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Stop calling Ricky Gervais anti-woke Culture should not be straitjacketed by ideology


January 8, 2024   6 mins

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A man’s wife divorces him and shacks up with his boss. Soon after, a friend suggests that he should remarry. “What for?” he asks. “Are you looking for a wife as well?”

It may not be the funniest joke, but that’s because it’s an anecdote from The Lives of the Caesars by the Ancient Roman historian Suetonius. The comedian in this case was a senator called Aelius Lamia whose wife had left him for the Emperor Domitian. For making this casual quip, Domitian had Lamia put to death. Now that’s a bad review.

It might be worth keeping this anecdote in mind when the usual debates flare up about whether comedy “goes too far”. The notion of people being offended by jokes is as old as comedy itself, and often people react angrily if humour isn’t to their taste. The current manifestation of this age-old debate takes the form of a simple dichotomy: “woke comedy” versus “anti-woke comedy”.

Already we are in treacherous waters. It is very unwise to define whole genres by terms that have no settled definitions. The actor Kathy Burke believes that “woke” simply refers to people who are neither racist nor homophobic, which would surely mean that the overwhelming majority of us would happily embrace the term. But for those who have been on the receiving end of the bullying, harassment and intimidation by activists who self-define as “woke”, it is clear this issue is not so straightforward.

Over the past few years, we have seen the emergence of a new comedy movement, one branded by commentators as “anti-woke”, that seeks to push back against the orthodoxies of our time. Its closest historical precedent is the “alternative” comedians of the Eighties, who also took aim at establishment norms and were often similarly blunt in their approach. The key difference today is that there is no broad agreement about where the power in society lies, and so while “anti-woke” comedians see themselves as anti-establishment, their critics insist that the opposite is true.

Consider the example of Ricky Gervais, whose new Netflix stand-up special Armageddon has sparked this most recent round of discussions about the supposed red lines in comedy. Some have accused Gervais of taking a reactionary stance, most notably because of jokes relating to migrants and disabled children. Gervais has been branded an “anti-woke” comedian, but I doubt very much that he would see it in such reductive terms. Anyone familiar with his work will know that he has always lampooned closed systems of thought, and it just so happens that “wokeness” currently represents the dominant incarnation. There was a time when many of Gervais’s critics were perfectly happy to see him take a wrecking ball to the certainties of religious faith. It would appear they take a different view when it’s their own belief system taking a battering.

A simplistic reading of “woke” versus “anti-woke” comedy is that the former “punches up” while the latter “punches down”, but such rules are incoherent when applied to an inherently anarchic medium. Besides, it simply is not true that there exists a growing number of comedians who are seeking fame and easy laughs by taking aim at the most marginalised in society.

As I have said, it comes down to a question of how one perceives power. Too often the culture war is misconceived as a conflict between Left and Right, with “woke” aligned with the former and “anti-woke” with the latter, but “wokeness” carries with it the kind of clout that transcends the political binary. In their 13 years of government, the Conservatives have presided over the worst excesses of this identity-obsessed ideology and the havoc it has wrought on society. Far from fighting a “war on woke”, they have been actively enabling it.

So where does the real power lie? Is it with governments that can be voted out if the public tires of them? Or is it with activists who now have significant influence in all cultural, educational, political and corporate institutions, and who cannot be dislodged by means of any democratic process? These are the same zealots who have fostered racial division in the name of “anti-racism”, jeopardised the rights of women and gay people through the promotion of gender identity ideology, destabilised the very notion of empirical truth, attempted to rewrite our history and reconstruct our culture, and launched a relentless assault on free speech and the achievements of social liberalism. Just because they describe themselves as being “on the right side of history” doesn’t make it true.

And so, when we read an article in the New Statesman lamenting the “tedious world of anti-woke comedy”, we can be fairly sure that the criticism is political. Does the writer sincerely believe that these performers are simply trying to attack minorities and cause as much offence as possible? This is the least generous of all suppositions, one born out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the art of comedy. It strikes me that many of those who dismiss stand-ups as “anti-woke” are simply berating them for taking an anti-establishment stance and for believing that those in power ought to be ridiculed rather than eulogised. But what is the point of a court jester who acts as a propagandist for the king?

Another common reaction from critics has been to imply that certain topics ought to be ring-fenced, and that joking about them is tantamount to a form of violence. The charity Scope has lambasted Gervais’s new show for containing “ableist slurs” and claimed that “language like this has very real consequences”. But those of us who have seen Armageddon would have to concede that the most obvious consequence appears to be the laughter of audience members who are clearly enjoying themselves. What Gervais’s critics mean is that jokes are like toxins, and that popular culture — if not carefully regulated — has the power to corrupt the Great Unwashed. Mary Whitehouse made the identical argument many decades ago.

Fortunately, her fears were unfounded. Over half a century of research into “media effects” theory — the hypothesis that the public will modify its behaviour according to the mass media it consumes — has seen it roundly discredited. Jokes do not cause violence, unless you are talking about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, or the Emperor Domitian lopping off the occasional head.

The history of comedy shows us that its practitioners will always cause offence, so why do we continue to squabble over where the red lines ought to be drawn? No matter how many times you shift the boundary, it will still end up being crossed. I am not implying here that there is anything wrong with criticism, however puritanical it might be. Comedians who violate popular sensibilities have always faced pushback and resentment. The problem arises when the offended parties seek to impose their tastes on everyone else. So while I support anyone’s right to criticise Gervais’s show, I am disturbed by those who have called on Netflix to censor the offending material.

Personally, I have always relished those comedians who have no clear affiliations, who take aim in all directions and unsettle as much as they entertain. But today’s comedy industry is not a hospitable environment for these sorts of freethinkers. For some years now, there has been an undeniable strain of groupthink among those in positions of power: promoters, commissioners, critics and even some performers. Acts who conform have been rewarded, while those who refuse to do so have been shunned. It hasn’t taken much for up-and-coming comics to realise that it is more profitable to be seen to convey the “correct” message rather than to develop their craft in innovative and individual ways. The impulse to serve Mammon rather than the Muses has enervated the comedy scene, and self-censorship is now the norm.

