The death of controversial humour
G Gavin Collins
There appears at present to be an epidemic of neo-puritanism directed at comedy
omedian Peter Kay became the most recent victim of unfounded accusations of bigotry, after he made a light-hearted quip about celebrity judge Robert Rinder’s sexuality on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing. The joke, that Judge Rinder’s sexuality was a ‘firmly closed case’, did not appear to cause any controversy during the program, but, as with most fauxoutrage witch hunts, took the form of social media ‘slacktivism’. Despite the fact that Mr. Kay’s accusers consisted only of a handful of Twitter users, the media, sensing an opportunity to stir controversy and drive up ratings, proceeded to write dozens of stories on an issue that most viewers of the BBC program were likely not even able to perceive. The charges levelled against Mr. Kay seem to be part of a category of baseless accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia, which have in recent years targeted everything from sport teams’ logos to Halloween costumes. Despite there being no evidence that Mr. Kay dislikes gay people, many news headlines following the incident seemingly imply that this would not be an unjustifi-
able opinion if one were to weigh up the evidence. There appears at present to be an epidemic of neo-puritanism directed at comedy. The American comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, recently spoke out about his policy of refusing to do comedy shows on university campuses, because of the hostility against him from many millennial audiences who appear unable to appreciate the distinction between comedy and actual hate speech directed at minority groups. The fact that Jerry Seinfeld, a comic who specialises in observational humour about mundane topics and rarely even swears during his standup routines, complains about feeling this kind of pressure while on stage is a strong indication that it is modern audiences and not the comedians, who are at fault. The labelling of every off-colour comment or joke as a form of bigotry also weakens the deterring effect of those labels on behaviour that actually warrants their use. The failure of many serial hair-trigger accusers to recognise their overzealousness has likely contributed to the recent rise of populist political candidates,
Pictured: Peter Kay sparked fury when he made a risque joke on Strictly Come Dancing. Source: University of Salford Press Office via Flickr
who have in some cases made a war against political correctness a part of their campaign platforms. Most rational people would recognise that there are still instances of genuine bigotry and discrimination, and that jokes dealing with topics such as sex or racism are best left outside of council meetings or the office. It does not follow, however, that off-colour humour should be banned from humorous television
programs or comedy clubs because of an easily offended minority, who fail to appreciate the context in which something is said. Risqué comedy is in danger of disappearing entirely if the media and advertisers, pressured by a small but vocal minority, cannot find it within themselves to target actual bigots, while leaving alone people who appreciate the occasional juvenile attempt at humour.
Buckingham Palace needs some TLC
Huge sum laughs in the face of figures for foodbank usage and economic outlook Dan Heard
Tourism alone to the Palace generates £500 million annually, meaning a year’s takings for Liz and co. would effectively be enough to spare the taxpayer.
ometimes, it’s easier to take things into account using numbers. For instance, there are 424 government foodbanks currently operating across the UK. 1,109,309 emergency one-day food packs were distributed for the financial year 2015/16, with 415,866 of these going to children. That figure is up by almost 100,000 since 2014/15. A bit hard to swallow those figures? Well, the news that emerged this week concerning another action taken by the government will no doubt have had you choking on your Corn Flakes. You know, if you were fortunate enough to have Corn Flakes, or food in general. A sovereign grant has been awarded to the Queen, following an agreement between Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond to fund a ten-year refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, which, as has been reported, is in dire need of “essential” and even “urgent” repairs. Except this extensive set of repairs will cost £389 million. Yes, that’s £389 million. I’ll put that into further context for you. For that kind of money, you could pick up a work of art by one of the old masters, a Rembrandt for example, which sell normally at auction for between £15 and £20 million each. Or a luxury penthouse apartment in Mayfair, the one with panoramic views of the capital, which would set you back again, around £15 million. Then there’s your very own Car-
ibbean island, a measly £20 million. How about a super yacht like the one Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich owns? £70 million. A top of the range Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc, the fastest production car in the world? A drop in the ocean at a mere £1.5 million. And even if you were to buy all of these things, you still wouldn’t even have spent half of what the Windsors will be receiving for the next decade to do up their pad. This amount is also, staggeringly, more than six times the annual income of some of the poorest countries in the world. That’s right, entire countries don’t make in a year what our government can afford to hand out to monarchs. 884 million people worldwide don’t have clean drinking water, which can cost as little as £15 (not £15 million) to treat in some areas. How can this kind of funding possibly be justified then? Well, Forbes revealed last year that Her Majesty has a personal fortune of around £340 million, which includes her estates at Sandringham and Balmoral. So asking her to pay for even some of the repairs would clearly be a despicable thing to ask of a poor old lady. It’s not as if her and her family have any other source of income. I mean, tourism alone to the Palace generates £500 million annually, meaning a year’s takings for Liz and co. would effectively be enough to spare the taxpayer. This announcement comes the
same week that Mr Hammond had to come out and defend his Autumn Statement, in which he revealed that the UK’s deficit would “no longer” be cleared by 2020, on top of which, due to the result of the Independence Referendum, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the government will have to borrow £122 billion more than what was predicted pre-Brexit. Amongst the doom and gloom that is now forecast though, Mr Hammond did announce that Wales would receive £400 million over the
next five years, to be spent on “infrastructure”. To put things into perspective, a country within the UK will receive slightly more to spend in key areas over five years what one family will in 10 for repairs. For even more perspective, a proposed project to build a critical care hospital in Gwent in North Wales is estimated to cost £350 million alone. There are also 157 foodbanks operating in Wales. There were 16 between 1998 and 2010. Aren’t numbers great?
Pictured: It was announced last week that Buckingham Palace will receive a £369 million renovation over the next ten years. Source: shining. darkness via flickr