Don't laugh with the comedy bullies

27th January 2006 at 00:00
Bullying rampant in British schools? Little Britain under attack? Don't get me started. Little Britain is playground humour that is satisfied only to break taboos and splurt out a laugh, especially if those taboos involve minorities. Or, as I heard a critic say on the radio the other day, it is brilliantly humorous and that to emphasise the lampooning of minorities is to miss the great comedic gifts of David Walliams and Matt Lucas. Just watch the thing and see if you think that one word of it could have been included in the work of any of the great comics of the past - Hancock, Morecambe, Barker - or of the present - Izzard, Merton, Noble. It's got a big fan base, but so has McDonald's.

I don't want to pick holes in one show, I want to blast a gaping, jagged crater in the damaging dross being peddled as comedy in what we might call the smirk and splutter shows. I include in these the "game" shows hosted by such arch smirkers as Mark Lamarr in Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Reeves and Mortimer (particularly Mortimer) in Shooting Stars.

An important element - and in some cases the only purpose - of these programmes is to humiliate the guests, particularly older, faded celebrities. There seems to be a substratum of characters, including Paul Daniels, Stuart Hall and Lionel Blair, who have become the punch bags of some post-modern thuggery.

A fairly common piece of patter from Lamarr is to wish some performer that he doesn't like were killed in some nasty way. The show also features a line-up of a has-been rock star with supposed lookalikes to be identified through a process of, you guessed it, lacerating humiliation. You have to be "normal" to avoid being laughed at. Don't be old (especially don't be old and incontinent; that is soo funny), don't be gay, disabled, or a woman (a laaydeee, or a working class girl). Don't be different in any way. The cool people will get you if you are.

It is the humour of the playground. Does it contribute to the growing incidence of bullying? I think so, and not just at school. At work, in bars and clubs; it pollutes the social atmosphere of the young and vulnerable.

To all those "artists" I have mentioned: keep it up boys, you're a fine example to the impressionable young. There is a score of quaking, petrified children for every show. The blood flows in the back alleys of the land as a tribute to your humour.

Peter Thompson is a music teacher on the south coast

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