The writer Graham Linehan is living proof of how heretics are treated in the current climate. For blaspheming against the holy creed of gender identity ideology — one embraced wholesale by the gatekeepers of the comedy industry — he has been unable to work for six years. In his new memoir, Tough Crowd, he discusses how his musical adaptation of Father Ted has been scotched, either because the bosses at Hat Trick Productions (which owns the rights) are too cowardly to be seen promoting his work, or because activist elements within the company disapprove of his views.

Only a couple of decades ago, it was virtually unheard of for comedy promoters to take seriously complaints from audience members claiming to be “offended”. Now, it takes little more than a few disgruntled tweets for venues to panic and cancel bookings. But the backlash is palpable. Many of us have grown weary of comedians toeing the establishment line and substituting agitprop for jokes. Some “anti-woke” comedy may lack sophistication and subtlety, but maybe that’s a small price to pay to redress the balance and reenergise the art form. If you want to smash taboos, sometimes you need a sledgehammer.


Andrew Doyle is a comedian and creator of the Twitter persona Titania McGrath

andrewdoyle_com

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N Satori
N Satori
6 months ago

1:30 am and so far no comments from UnHerd’s clique of below-the-line learnéd professors. They’ll be at the keyboards before dawn and I feel sure their take on the comedy of Woke/Anti-Woke will be no laughing matter.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Um…yeah. Sure. It’s kind of the point of a place like this. I thought.
WTF are you here for?

El Uro
El Uro
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

1. It’s none of your 4…g business
2. Be careful when talking about “below-the-line learned professors.” Comparing yourself to many of them can put you at an extreme disadvantage.
3. What are you doing here at 1:30 am?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

That’s an unnecessarily ungenerous comment.

Daniel Thorp
Daniel Thorp
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

What Andrew is suggesting is nothing more than censorship, as it seems he is upset his alter ego is being made fun of.
Ricky has the right, whether you approve or not to take his comedy in any direction he wants.

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
6 months ago

What Gervais does is not culture, but entertainment. I don’t mean to disparage his profession, that of entertainer, but only to point out that what he does and what his colleagues do is worth much less than serious cultural pursuits, that whatever happens to him or to his “craft” is of comparatively little significance, as such it does not deserve the level of protection and consideration advocated here, although it is equally true that it hardly deserves as much social and legal scrutiny as entertainment currently enjoys (or suffers, I suppose). Entertainers were once considered as low as prostitutes (many literally were, to be fair to the ancients), and I don’t see why they should not be so considered today, as far as their intellectual, moral, and aesthetic authority is concerned.

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago

Ok but Jesters in Feudal times were filling a niche role for upper society while most others were doing back-breaking work just to assure food was on the table. With the advancements in modern technology created by the Capitalist system, we are overwhelmed with material abundance. We press a button and groceries arrive. It’s a completely different economy. While a few are doing dangerous and physical work, most aren’t.

Comedians today take big personal risks. While they might not be the same risks as a coal miner, they’re in the middle of some nasty culture war battles whether they want it or not.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago

Your comment only serves to illustrate that you do not understand comedy nor culture.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
6 months ago

Comedians should be the ones who point out to the crowd that the Emperor is naked. The trouble with the worst woke comedians is that they not only defend the naked Emperor they go after anyone who dares suggest otherwise. They do this by trying to smear them with claims that they need new glasses and are not truly awake to the Emperor’s true glory. In truth the offence is taken because, as Doyle points out, it is their creed that is under attack, not the oppressed they claim to represent.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
6 months ago

Your reference to Linehan is telling, but not in the way you think. There is a vast, vast civic difference between Linehan’s very serious, sustained, lucid, courageous, truly costly and committed campaign to help mitigate/dismantle the worst extremes of gender affirmation policy…and Gervais’s by-now thoroughly strategic tyre-kicking church-fartery-for-bucks. When the writer asserts:
“…Acts who conform have been rewarded, while those who refuse to do so have been shunned….’
…he is, of course – can only be – talking about Linehan. Definitely not Gervais, who, like Dave Chappelle – that other material-recycling ‘stand-up’ narcissist who’s forged a…um, erm, bit awks…global mega-career out of being ‘risky & cancellable’ – is…um, erm, bit awks…swimming in Netflix loot, celebrity groupiehood and 24-7 coverage of his every fatuous utterance. Linehan is dangerous to gender orthodoxy. Gervais is a distracting clown: as unthreatening as a Two Ronnies mother-in-law joke. I don’t think it’s possible for a comedian nowadays to be more conformist, more neo-woke, more safely careerist and more Establishment than him, is it? He’s surely the David Frost of our age. In contrast to a genuinely edgy (and funny, and original) comedian of that ouevre…like, say, Frankie Boyle (a latter-day-comparative Peter Cook, say). Apart from genuine comedic talent, the key difference between those two stand-up archetypes is, I think…humility: the thick lacing of human uncertainty and love/tenderness – for fellow humans, not fricking rescue dogs, FFS – that makes even their most vicious, targetted satire/abuse…inclusive enough for us all to laugh along with. Enough love to defuse even the nastiest stink-bombs, just enough, so that when their punchlines do go off, we all of us die together, leaving no-one as the isolated target. The funniest comedy has no victims. But a Gervais is simply incapable of telling a ‘joke’ that doesn’t have to hurt someone to get a laugh.(1) He can’t do it; he’s not funny enough. Doesn’t have either the craft-chops or an honest enough, a self-effacing enough, ego. It would be impossible to imagine him cracking a joke at his own vocation’s expense along the lines of Cook’s famous – and deeply, maybe fatally, self-wounding – killer line about satire & Nazism. Gervais swallowed his own Koolaid (and, comedically, died) twenty five years ago. And it’s that; the pomposity and self-importance of all these ‘anti-woke’ comedians – especially when it’s expressed as a gutless escape manouevre masquerading as faux-humility (just ‘avin’ a larf, ennit…) – that ultimately makes them…even more unfunny than simply not funny enough. My only vaguely focused thought now when I see some unwanted twitter feed advertising Gervais’s latest gob-fart – it’s hard to avoid them now, these ‘cancel candidates’ are fricking everywhere – is the naughty ‘thought experiment’ of how nice it might just feel to club the smug little c*** in the teeth with a baseball bat. Oh dear me, how very edgy and anti-woke of me. Just ‘avin’ a larf, ennit Rick.
That’s the main problem with this circular ‘limits of comedy/civic offence’ debate now. It’s been…clubbed to death. It’s just not funny anymore. We laughed – o how we larfed – when Gervais’s shtick was a new(ish) thing. Like you laugh the first time you hear some old git let one go in a chapel. But it’s an established Establishment ‘career thing’ now. So…yeah, pfapph away, stout yeomans of the Church Fart Guild. But broader-remit writers shouldn’t fall into the groupie’s trap of adding cod-substance to all the hot, smelly, empty air that this kind of ‘comedy’ is currently producing. Like the satirists of burlesque/cabaret 30’s Germany, it might be making Gervais and Chappelle et al rich and famous…but it’s not helping the rest of us in the woke real world, is it. That’s what really galls about these ‘free speech’ tyre-kickers now: the way they dress up their freeloading and careerist grandstanding as some kind of noble democratic/free speech duty fulfilled. It makes coherent adult pushback against all kinds of policy mistakes and enduring systemic injustices that much harder, by reducing everything to the same throwaway ‘anti-woke’ posture/punchline.
Happy to be corrected if someone can supply an example.

