Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Comedy of Social Collapse

In every generation, satirical comedians draw attention to negative aspects of the society they see around them, and lampoon those responsible. Britain has an outstanding tradition of sharp political satire, from ‘That was the week that was’ in the 1960s, to Spitting Image in the 1980s.

What are Britain’s satirical comedians saying now? A lot of contemporary comedy seems to be about the collapse of social values and the rise of the underclass.

The first sketch of this kind was probably Harry Enfield’s ‘Slobs’, with the excellent Kathy Burke, back in the early 1990s. Here are a few selections of more recent popular work.

Catherine Tate and her colleagues have captured two things in particular about contemporary British teenagers. Firstly, the English dialect known as ‘Ja-fake-an’, in which teenagers affect the speech patterns of the Caribbean. This is one of the results of the uncontrolled mass immigration that has taken place under the Labour government. Secondly, the mindset of Lauren is one of narcissism, ignorance and denial of responsibility, the opposite of the mindset required by a good citizen.

The female teenager seems to have captured the imagination of our comedians, as the best example of the Comedy of Social Collapse is Vicky Pollard. The character of the Left-wing teacher is as much an important part of this satirical sketch as Vicky herself. It is due to the attitudes of ineffectual Left-wing teachers such as him, that children grow up to become Vicky Pollards.

The genius of Armstrong and Miller’s ‘pilots’ sketch is to juxtapose contemporary British teenagers with World War 2. By comparing today’s society with our ‘Finest Hour’, they highlight the fact that today is very far from being our finest hour.

These characters are funny because we recognise them. This is essentially observational comedy. As such, it should serve as a warning. Once we finish laughing, we need to take the message of satire seriously. In contemporary British comedy, there seems to be a pattern emerging.


SteveUK said...

The British do nothing but run away from their problems. either through comedy or football, or whatever.

The real problem is that when you take out your frustrations through laughter or football, the original problem is still there.

Anonymous said...

@SteveUK: you are spot on. No one takes resposibility for their actions/decisions nowadays. Its always someone elses fault. MacDonalds made me fat. Banks forced me to borrow money. Tobacco firms made me smoke 40 a day. I'm legless in the gutter because Tesco sell cheap lager. Etc etc ad infinitum.