Jimmy Dodger

Comedy is a strange thing. I remember the 1960s….Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder and Ted Ray. I remember the 1970s and the racist/sexist “humour” of Bernard Manning, George Roper and Stan Boardman. I remember the 1980s and the alternative comedy of Ben Elton, Harry Enfield and Alexei Sayle. I remember in the 1990s that the comedy of Rob Newman, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner was heralded as the new “rock and roll”.

The 21st Century Comedians….Frankie Boyle, Sean Lock and Jimmy Carr are a curious throwback to the politically incorrect humour of the 1970s.

It is….we are told….about Irony. We must not confuse Al Murray with the Pub Landlord…his xenophobic, homophobic alter ego. Yet the suspicion remains that the audiences who watch Murray are seeing the joke on two levels. The Pub Landlord says things that the Audience would like to say…..so they laugh or post on Twitter. Jimmy Carr says offensive things in his routine and mocks the audience for the guilty laugh.

We make the mistake of thinking that Comedians are……liberal lefties. But it strikes me that todays generation of comedians are as right wing as Askey, Trinder, Ray, Manning, Roper and Boardman. So a fortnight ago Jimmy Carr is hosting the Jubilee Concert for Mrs Windsor at Buckingham Palace. A curious journey from Channel Four to the Establishment.

As a comedian….Jimmy Carr is no Ken Dodd (see what I did there?) . Maybe Laughter is enough. Maybe what passes for humour in a ladies sewing circle is different from what passes for humour in a military barracks. Maybe the art of the stand-up comedian is about delivery….professionalism as much as the joke itself. And what exactly is a joke anyway. Two contrasting ideas coming together in one sentence.

Yet Jimmy Carr is no Ken Dodd……so talking about the Inland Revenue.…(see what I did there?)…..Jimmy Carr has an interesting relationship with the Tax Man.

He is “employed” by a firm in Jersey, the off-shore tax haven. They earn £3 million from Carrs work but “pay” their employee £100,000 on which he pays tax. The rest of the £3 million (untaxed)  finds its way to Carr thru loans which do not have to be re-paid. Tax Avoidance is of course not a crime.

Yet I think many of the people in the Carr audience might not be appreciative of his use of tax law. Or maybe they would. Becauseit would be a mistake to think that 21st century audiences at comedy shows are …liberal lefties.

Yet Jimmy Carr hosts a successful Channel Four programme……the panel show “Eight Out Of Ten Cats”. My impression is that  ….Eight out of ten cats would like Jimmy Carr to be paying a lot more tax.


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6 Responses to Jimmy Dodger

  1. james says:

    Not really sure about your take on the understanding of comedians and comedy. The old school listed (with the exception of Manning) are exactly that. Old school. Variety. Music Hall. It doesn’t make them ‘right-wing’. Most of these people were just deeply working-class and what we now recognize at bigotry wasn’t seen as such at the time. These people did not have a political agenda. What is, however, truly shocking about Boyles and Carrs is that they are educated, middle class comedians who have no excuses.

    • They are all comedians within (my) living memory…Askey was from Liverpool and Ray from I think Manchester and Trinder was a Londoner…at one time Chairman of Fulham FC. All had started in Variety, moved to Radio and part of 1960s TV. Trinder fell from grace after publicly criticising the Palladium “owners”. They were Tory supporters and in at least two cases being water rats (Variety Club charity types) and part of the wider freemasonry of comedy. At least two were secret shakers.
      Manning, Roper, Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck were/are “right wing” and while alternative comedy was associated with the political left.we are now in an era of comedy which is post-alternative.
      Hard to imagine more establishment figures than Stephen Fry or Rowan Atkinson. As far as I know neither has been overtly declared support for a Party.
      The next generation is less motivated by politics. Frankie Boyle is as sexist as Roy Chubby Brown …or is he? If his target is the Royal Family is that better? Or the fact that his targets are powerful? Or is it all meant to be taken ironically? Or is Frankie Boyle laughing at us for being guilty at laughing at the political incorrect.
      With Al Murray….the parallel is surely with Johnny Speight/Alf Garnett. The monster became a folk hero. Is the audience not sympathising with the Pub Landlord in the way the Saturday Night Live sympathised with Loadsamoney?

