July 28, 2021 - 3:45pm

‘Clapter’ is a fairly recent neologism, coined to describe the excruciating audience response (applause and, even worse, high-pitched whooping) given when a comedian makes a political statement as part of — or more often in place of — a joke. 

I think this is the worst kind of comedy — dull, self-satisfied conformity masquerading as daring and revolutionary; the humour of the clique, and sometimes the mob. It reveals nothing new. It does not enlighten or surprise. It merely confirms and repeats. 

Cable channel Dave has now picked up The Mash Report, after it was dropped by the BBC. It seemed to be an attempt to emulate the late-night American political satires, which are just as doctrinaire but are at least sometimes actually funny. The BBC had given it several cracks of the whip to very little interest from the wider public outside of a section of Twitter. (And to be fair, the BBC has six shows taking a ‘sideways look at the week’s news’ running concurrently, so shedding one doesn’t mean it’s not serving satire fans.) 

For anyone that hasn’t seen it — which given its audience figure of just over half a million on BBC2, is almost everybody — The Mash Report is clapter elevated into an art form. Watching it is like being waterboarded but without any of the giggles. It feels like a spoof sketch of Left-wing people devised by a branch of the Federation of Conservative Students circa 1985, with Norman Tebbit watching from the wings saying ‘Steady on, that’s a bit crass’. Hosts Nish Kumar and Rachel Parris deliver in capsule form that combination of self-satisfaction, moral grandstanding and whinge that has been such a disaster for the British Left whenever it has to confront the electorate.  

Surprisingly, telling people off from your self-declared patch of the moral high ground is electoral Kryptonite. 

It’s impossible to think of a Right-wing, even a centrist, version of The Mash Report (in the UK anyway), and not just because there are so few openly Right-of-centre, or even centrist, people working as ‘creatives’ in television. I think there’s a temperamental difference going on here, the reluctance of most conservatives to subsume their individuality.

I’m in a WhatsApp group of conservative TV people. On the launch night of GB News, during Dan Wooton’s finger jabbingly tabloid Right-of-centre rants, it buzzed with notifications saying, for example ‘Now I want to join Novara Media’, ‘Class war now!’ and ‘Take me, take me, Owen Jones’. Conservatives just don’t enjoy like-minded crowds. 

If The Mash Report can match its dismal BBC figure on Dave, it will look like a hit. And I think it could serve a useful purpose for the UK’s progressive parties. I advise them to watch it and to learn never to take that tone or do any of the things it sees there.

De-Mash yourselves and prepare for power. 

Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.