Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Following the ludicrous ‘pack de benches wid me bitches’ stunt pulled by Ed Miliband and his gurning shadow cabinet homies last week in PMQs (anything to avoid veering into minor policy areas like the economy, Europe and immigration) the BBC takes its cue from its administration of preference. Head of television Danny Cohen says it is not acceptable to have all-male panels on its shows. He singles out shows such as Mock The Week, QI and Have I Got News For You to be taken out and re-educated. I’ll quote that again for you, it’s not a wish, it’s an edict: all male panels are “not acceptable”.
But surely the essential element in all of those shows is comedy; you know making people laugh and that? And two of the aforementioned are topical in nature, meaning the panellists should be able to contribute humour across a broad spectrum of subject areas while QI by its very nature is little-c catholicism personified. Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that there are no female comedians (wasn’t it so much easier when we were allowed to call them comediennes?) able to cover that remit, but I’m struggling to think of any off the top of my head. Because let’s face it ‘female comedian’ pretty much implies ‘female comedy’, which is generally either gynaecological or bloke-bashing. As I broke the news on Twitter: "BBC announce end to all comedy... as it disadvantages women."
I have absolutely no evidence to back this up – although that’s never stopped most expert commentators – but my experience is that the audience for comedy in general has a majority male make up. The odd fanny joke can be funny and some of the ‘stoopid cave man’ jibes are genuinely witty. I don’t mind a female comic, on the contrary, I’m all for a bit of variety, but while I would happily watch an hour of Mickey Flanagan or Lee Mack, my Jo Brandometer is probably set to around seven minutes. Even many women tend to prefer blokes with jokes, rather than the knowing, we-have-the-vaginas, right-on sisters of the comedy circuit. And anyway, the women already have Michael McIntyre. But hey BBC, they’re your viewing figures, you knock yourself out. Your former target audience will be down the pub.
But Danny Cohen went further still, saying he was keen to bring more diversity to the screen. Surely we’ll need bigger panels? And by the time Stephen Fry has introduced the gay one, the black one, the Pakistani, the obvious tranny, the lesbian the Albanian and the little fella, along with their amusing and politically appropriate buzzers, there will be precious little show left. Does Alan Davies tick enough boxes to even be allowed a place? Maybe he could find a new role as the token man on the panel in Loose Women for balance? But surely neither sex would joyfully tune into Men’s Hour on Radio 4 when Top Gear already does it so much better?
What next? David Attenborough to be instructed to scrutinise all his old footage to ensure that male animals are not disproportionally represented? BBC technical crews to be vigilant against any worrying disparity between the numbers of male and female BNC connectors? And with all those computers out there how has nobody observed the brutally male intrusion of USB sticks? It’s virtually rape, for goodness’ sake! And the more you look, the worse it gets; the men on the news wear ties and generally speak all proper – it’s inhuman!
There’s even a thing called the National Diversity Awards - this year’s event is just next Thursday – where who knows what delights will be celebrated? The principal categories of award are under the headings Age, Disability, Gender, LGBT, Race, Religion & Faith, but why stop there? Go on, be brave, let’s add in Eye Colour, Political Leaning, Wealth, Walking Gait and look forward to the first award for a Blue-eyed, loping, centre-leaning, LibDem Zoroastrian, cis-gendered, septuagenarian dyslexic. ALL shall have prizes!
We're all the same now.
If all this is alarming, don’t panic. With every passing year there are ever more laws created to control how we live our lives and even the way we think about the world and those around us. Why, just yesterday the Commons approved another witch hunt – soon you will be able to dob in any motorist with children in the car and a driver’s window wound down an inch, on suspicion of their giving way to nicotine addiction. But you won’t be able to judge them; addiction is a disability now and it’s not their fault. See? It’s only a matter of time before reporting a crime will itself become a crime of discrimination – how dare you assume the guy with the knife running away with the handbag isn’t a victim himself?
So, eventually, the weight of legislation will overwhelm the system and we can get back to business as usual. But how far will it go before that happy Nirvana is reached? This time next year what other normal behaviour will have been criminalised, marginalised or made dirty? When you look at it, the forced imposition of female comedians isn’t funny at all.