What Makes you Laugh these Days?
I rather despair. I long for something silly to listen to or watch but I find that so much of the humour is angry, classist, divisive and crass and so I switch off. I used to enjoy the 6.30 Radio 4 slot but these days the level of humour is so pathetic it just makes me cross. The News Quiz and the Now Show used to make me laugh but they are just rather cruel these days and very ‘lovey’ and full of anti-posh rhetoric. There’s Live at the Apollo if one can be bothered so stay up late enough but quite frankly after a few months it is all so much the same stuff of lavatory jokes, boring stories about children that what Michael McIntyre made amusing all those years ago has been taken to endless levels of repetition.
I just long to laugh more. My childhood memories are of our family sitting round listening to Around the Horne or watching Tony Hancock or Morecambe and Wise and collapsing in laughter to the point that my Dad used to have tears streaming down his cheeks.
There was the gentle comedy of the soaps like I Love Lucy, Dad’s Army, The Good Life, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Til Death us do Part, Terry and June, The Avengers and idiotic humour like the Benny Hill Show, Eric Sykes, Marty Feldman, The Monkees, the Likely Lads, the Liver Birds, the Goodies, The Flintstones. And of course Bertie Wooster and the Doctor at Large or at Sea series. There was the classic Some Mothers Do ‘ave ’em. We had so much choice!
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was one of the most brilliant comedy series of its day and I am not sure that there has been anything quite as witty since. Perhaps The Office made an attempt to be as funny but I don’t think it matched up, in my view.
The original fly-on-the-wall Candid Camera could be brilliant but has been played to death. And It’ll be Alright on the Night similarly ribbed ridiculous moments of theatre and television and made us laugh.
Along came Monty Python’s Flying Circus to take humour into another level of observation and idiocy that was radical and very funny. Kenny Everett, The Young Ones and Dame Edna were equally radical and equally amusing. Ben Elton and Victoria Wood combined pathos and sharp wit together. And I am afraid I loved The Vicar of Dibley.
Political shows like That Was the Week That Was combined politics, satire and humour and was one of the first of its genre. Bird and Fortune and Rory Bremner carried on brilliantly with the satire and impressionist take-off capturing the excesses of our politicians. I want more of it please.
But I think I am becoming increasingly like Victor Meldrew (which again was a wonderfully perceptive and amusing portrayal of a marriage) and finding it hard not to say “I don’t believe it!” whenever I read something in the newspaper or listen to some boring Radio 4 6.30 “comedy” that insults my intelligence.
Now that the Durrells is over I can find nothing gentle to watch, nothing I look forward to much and absolutely nothing that makes me laugh. The Scandi noir phase of tv series has taken us into an altogether darker place and whilst The Bodyguard was gripping and Vanity Fair reasonably good I would love a gentle soap or comedy for the 8 o’clock slot on a Saturday or Sunday.
I long for some of the old-style simple but quick and witty comedy. In search of humour we are taking ourselves off to see The King of Thieves tonight, which sounds a bit like an old-fashioned Ealing comedy with all the oldies like Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and Francesca Annis. I am really hoping that it will be silly but slick enough to make me laugh. If anyone else has found something to watch that fits this bill please please let me know!