Dave Lowery
Dave Lowery
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

And you have an example of Frankie Boyle delivering a Peter Cook moment?

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Lowery

Take your pick.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=xVa6D4t30aQ
Hard to find an isolated ‘punch down’ victim in this lot. You can’t, not really – there’s a subtle difference in Ricky’s relentlessly smug slaggery and even Boyle’s worst/edgiest attacks (and note that these were I think all un-broadcast, anyway…ie ‘cancelled’. As was Boyle’s MtW/mainstream comedic TV slot, eventually/effectively). Most of his barbs here are directed at a) the anonymous mob/class/human foible ‘bubbles’ his comedy tries to burst, and/or b) himself – again, as witless/hapless representational everyman of/in them).
He’s fast, inventive, original, versatile in his comedic craft chops (he does old Brit vaudeville larf, daggy dad jokes, verbal slapstick and posh boy wordplay as much as extreme blue and politix edgy, etc). Weirdly, he’s also kind and decent, even at his most lacerating. (It’s called ‘talent’). He’s also…very, very helpless-laugh-aloud funny. You could imagine him easily holding his own in any Dud n Pete routine (also often abusive and vile beyond belief, but funny and kind). Gervais, in contrast, would just snarl and mug smugly for the tape recorder, and get the balance between kind inclusion and via barbed attack totally wrong, like a drunk ‘libertarian’ uncle labouring over a grossly unfunny, earnest, off-tone wedding night joke at your gay son’s reception. 
Boyle is a proper stand/up comedian. But he can also do this…
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zicWG8pBvnw
…which makes his comedy even funnier. His ego is expendable and he is an engaged part of our shared world. He also clearly loves human beings, even those he’s hardest on. It’s impossible to imagine a self-absorbed isolationist like Gervais ‘pulling his civic weight’ like the comedic fraternity’s Boyles (and Linehans). If the emperor hired him in that most famous jester’s gig, Gervais would spend the entire walk though the cheering crowds of Rome whispering ‘I’m a God, I’m a God’…to himself.
All just my opinion, dave. And…just ‘avin’ a larf, ennit.
Take your pick.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=xVa6D4t30aQ
Hard to find an isolated ‘punch down’ victim in this lot. You can’t, not really – there’s a subtle difference in Ricky’s relentlessly smug slaggery and even Boyle’s worst/edgiest attacks (and note that these were I think all un-broadcast, anyway…ie ‘cancelled’. As was Boyle’s MtW/mainstream comedic TV slot, eventually/effectively. Most of his barbs here are directed at a) the anonymous mob/class/human foible ‘bubbles’ his comedy tries to burst, and/or b) himself – again, as witless/hapless representational everyman of/in them).
He’s fast, inventive, original, versatile in his comedic craft chops (he does old Brit vaudeville larf, daggy dad jokes, verbal slapstick and posh boy wordplay as much as extreme blue and politix edgy, etc). Wierdly, he’s also kind and decent, even at his most lacerating. (It’s called ‘talent’). He’s also…very, very helpless-laugh-aloud funny. You could imagine him easily holding his own in any Dud n Pete routine (also often abusive and vile beyond belief, but funny and kind). Gervais, in contrast, would just snarl and mug smugly for the tape recorder, and get the balance between kind inclusion and via barbed attack totally wrong, like a drunk ‘libertarian’ uncle labouring over a grossly unfunny, earnest, off-tone wedding night joke at your gay son’s reception. 
Boyle is a proper stand/up comedian. But he can also do this…
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zicWG8pBvnw
…which makes his comedy even funnier. His ego is expendable and he is an engaged part of our shared world. He also clearly loves human beings, even those he’s hardest on. It’s impossible to imagine a self-absorbed isolationist like Gervais ‘pulling his civic weight’ like the comedic fraternity’s Boyles (and Linehans). If the emperor hired him in that most famous jester’s gig, Gervais would spend the entire walk though the cheering crowds of Rome whispering ‘I’m a God, I’m a God’…to himself.
All just my opinion, dave. And…just ‘avin’ a larf, ennit.

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

Yes but none of these contemporary comedians are fit to do up Peter Cook’s shoelaces (pardon the semi scriptural reference) Some of us are old enough to remember true comic genius.