      Jimmy Carr. I dont like him. Maybe hes genuinely a nice guy as his fellow comedians claim? Bob Monkhouse apparently just came across badly on TV. Maybe Carr is the same. But surely he is too smart to be naive about people thinking his tax arrangements were acceptable.

      • james says:

        Why was George Roper right-wing? Why is he tied in with Davidson and Manning? On what basis do you make such a sweeping claim? I’m from Liverpool, remember him publicly supporting the dockers strike in the Eighties. We must be careful when we brandish people with political affiliations without taking care to provide citations.
        Stephen Fry heavily endorsed the Liberal Democrat during the last general election.

      • My condolences on coming from Liverpool. 😉
        You might well be right about George Roper supporting the Liverpool dockers in the …..1980s. He was rarely on national TV in the 1980s. His performances on the Comedians indicate that he was just one of that “group think”.
        Worse…he told a lot of jokes about Manchester United.
        Theres a new priest at Old Trafford….Father Down.

        I had suspected that Stephen Fry might have endorsed the Liberal Democrats. The only way a posh guy can have street cred. Or put it another way……he is apolitical. He supports the Lib Dems.

  2. james says:

    I find the 1970s interesting for comedy. I watch clips of comedy from that era and I don’t see what they’re laughing at, it’s a bit like watching the Paul Whitehouse character ‘Where’s me Washboard’/. But the reviews of the Comedians were rave ones, from the Manchester Guardian and the Morning Star too. They all loved it. That’s why I find it difficult to see them all as ideologically rightwing. Also the other show ‘The Wheeltappers and Shunters Club’ had portraits of Harold Wilson on the wall and the chairman would refer to Labour as ”our party”.

    • Thats a very good point.
      But theres a disconnect between “conservative” and “race”.
      Indeed the hey dey of working mens clubs in the 1960s where the 1970s comedians cut their teeth …many operated a colour bar for membership.
      Although Labour would be politically opposed to racism many of their working class supporters were quite racist. arguably British imperialism informed the working class that they were in some way superior to the Indians and africans they exploited.
      Certainly the “Enoch is Right” campaigns in West Midlands car plants were popular on shop floors if not with shop stewards.
      There is therefore no surprise that a photograph of Harold Wilson would be seen in the Wheeltappers.
      It has to be remembered that people like myself..I am 60..watched the Comedians. It was in a sense part of the opening up of the North….the Beatles, Coronation Street, Liverpool FC, Manchester United FC were all part of the process….a new permissiveness.
      Cringeworthy now but that “racism” and even the cinematic sex comedies “Confessions Of…” were regarded as progressive. Even early footage of Lenny Henry as host of the Black and White Minstrel Show is a bit embarrassing.
      Political Correctness is merely good manners and in a sense this dominated the 1980s.
      The Internet has I think driven racism and political incorrectness underground…..and now it is rising again. And arguably that bad manners informs the comedy of Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle and Ed Byrne.
      I dont like them but would concede that like Chubby Brown or Bernard Manning they are “funny”….the counterpoint ideas and images and have good delivery/technique.
      But in all honesty some….despite political affiliation are cut from the same cloth as the 1970s Comedians.
      As a lover of history I am intrigued by the history of culture. Some excellent documentaries and dramas have told the story of Spike Milligan, Max Miller, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock etc.
      Milligan..a particular favourite had an unfortunate tendency to do stereotypes racial and sexual. I recommend some of his Q series as occasionally hilarious examples …all available on You Tube.
      The pendulum always swings….not least in comedy tastes…..and the point that Id make is that bad manners/insults are back. Occasionally we are invited to laugh at the irony (perhaps Al Murray/Pub Landlord is the classic example) but I suspect a lot of comedians are playing a double game.
      Classicly Chubby Brown hypes himself as the man who they wont allow on TV but to be blunt……Frankie Boyle at his worst is no different. The key difference is that Boyle, Carr, Byrne are saying the kinda things that reflect “the Establishments” position ….or to put it better….the prevailing social mood of the decade.
      That late 1960s/early 1970s was a curious mix of social mobility, traditionalism, progressiveness and caveman attitudes.

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