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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?

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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.

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