Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

And now for something completely different...

By Russell Grenning - posted Thursday, 5 July 2018

Stop me if you've heard this one...

A BBC executive with the marvellously Orwellian title of Controller of Comedy Commissioning walked into this newspaper interview...oh, and I should add, that this title is absolutely true and correct and is not adapted from some functionary's title in Dr Joseph Goebbels' Department of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda although it might well have been...anyhow, this BBC executive told a Daily Mail (UK) journalist that if anybody came up with an idea today for a show similar to Monty Python's Flying Circus then it wouldn't get on TV.

Absolutely true, cross my heart and hope to die.


And, this Controller Mr Shane Allen, explained the reason for this is that comedic needs nowadays require "a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world". Very possibly, this is the funniest thing that Mr Allen has ever said although like all bureaucrats he was sublimely unaware of how utterly hilarious his solemn stricture sounded. There is nothing quite so funny as a pompous public servant issuing orders and judgements from on high as if they are updates of The Ten Commandments.

Perhaps Mr Allen thinks that an updated and acceptable Monty Python-type show today would have to include among its creators and actors a black disabled feminist lesbian so that it would meet the new criteria of being diverse although nowadays of course it would simply not do to make jokes about black disabled feminist lesbians. Comedy, according to Mr Allen, must essentially reflect our diverse society even, presumably, at the risk of not being funny.

To be fair to Mr Allen, having read his potted biography, it is fairly clear that he has never written anything funny himself although he has been jolly busy controlling the commissioning of comedy for years so perhaps his whole life's work is a gigantic in-joke.

Certainly John Cleese, one of the team of six who created the iconic Monty Python show almost half a century ago, was among the first to understand Mr Allen and his inadvertently hilarious pretensions given that one of his own characters, Nigel Incubator-Jones, won third prize in the hotly contested Upper Class Twit of the Year competition.

Cleese made the point that in its day, the team was remarkably diverse - "We had three grammar school boys, one a poof, and (Terry) Gilliam, though not actually black, was a Yank. And no slave-owners."

Shortly after being appointed to the BBC gig in 2013, Mr Allen gave an interview to The Guardian (UK) which is that journal much favoured by left-wing, politically correct bores who see themselves as intellectually and morally superior to everybody else. The interviewer did his best to make Mr Allen sound like a real old barrel of laughs – in it, pedestrian and frequently self-congratulatory quotes by Mr Allen aren't things he just "says", but things that he "jokes" about, he "laughs" about and he "cackles" about or he delivers a "quip".


He was recruited from commercial TV in the UK where he has also controlling comedy commissioning (or something similar) and his utter commitment to the job could be no better illustrated than by the fact that, "Now he works 16 hours a day, six days a week and has very few nights off" and when he does allow himself a rare night off and is out socialising he "sometimes tells people that he works for the Post Office" because – pause for laughter - "it stops them soliciting invitations to send him scripts, and moaning about the kind of comedies they hate". Isn't he a real old wag?

When he left his old commercial TV job, his farewell party featured balloons and badges emblazoned with "End the Hunt" which was, says The Guardian, "his comic rebellion against former boss... chief creative officer Jay Hunt". I don't know about you dear reader but I was in stitches when I read this, no really, I was.

And why did this giggle-a-second funster do that?

He wanted his fellow "comedy professionals" to know that he "knew what funny was" and that he was "still the bloke who could take the piss out of myself, out of them, out of Channel 4 and also out of Jay".

And in a moment of rare humility, Mr Allen confessed, " order for me to attract to the channel the rebels, the mavericks, the anti-authority malcontents who populate comedy, I had to have that spirit myself. Otherwise I'm just some dick in an expensive jacket spouting meaningless buzzwords about seeking ideas which are bold, original, edgy, spiky." Is there nothing he won't do to have UK folk in convulsions of hysterical laughter?

It was The Guardian in 2014 which published a famous – or, perhaps, infamous – piece about the Monty Python reunion show that year which saw five of the originals get together - the sixth was already dead - for a series of ten stage shows in London. Despite admitting that the ten shows sold out literally in less than a minute with 200,000 people buying tickets, The Guardian decided that the Python team "weren't amusing in their heyday, and they won't be now. Great comedy makes you laugh, makes you think and makes you feel. On all three counts, Python falls woefully short."

It makes you wonder: if The Guardian and Mr Allen are right, why after almost half a century after Monty Python began its initially uncertain path, hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom probably weren't even born when it finished in 1974, still want it.

The Guardianmakes a virtue – probably its only virtue – of deciding that what most people like and want in the UK – and that means not just Monty Phython (never ever funny) but Brexit (terribly wrong and bad because stupid old people voted), the Scottish independence referendum (failed for the same reasons the Brexit referendum passed) and political correctness (really good because it shuts up the great, stupid and ignorant unwashed).

Cleese had a field day with Mr Allen, the all-powerful BBC Comedy Czar, by recalling that in a strange sort of way, the wheel had come full circle for the show.

"When Python started, the Head of Light Entertainment loathed it, and at a Heads of Department meeting, six of them disliked it. Allen is just the latest in a long line who really don't know what they're doing."

Mind you, the BBC has always been super sensitive about even appearing vaguely non-PC: once it edited out the word "Paki" (the slang term for a Pakistani) from an elderly episode of the wildly successful comedy Only Fools and Horses (1981 – 1991) because it admitted it had received a single objection. Yes, a single objection – that is, only one. I can only wonder what will eventually happen to episodes of Fawlty Towers - for example, when the Major goes on and on about "niggers" and "wops".

Would people who feel that the Major's use of these terms is insulting and derogatory want them edited out? Perhaps so but that would mean the whole episode would have to be banned because any editing would render it meaningless. No doubt BBC executives, in their desperate attempts to be politically correct, would tie themselves in knots trying to decide what to do. But, then again, if some crusty old retired military officer complained that the Major's character made him and other similar veterans look stupid and bigoted, no doubt his objection would be instantly dismissed as the ravings of a crank.

Mind you, should political correctness stop with humour?

Somebody should take a long hard look at The Beatles – four white men – whose only virtue in a politically correct world is that most are dead but The Rolling Stones still outrageously perform and they are all white blokes although banning them now would be elder abuse. Not PC at all.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

31 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Russell Grenning

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 31 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy