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What’s so funny?

By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.

AFTER A BRIEF respite from Trump-bashing the media have returned to their favourite subject with the pretext of assessing the President’s “first hundred days”. It’s one of those pointless little exercises they run to make it look like they’re doing something useful such as reporting real news, rather than regaling us with tales of girl bands reuniting after thirty years or prophecies of doom for the UK when it quits the EU.

Trump certainly gave them a lot to hyperventilate about, not least his authorisation of the dropping of MOAB in Afghanistan, which must have deafened every Taliban and his sex slaves within a five mile radius — those that remained alive and with all their internal organs intact, that is. But that’s all been forgotten. What’s obsessing the US media in particular now is the fact that the Pres refused to turn up at something called the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (snappy title, dudes) but instead chose to speak at a rally in Pennsylvania.

He certainly knows how to work an audience: “I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles way from Washington’s swamp,” he said, “spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right?” Yes, I think I’d agree with him, given the response of the gathered hacks in Washington.

In the absence of the Donald himself they were entertained with an anti-Trump diatribe by a bug-eyed, gurning character called Hasan Minhaj, who is a comic on The Daily Show. Hasan is unknown to us on this side of the Atlantic, a situation for which we should be grateful and which will, fingers crossed, remain permanent. His leaden quips and jibes were as relentless as those by our own comics on such programmes as Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week, series in which the twitching dead of leftist comedy are allowed to squeak and gibber in their own echo chamber.

The complacent conformity of much leftist humour had already reached a level of smugness before Obama, when all a comic had to do was say “Bush” and everybody chortled in knowingness.

The complacent conformity of much leftist humour is nothing new: it had already reached a level of smugness before Obama, when all a comic had to do was say “Bush” and everybody chortled in knowingness. Obama, of course, was utterly immune from any comic baiting, mainly because he was black and therefore privileged with racial untouchability.

But since the alternative comedy of the 1980s took off, the left has become the establishment and as a result it’s stale, complacent and out of touch. The public are turning against them. Stalwarts of the comedy scene, such as Marcus Brigstocke and Stewart Lee, are finding that audiences outside of the Remainer stronghold of London do not appreciate their anti-Brexit jokes, for instance, and are walking out in disgust.

”How could I write a one size fits all touring, two-hour, standup show that would play to all of divided pre-Brexit Britain?” Stewart Lee asked himself, having sort of recognised the  52% vote to leave meant that most people had a decided opinion on the matter — because it was important to them. Just as important, it turns out, as Mr Lee’s own opinion shared by the minority 48%. Except that, being a self-confessed fully paid-up member of the establishment, he couldn’t stop his euro-righteousness oozing out :

I initially played the show for four months to the metropolitan liberal elite of Remain-voting London, who lapped up my Brexit bit greedily, as if it were a newly spiralised courgette.

Then I went out into the wilderness of Brexit Britain, where the Remain-voting towns loom out of the darkness like fantasy citadels in a Tolkienesque landscape, wondrous walled cities full of wizards and poets, and people who could understand data, in the middle of a vast bubbling swamp with “Here there be trolls” written over it in curly pirate script.

There you have it, you pitiful trolls in the swamplands. How easily the persona of sophistication slips to reveal the contempt beneath. Either Lee and his peers learn to adapt to the new world or stick to touring the safe spaces of their Remainer zones. They’re pros, though, aren’t they? They’ll surely learn to bottle their contempt and find ways to make the trolls laugh. Because trolls do have a sense of humour. In some cases they can dish it out as well as take it. Trump is the biggest troll of all, and he’s far funnier than most of these woodentops who put “comic” after their name.


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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