A J
A J
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

Better than the article. Thanks

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

That’s a crappy rant.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

I love Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle – and cheer them on for pushing back against wokeism – but their comedy specials were pretty meh. I just didn’t think they were super funny.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed, I’ve not seen Chapelles but Gervais stand up I’ve always found to be rubbish. Just usually chuck a few swear words or a taboo subject out and wait for laughs. Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle were much better at throwing out truly offensive lines that were genuinely funny at the same time

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In other words: You haven’t watched either performance but you need to share your pre-established opinion. (I make those kind of comments too sometimes, I admit).
I’ve seen both and agree with Jim that they are not too funny. I always find something hilarious in Chappelle and thought-provoking in Gervais–and vice versa, both are insightful and outrageous–but both were a bit under their “A game” this time. Not terrible–a bit more than “meh” for me–but not great.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I said I haven’t seen Chapelle, I’ve seen Gervais previous stand up and I thought it was pretty dire so I won’t bother with this one. It’s a shame because his proper sitcoms were top notch

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Chapelle is usually pretty good, although I haven’t seen the latest one. As for Gervais, I agree, the sitcoms of his that I have seen are much funnier than his stand up. Whenever I see his stand up I find he comes across as quite dislikable as a person. I feel the same about Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle.
The best comedian out there right now is Bill Burr, who is genuinely hilarious.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Bill Burr and Anthony Jeselnik.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

I like Jim Jeffries as well and when I need a quick funny fix I watch Graham Norton on YouTube. Howie Mandel’s shows are hilarious when he interacts with the audience, which is his strong suit.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Fair enough. I don’t love Gervais’s cringe-comedy of The Office variety but I respect it and like some of it. I thought the silly show Derek, with Ricky playing the naive title character, was actually quite good, and more goodhearted than much of his output. His standup rarely cracks me up–more of a smile and “hmm-sound” kind of thing for me. Listening to some of his satellite radio work, I think he’s funnier of the cuff.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The ‘Extras’ episode with Les Dennis was priceless. I was pissing myself all the way through.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

I liked “Extras” better than “The Office”. I might re-watch it, with such slim pickin’s out there post-writers’-strike.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That’s because he’s naturally witty as few stand-ups are.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Agreed*.
*Most have at least a touch of natural wit, few at his level. (I think that’s about what you meant, just a punctilious clarification of my very important opinion on this serious topic).

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Can you point to an example of Frankie Boyle being funny?

This is something I have yet to experience, either in his – making jokes about individual mentally disabled children – incarnation, or his current “whiteness is violence” persona.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

“The Diana memorial fountain is a daft idea, if they really wanted to honour her memory they should have had a gang bang in a minefield” was a personal favourite of mine

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Billy Connolly even worse.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago

Billy Connolly was superb!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

Agreed until he refused to apologise for his tasteless joke about the beheading of Mr Bigley.
The ‘big man’ just couldn’t do it, the worthless Sc*tch worm that he is (just).

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Frankie Boyle has managed to awkward place himself as a comedian that offends both the woke (for his historic wrongs) and anti-woke (for his current wrongs).
If you find that your views are suddenly victim to the criticisms of a man who has always criticised established power structures and parodied irrational and incomplete thinking then maybe you need to look inwards.

carl taylor
carl taylor
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

If you think Boyle hasn’t done a 180 because he’s taken a weather sounding and wants to keep his TV gigs you seriously need to look inwards. “I for one welcome our new woke overlords.”

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  carl taylor

The biggest sell out of all!

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

The so-called jokes he made about Rebecca Adlington was nothing short of playground bullying.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Agreed. He used to spout out some pre-conceived offensive gag, then have a self-satisfied smug look on his face while the canned laughter bailed him out.

Wesley Dolan
Wesley Dolan
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

What people forget about Gervais is that he never earned his chops as a stand-up. Successful stand-up comedians spend years learning their craft, often having to deal with hostile or indifferent audiences. Gervais stepped into stand-up after his TV career took off. And it clearly shows when you watch his act. To be fair,he can be very funny onstage. But he’ll never match the quality of The Office.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Wesley Dolan

He’s a great comedy actor; that’s why he can short cut his way to doing stand up. The late Sean Lock was superb on stage as well.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Went to see Gervais live in Vienna last year. He was rubbish, absolutely not worth the cash. The warm-up act (Sean McLoughlin) was better than he was.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

If you want a good modern comedian then Taylor Tomlinson is your girl. A young Americal female comedienne. Very thoughful, funny but at the same time, sharp in her comments and fearless..

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Luffman

Oh, yes I like her. I’m a big fan of Sarah Millican too, although I think she mainly appeals to women.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Luffman

She’s going to be taking over the ‘Late, Late Show’ time slot. Because of that I checked out her stand-up and found I didn’t laugh once. I’m disappointed because she’s very likable. but humor is such an individual thing. I grieved the loss of James Cordon who always gave me a belly laugh.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
6 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Bill Burr, best comedian out there right now. Jim Gaffigan’s older stuff is more family-friendly and non-political but very funny. Nate Bargatze is pretty funny too.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Bill Burr says it how it is.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

I love Nate Bargatze. I wanted to mention him but couldn’t remember his name. He manages to be funny without swearing. Clever style that takes you where you don’t know you’re going.

