Have you ever noticed that most observational comedy routines start with the audience being asked, “Have you ever noticed?”
That’s not my style.
In the history of comedy, observational humour is a fairly new arrival, but there are still joke tellers around – the great Tim Vine, for example. And, at 90, Ken Dodd is the master of rapid joke-delivery.
American vaudeville comics cracked sharp one-liners while our music hall comedians specialised in slapstick and songs like “My Old Man Said Follow The Van”, which I’d recite in its entirety, but I’m limited for space . . .
‘Alternative’ comedy became linked with two words which were welcomed by as many people as they annoyed – Political Correctness.
Here’s an official definition of PC . . .
The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
But, interestingly, before the words ‘political’ and ‘correctness’ were joined together by whoever it was, the only comedy rule was . . .
”Every joke has a victim”.
So, comedians told jokes about fat people, short people, deaf people, stupid people, mothers-in-law – no individual, race, religion or ethnicity was ‘off limits’.
Audiences, including The Fat, The Short and The Stupid*, laughed and didn’t take offence. The past really is a foreign country where they did things very differently.
The era of the racist, homophobic comedian has passed, although some modern comedians believe nothing is ‘off limits’, not even mocking the disadvantaged.
Are those comics any better than the Bernard Manning’s of yesteryear?
It’s not for me to say. But what’s certain is that comedians today often have to walk on eggshells.
I certainly do. When I’m making an omelette, my kitchen floor’s covered with ’em. I hope I haven’t offended any chickens . . .
* The Fat, The Short and The Stupid is also the title of an un-made Italian western which would have starred Clint Eastwood.