Wednesday 15 June 2011

Comedy bore

This story (£) is so replete with opportunities for mockery that I would have dismissed it as a spoof, had it not appeared in the august pages of the Times. Apparently the 'godfathers of modern comedy', aka the team behind '80s television series The Comic Strip, are to get back together for a one-off production, scheduled for the autumn. The subject of this long-awaited comedy special? Why, it's 'Tony Blair and the aftermath of the Iraq war':
The Hunt for Tony Blair, a 1950s-style film noir spoof, sees the former prime minister charged with murder and on the run from the police.
According to Jay Hunt, chief creative officer at Channel 4, who commissioned the programme, 'it promises to be a very daring and utterly irreverent romp':
Comic Strip defined comedy for a generation and it's a real coup to have the team back tackling one of the most controversial subjects of our time in a way that only they can'.
'Daring'? 'Irreverent'? 'Controversial'? The 'Tony Blair war criminal' line has been the tired cliche of 'Comment is Free' columns and North London dinner table conversation for half a decade, as well as the stock-in-trade of the anti-Blair mandarins and Daily Mail writers who refuse to accept the conclusions of  a string of public inquiries. In other words, it's the establishment view: nothing 'controversial' about it. And nothing new about it either. The Iraq war was in 2003, for heaven's sake.

In other words, the subject is as dated and washed-up as the Comic Strip veterans themselves, who include Rik Mayall, Robbie Coltrane and Jennifer Saunders. By associating themselves with this project, the scourges of 'Thatch' now appear as outmoded as Les Dawson.

One might ask why they couldn't find a more 'controversial' focus for their comic rage in the contemporary political scene. Aren't there enough oppportunities for political satire in the u-turns and fallings-out of the Cameronians and Cleggites? And with everything that's happening in the Arab world, wouldn't it be more 'daring' and 'irreverent' to satirise Assad or Ahmadinejad, rather than the easy target of a prime minister who left office four years ago? Or is this comic targeting of Blair yet another example of the fashionable faux-left habit of responding to real abuses of power by looking in the other direction?

And what does it say about the once 'cutting-edge' Channel 4 that it's promoting this predictable project by a group of has-beens, which is designed to confirm rather than challenge the prejudices of its audience, as a major television event?


kellie said...

But wait a minute - in the 1950s thrillers that come to mind, North by Northwest for example, the guy on the run is innocent... now that would be daring.

jams o donnell said...

Looks like the cutting edge of comedy is rather blunted if they can't come up with something a bit more topical than this.

Martin said...

Maybe you're right Kellie and I've misjudged them. Perhaps the purpose of this programme is to prove that Blair is innocent. As you say, that would be genuinely controversial, give the prejudices of the luvvy establishment.

skidmarx said...

"He starts, mistakenly, with a middle-class dinner party at which a guest had said: “It’s sad Woolworth’s is closing. Where will all the chavs buy their Christmas presents?” This is a mistake because the middle-class dinner party is both an easy cliché and unattributable. If we’re going down the road of cultural denigration, we should start on firmer ground."
John Lloyd

Martin said...

Are you suggesting that anti-Blairism is NOT one of the staples of fashionable middle-class dinner party conversation? Perhaps I could have chosen a better cliché . The bit about CiF and Guardian columnists generally is undeniable though.

BlairSupporter said...

Hi Martin,

Since this post was written months before the Comic Strip showed The Hunt for Tony Blair, and still today someone just tweeted it, thought I'd let you see what happens to those who could write a play/movie/book/bit of faction-fiction showing that Tony Blair is innocent. (if ever one was commissioned!)

I couldn't be bothered writing a full review of the thing. It's like Marmite & Tony Blair anyway - loved or loathed.

But this post mentions the vain (in both senses of the word) attempt at humour, in the passing.