Martin Ashford
Martin Ashford
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t mind Gervais, but his seeming obsession with paedophilia I just find a bit disturbing. Any topic but that.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Ashford

You might want to look at why that disturbs you.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Ashford

Paedophiles are being invited into our schools in the guise of ‘Drag Queens’. Jimmy Saville was presented with a bunch of keys to go where he wanted and this is akin to that. The sexualisation of young children needs to be front and centre but it’s not. Once again, satire is exposing things that the relevant authorities are shying away from.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I have difficulty understanding what Chapelle is saying because he tends to mumble. I totally agree with Ricky Gervaise’s philosophy on everything, particularly the unbeliever stuff. I make a point of saying I’m an atheist whenever I get the chance, and since I live in the middle of America it can be provocative. Though I like what Gervaise says I find I can’t like him, and that’s not for want of trying. A Vanity Fair writer summed it up recently referring to him as a smug iconoclast.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

There are so many attention-seekers currently out there, trying desperately hard to be ‘iconoclastic’, that it’s hard to see why any of them could be described as ‘smug’.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I suspect that RG wasn’t trying that hard to be ‘funny’ with Armageddon. It was as if he wanted to show that some of the hardline ideological dogma out there currently is so utterly beyond the comprehension of most thinking people in its magical beliefs that it has to be robustly stood up to & being funny isn’t always enough to make any real difference (the old “So that’s all right then” of some satire). It may have compromised the comedy, and it undoubtedly went into some good old ‘shock’ territory, but at least he has – so far- been able to avoid being rubbed out in the way that Graham Linehan has.
Let’s hope that Netflix can hold its nerve.

M Harries
M Harries
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

You nailed it.

His “it’s only you lads then” was a simply reflection of the facts. But facts become funny – become a relief when spoken – because we’re not meant to recognize the facts as it will undermine the normative world view projected by main stream media and cultural elites.

Arkadian Arkadian
Arkadian Arkadian
6 months ago

Is Kathy Burke an “actor”?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
6 months ago

She will always be Waynetta Slob to me.

54321
54321
6 months ago

Is your question about her status as a member of the acting profession or the recent trend for using actor for both sexes and dispensing with the female form “actress”?
If its the former, then she is unquestionably a very fine actor, both in drama and comedy. Deservedly winning Best Actress at Cannes for Nil By Mouth.
If its the latter, then the industry consensus position seems to be to dispense with the female form “actress” in favour of using actor for everyone. Which seems a bit pointless to me but not something that keeps me up at night.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

As a female, I HATE ‘actor’ or ‘hero’ in replacement of ‘actress’ and ‘heroine’. The worst is ‘female actor’, er, do you mean an ‘actress’? I know it has been done for years now, but it starts with things like this, changing the language, and then it moves on to not having separate categories for men and women.

Arkadian Arkadian
Arkadian Arkadian
6 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

In case it didn’t transpire, I hate it too.
What next, emperor for empress?

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
6 months ago

The late King Elizabeth …

M Harries
M Harries
5 months ago
Reply to  54321

Do you reckon, if say you had a daughter, she might aspire one day to be an engineeress?

Christopher Thompson
Christopher Thompson
6 months ago

Totally miscast in Tinker Tailor.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago

Actress.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
6 months ago

There has always been a subset of comedians who actually need red lines, demarcating taboo topics, in order that their material should make the audience laugh. For example, in the 1930’s, Max Miller broke the taboo about sex in comedy (largely by inuendo) and was cancelled by the BBC, but that increased his box office ticket sales. For a comedian, even when a taboo is on its last legs, breaking it can raise the laughter level, even for a feeble joke. Dave Allen’s jokes (in the 1970’s) about Catholicism spring to mind. And of course Kenneth Williams had the audience in stitches, again relying on inuendo, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s when homosexuality was a taboo subject.
The difference today is that it is the wokerati who attempt to impose taboos and only a small minority of comedians see these taboos as an opportunity to make us laugh more. And, thank God, Andrew Doyle is one of them.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

the same applies to the woke comedians though. They’re addressing taboos. Sarah Millican made millions by making periods and eating biscuits the punchline of every joke.
Part of the reason we laugh is because it’s useful for a like-minded community to air taboos. Jimmy Carr has done some really interesting stuff on what we find funny and why.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

A taboo is only a taboo when it is packaged with some kind of threat to the comedian who breaks it. The medieval court jester was funny because everyone else in the court knew that they would go for the chop if they came out with his patter and they also laughed because they kknew that, one day, the jester would catch the Lord in the wrong mood and the jester would end up in the dungeon.
Max Miller was cancelled and Graham Linehan was cancelled, but nobody is going to cancel a woke comedienne, even if she has the temerity to break taboos about telling jokes with biscuit punchlines.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

I really don’t think humour or taboo has to be backed with violence to be humorous or a taboo. What you’re saying makes no sense.
Your point is that a taboo is only truly taboo when you’re executed, imprisoned or “cancelled” for it? Or that humour is dependent on the threat of serious punishment?
The problem anyway with Gervais is that he’s not the jester. He’s the Lord.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You say “I really don’t think humour or taboo has to be backed with violence to be humorous or a taboo. ” Your sentence makes no sense. Why would humour be backed by violence? Things have moved on a bit since court jesters, though there are still cultures in the world where the misfortune of others is a major source of laughter, as it was in Europe centuries ago.
Even allowing for that, your post is a misrepresentation of what I am saying. Max Miller and Kenneth Williams got bigger laughs than an woke comedians because their audience knew what the sanctions would be had they strayed any further than inuendo.
The fact remains that woke comedians face no sanctions from what Andrew Doyle calls the “gatekeepers” of professional comedy, whereas non-woke comedians do.

54321
54321
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I am given to understand that Jimmy Carr once started a gig in Dublin with the following:

“Like most of you here tonight I am looking forward to the day when the whole of Ireland is once again united.”

[Pause]

“Under British rule.”

Apparently there was a palpable intake of breath then a tidal wave of laughter.

I offer this example because I think at some level most of us want comedy to teeter on the edge and sometimes tip over it. The laugh in Carr’s joke is mainly in the sudden juxtaposition between the comfortable presumptions of the audience – ie. that everyone who matters agrees with them on a united Ireland – and what is in their view a breathtakingly shocking statement otherwise.

I don’t think anyone could in good faith knowingly go and see someone like Carr or Ricky Gervais and not expect to hear something which in other circumstances they would consider offensive. So in my view I reckon most of us get it.

