platformed, there’s no fodder for the Kazakhstani native.
They join famous funny people like David Brent, Del Boy and Blackadder in the annals of bygone comedy, never to return. I can’t see them updating their comedy to the present day. Blackadder, cocooning in a pair of sweatpants on his couch, while Baldrick is isolating in his garden shed is boring.
Covid-19 I’m sure you’ll agree, has zapped the funny out of us. People losing their lives to the virus does not make rich picking for jokes. Fear of getting ill, fear of loved ones getting ill and losing jobs, businesses and not being able to pay the bills hardly has us rolling around. On top of that venues are closed, comedians aren’t getting gigs, creative people aren’t randomly meeting up. Societies like the Footlights, the amateur theatrical club in Cambridge University where the likes of David Baddiel, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie met at, isn’t putting on shows.
Then throw in cancel culture, which Rowan Atkinson described as the “digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn” and things are dire.
Normally we can laugh in the face of fear, anxiety and hordes of offended ‘liberals’. But the real reason there are no laughs is because for a year now, we’ve had nothing to say to each other.
Nothing has happened. Conversations I’ve had sound something like this; “I added some lemon to my juice this morning. I really rounded it off ” or “I think I put the wrong bin out earlier. My teeth are sore from sweets.”
It’s riveting. When you look back at dark times in humanity, there’s been comedy. In 1957 Mel Brooks gat romp, ‘The Producers’ managed to get away with singing ‘Springtime for Hitler in Germany.’ with dancing stormtroopers.
For those who remember Dad’s Army, the BBC sitcom was set in World War 2, while M.A.S.H, which was set in Vietnam.
Anyone thinking of putting together a comedy show for this particular era, best think hard.
Even a reliable comedic source David McSavage has been regaling old laughs. A recent highlight on his instagram page, was a story of a comedian who ‘died on his hole’ 16 years ago.
Don’t worry Dave, we’re all dragging up war stories. I’ve been underperforming comedically for quite some time. When two friends called over to me (before Christmas) when we were allowed to do that kind of thing, we were bland at best. Normally roaring, it was boring. Had I paid in, I would have booed us off stage.
We have high standards, but mustering up enough laughter to draw from a year’s worth of mundanity is Herculean. If there’s a comedian out there, who can avoid Trump, scat or woke nonsense, I would like to meet them.
Life is dull for many people right now. Many lament a good laugh to break up the downbeat mood. I’m aware that laughs can wait, but I look forward to the day when we can sit together and laugh again- about something new.