I think the actual number of people who are really offended by all this is very small but as is the way these days, disproportionately vocal.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

From the look at the headlines, it seems mostly journalists who are offended! Ironically, they think the comedians are “out of touch”. Given the viewing figures probably out number the people reading the articles, I would argue that it’s the other way round.

54321
54321
6 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I think its a sub-set of people who are disproportionately vocal on social media who are offended (or at least pretend to be). This includes some journalists, but of course the media in general picks up on the large number of hits these people get and mistakes that for actual news about the actual opinions of the population.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

Journalists have to be seen to be provocative also.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

Agreed. Jimmy Carr said exactly that himself. He knows when he has executed his craft well when then is a gasp, followed by raucous laughter. Perfect comedy because he is delivering the unexpected rather than some formulaic rubbish which is clapped by sychophants.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

Exactly. And timing is everything.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  54321

Since most people know what to expect from a particular comic it would seem there is really no justification in being offended.

Pat Davers
Pat Davers
6 months ago

Comedians who once may have been “punching up” decades ago, are now effectively “punching down” and expressing the views of the cultural establishment, as mores have shifted in the meantime to be more in line with their views.
However, their demeanour and delivery has not changed, and they still genuinely believe that they are being “edgy” even when they are expressing the most banal and mainstream of view-points, and to which the most common response is the whoop of approval and affirmation, rather than the spontaneous laughter of genuine amusement.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
6 months ago
Reply to  Pat Davers

Quite agree; I got sick of the smug bas*ards on ‘Have I got news for you’ and can’t stand to listen to any of it now.

Obviously, they think that they’re still manning the barricades. But they’re actually living in Battersea and have done very well out of it all really (guilty perhaps ?).

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Oh my God, the Daily Mail!

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Nothing like making a hackneyed, lazy blanket statement.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Pat Davers

When you hear clapping at a comedy gig, it must be crap. The punters should be laughing!!!

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

In the end it’ll be who has the best jokes and the bigger audiences. Good comedy is always innovative and clever making us see things in a different way. Alot of the anti-woke comedy (although not all as some is genuinely funny) feels jaded and possibly they feel like Bernard Manning c2000. Branding yourself as bold and risky perhaps just the latest marketing but in fact turns out to be a bit boring.
The young will decide in the end, much as many of us did with the alternative comedy 30-40yrs ago. Every time I’m around the grandkids or similar it’s so noticeable how much more accepting they are of ‘difference’. It comes naturally whereas I grew up in much more bigoted times and there can be no doubt some of that rubbed off and had to dealt with as one matured.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I think you’ve accidentally touched upon something very profound. I work with many young people and one of the more disturbing developments I’ve noticed is that because they believe themselves to be so very kind and accepting, that they are able to justify hurting and bullying those they deem less kind and accepting than themselves. It explains how antiracists can quite comfortably chant ‘gas the Jews’.

Andrew R
Andrew R
6 months ago

Who would you choose…Ricky Gervais or Hannah Gadsby (They)?

Michael K
Michael K
6 months ago

Comedy doesn’t punch – up or down.
Comedy pokes.
It pokes fun at all sorts of people, institutions, observations, ideas and events.

If you’re not occasionally offended by the comedy you see then you are missing half the fun.

Audiences get to decide which comedians should be seen and heard. They won’t turn up for comedians who aren’t funny.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Agreed. I’m a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson for the very reason that he doesn’t give a toss who he offends. I’m from a council estate so I should have been offended when he wrote a piece about the fact that there were not enough fine dining restaurants in The Cotswolds, but loads of places where the less well off could eat (KFC, Burger King, McDonalds, Nando’s; and for that special occasion, The Harvester). Really well written and FUNNY!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

Strange. The Cotswolds is considered a desirable place to live, isn’t it?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Humor is such a personal thing, I can’t imagine being married to someone who didn’t have the same sense of humor as me. Interestingly enough most comedians seem to have long marriages.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
3 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I suspect may not be the ones cracking jokes at home. In fact it is reported they are rather serious.

54321
54321
6 months ago

I suspect Ricky Gervais deliberately includes at least one “zinger” in every Netflix show which is guaranteed to upset professional offence-takers. The publicity it generates must be worth its weight in gold.
Not that I am against RG who I find very funny. A lot of his comedy is on the theme of the awkwardness of the English suburban white-collar class trying to navigate a world in which they are always on the verge of doing something “wrong”, but can’t quite get their heads round what or why. This has always resonated with me.
Punching up and punching down is just the social justice left’s hierarchy of victimhood in another form and suffers from the same fatal flaw: it categorises people into groups on the basis of selective characteristics, then treats all members of each group the same.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
6 months ago

The Left always, always, always, always seeks to control what may be said, sung, pictured and laughed about. It is probably the thing that best demonstrates the fundamental emptiness of their creed. Even they know opposing views can’t be allowed, or it will evaporate.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Intellectual snobbery is, perhaps, the worst kind. When people laugh it’s because they are amused. You can’t fake real laughter and it manifests itself in many different ways.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

On the contrary. The religious right is so easily offended.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

One interesting thing over my lifetime has been the transformation from a funny left and prudish right pre 2000 to a funny right (the Babylon Bee is often hilarious) and prudish left in the 2020s.
I love comedy and will laugh at everything including myself in the mirror every morning.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
6 months ago
Reply to  Kevan Hudson

Good take on the prudery of the left and right. It’s so amazing what the left is doing today. They live in desperate fear that someone, somewhere, sometime, is thinking a bad thought, saying a bad thing, or looking at a bad piece of writing, and they are going to stop it.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

I’m not sure why everyone is obsessed with labelling issues ‘left or right’.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Kevan Hudson

Incisive comment.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
6 months ago

Leo Kearse (who also presents on GB news) is wet yourself funny live and totally non PC.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago

I love the fact that Ricky Gervais exposes the hypocrisy of the self-righteous in a matter of seconds. He did it when satirising the transgender madness and the clip that I watched when he railed against ‘cultural appropriation’ was perfect. I’ve always thought that this was such a ludicrous concept about groups of people ‘owning’ words, fashions and ideas because of their group identity. Should the only people allowed to wear denim jeans be cowboys from the American Mid-West?
Twenty years ago I was having a discussion with some colleagues about how offensive I found the ‘N’ word; whoever used it. One of my more ‘progressive’ colleagues said that black people ‘owned’ the word. I told him at the time that no-one has the right to ‘own’ any words; they are there for all of us to use whenever we wish.
Ricky Gervais exposed this absurdity when he pointed out that ‘we invented the ‘N’ word!’ Comedy bliss.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

Can you imagine the outrage if every culture began gatekeeping their contribution to society. I think a lot of people would be upset if indoor plumbing was considered cultural appropriation! Or cars! Thank goodness the Romans are no longer around to stop us from using roads and basic sanitation! lol

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

The N word is “ni99er”.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I think there’s a syntax error in there.

M Harries
M Harries
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark Cornish

“ I’ve always thought that this was such a ludicrous concept about groups of people ‘owning’ words,…”

>> Indeed. And I’ve wondered at one point does one attain license to use it? Does Meghan Markle have the license? Will Archie and Lilibet have it?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago

The ludicrous back-assward term “woke” really means Shut Up, Certain People. Grievance mongers and race grifters have ripped the mic out of others’ hands for long enough. It’s well past time to kick these talentless, shouty morons and their cowardly enablers off the stage. Looking at you, James Acaster and Graham Norton.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

So your solution to the outrage of telling certain people to shut up is telling certain people to shut up?
And once you’ve warmed yourself up with that bit of introspection do you possibly think that maybe Gervais and Chapelle are just as guilty of being grievance mongers and race grifters? Noting that most reviews (even by people favourable to their brand of grievance mongering and race grifting) have said that neither is particularly funny but both have still attracted lots of press coverage for their “controversy” etc.
The anti-woke grifters are just as bad as the woke grifters. At least the woke ones are trying to make the world a nicer place. Gervais is just trying to make more millions.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Calling out the cancellers and refusing to cede the public stage to them is not telling them to shut up.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago

I’m happy to tell the woke skum to shut the fk up.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I think Ricky Gervais is bloody hilarious! Probably because I share a similar background and comedy was used to get through the tough times. Too many ‘comedians’ are from middle class backgrounds and have no bloody idea how powerful laughter is as an antidote to hardship.
Gallows humour is the best there is.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The world is not, and will never be, a nice place. That’s the reality of human nature. Isn’t it amazing that the ‘woke’ zealots are so kind that they call for the cancellation and sacking of the people who disagree with them.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Geezus, what a clueless moron!!! The Woke say NOTHING which is correct. It’s definitely time to shut them up.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Alison is right. They’ve been telling us to shut up, and we should return the favour with interest.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
6 months ago

I love Graham Norton.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

This is activism writ large. Its role is to perpetuate problems, not resolve them, because resolution would mean an end to the grift. They exist through the enforcement is a strict orthodoxy in which the slightest deviation is tantamount to heresy. How many examples of people in otherwise good standing on the left suddenly being targeted for daring to stray on one issue do we need?
This ideology turns on its own because it was always going to turn on its own. When the mundane is declared out-of-bounds, that sets up situations in which the aggrieved and offended can self-righteously claim to speak for some constituency that didn’t ask for it.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Good take. Not only are problems perpetuated, but any problem which has been remotely solved is then replaced by a similar problem. Grifters gotta grift. When the Big Gay groups got gay marriage approved, they had a problem – how to keep the grift alive to keep the money coming in to ensure that highly-paid staffers at Big Gay organizations continued to have jobs. Solution – move the focus to Big Trans. That’s why we have all of these Big Gay groups lying about trans.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
6 months ago

It’s not difficult to define “Woke” – these are people who put fences around specific groups, and sacralize those groups. You cannot make fun of the trans despite the fact that these people are a RICH source of completely ludicrous self-absorption. NOTHING is funnier than a huge 250 lb guy pretending to be a delicate maiden. Similarly, nothing is funnier than a 5’2″ woman convinced that she is a mighty lumberjack, wearing the plaid shirt and the chin beard. All of these people are hysterically ridiculous, and we need to laugh at them.

We need to ensure that the Woke are NOT in control of society. Punching down is absolutely important, because it keeps the losers on the bottom. If the losers rise up to control society, we are all in terrible trouble. A society run by losers like trannies, gays, and drug addicts is a society that will completely fail all of us.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Strongly agree with your last point.
A friend of mine, a former leader of a provincial Green Party in Canada, has pointed out quite effectively that allowing the harmed (such as homeless drug addicts) to drive policy or run society leads to bad outcomes.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

I completely agree.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

You voted for Donald Trump and you are worried about putting losers in charge? Bit late for that!

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago

You’ll be apoplectic when Trump gets re-elected, and it will be your own fault for demonising the general public as inept and stupid, just like Hilary Clinton did. People like you look down your noses at ordinary people and think you are intellectually superior. That’s why the BBC is on borrowed time. When you take the moral high ground, be bloody sure that your own house is in order!

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Top comment.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Disagree with the ‘gay’ bit. Agree with the rest.

Michael Daniele
Michael Daniele
6 months ago

I will always treasure RG for this:
https://youtu.be/S7OOJWtk550

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
6 months ago

I love Ricky and everything he does. But if you folks want to see a sick comedian with no barriers and no filter check out Anthony Jeselnik.

Heather Nelson
Heather Nelson
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Thanks for the Anthony Jeselnik recommendation. What a winner.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
6 months ago

I am tired of people saying that woke is undefined when we all know what it is. It’s like porn you know it when you see it, and today you see it all the time. You see it in the frantic, hyperbolic, phony outrage that comedians like Ricky Gervais and David Chapelle always get after one of their specials. If you want to argue about whether they are anti-woke fine, but you can’t deny that they make the woke mad.
The so-called anti-woke are phonies too, and hypocrites to boot. Last night Ricky Gervais won a golden globe award because when they don’t have to take a stand publicly the journalists of the foreign press association are more than willing to express their distaste for woke nonsense.  
That so large a majority are cowed into submission by so small a minority is one of the great mysteries of our time.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

.

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
6 months ago

Comedians have the right to make jokes – free speech. I saw Ricky Gervais last summer in NYC and he was hilarious. Sure some of his bits were uncomfortable for me, but that’s comedy. Others were great. I didn’t take offense because that’s what comedians do, and Ricky is clearly having fun and knowingly being an ass and making jokes.
Dave Chappelle also has the right to say whatever he pleases, but when he says something, it doesn’t seem like a joke at all. He means it. He is like a philosopher, an observer of the universe, and there is an anger in him that comes through. His goal is to make you think more than laugh. And it’s not an act – it’s the real thoughts of Dave Chappelle.
I prefer Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld because I like comedians who want the audience to feel good and have a good time. But that’s just my preference. No comedian should be shut down because someone doesn’t like their jokes. Just don’t listen.

Ian Cooper
Ian Cooper
6 months ago

Were Mary Whitehouse’s fears really unfounded? Intelligent women like Louise Perry and Mary Harrington think quite a lot of the sexual revolution was fairly crappy, especially the porn, and the the mental health of young people seems to bear this out.

Tom Condray
Tom Condray
6 months ago

“A simplistic reading of “woke” versus “anti-woke” comedy is that the former ‘punches up’ while the latter ‘punches down’, but such rules are incoherent when applied to an inherently anarchic medium.”
I enjoyed the author’s essay, but–based upon my experience with stand up comedy in recent years–the above statement seems backwards to me.
It is, rather, the anti-woke comedians, those who do not embrace the entire litany of wokeness these days, who suffer cancellation, threats of physical violence and a host of recriminations and insults. Indeed, it seems the woke comedians who embrace current progressive doctrine are the ones who are cheered and congratulated for their courage as well as incisive wit.
While I agree with the author that such a dichotomy in humor is unrealistically simplistic, it’s worth thinking about the genuine cost paid by the side which really faces opprobrium from the media industrial complex. There are real financial, psychological, and physical costs to those who choose to create humor based upon something other than the progressive homilies that lately seem the typical fare of what the woke world believes is humor.

John Tyler
John Tyler
6 months ago

I’ve never thought he’s anti-woke; more anti-irrational idiocy.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago

“Does the writer sincerely believe that these performers are simply trying to attack minorities and cause as much offence as possible?”
I’m not attacking minorities in my writing, but most certainly am trying to cause the woke skum as much offence as possible

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Don’t be shy! We know that you are a raving drooling bigot – you should embrace it!

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago

That’s a very well thought out and perceptive comment. Thank you for your intellectual insight!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
5 months ago

Don’t be shy! We know that you are a raving drooling bigot – you should embrace it!

Sacha C
Sacha C
6 months ago

I did belly laugh a few times at Gervais’ latest. I’m grateful that he’s a mainstream superstar sticking up 2 fingers to his critics. He mocks everything, NOTHING IS SACRED, and shows off how super successful he is – not a very British trait but it’s true he is a mega star through hard work and talent. I see myself as a staunch feminist, he does not offend me.
I giggle when I look at curtains, the affirmative approach by professionals to gender recognition scares me, thank you for encouraging me to laugh at the fear and not just fret.
Agreed, he’s not hugely likeable, he certainly ain’t ‘nice’, but I’ve met a lot of liars, sociopaths and narcissists who know exactly how to be superficially nice and personable. I would definitely want to hang out with Gervais for a coffee as he seems real and of interesting mind.
I still watch/listen to Bill Hicks…

Heather Nelson
Heather Nelson
6 months ago

I love Graham Linehan. I struggle to find anything funnier than Father Ted. So sad that the trans community have made every effort to destroy his career and most people have just gone along with it. Thanks Graham for your wonderful humour and for sticking up for women and girls rights versus those that are apparently have a disturbing condition that finds them in the wrong bodies.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
6 months ago
Reply to  Heather Nelson

Amen to that.

Kevan Hudson
Kevan Hudson
6 months ago

As with many things in the West it is the authoritarians versus freedom lovers.
While no fan of Andrew Dice Clay (sorry, dating myself), or Hannah Gatsby they have the right to exist in comedy. If you do not like something you have to the right to criticize it, or ignore it. Shutting down entertainers you do not like or political opponents will always come back to haunt you. But not a haunting like the Christmas Carol which would actually be fun.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago

The problem with Ricky Gervais is he’s not funny. Like painfully not funny.
Good for him. He’s worked at that the gammons don’t care about being funny. All he has to do is take a few shots at the things you hate – equality, diversity, respect for other people – and you sheep will flock to his shows and laugh at jokes that are objectively not funny.
He’s Andrew Tate without the date rape.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
6 months ago

What you surely meant to say was, ‘Personally, I don’t find Ricky Gervais funny’. Intellectual snobbery at its worst.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
5 months ago

I think you need to have a look in the mirror and recognise a sheep when you see one.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
6 months ago

Graham Linehan is ignored because of his rabid anti-trans bigotry. Sure, Father Ted was funny but that was 30 years ago. Linehan is a now drooling bigot who spends his entire life raving about his hatred of trans kids. Pitiful.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
5 months ago

No one hates trans kids. A lot of people hate, and rightly so, the criminals who sterilize chidren using drugs and surgery. Future generations, if any, will look at trns ideology the same way as we look at eugenics today.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
5 months ago

When I call someone “anti-woke”, I mean it as a compliment.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

When I call Ricky Gervais anti-woke, I mean it as a compliment.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
3 months ago

What drives me crazy is all the artificial (machine) laughter.