by Gareth Roberts
Wednesday, 28
July 2021
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15:45

Oh no, The Mash Report is back

It's the worst kind of comedy — dull and self-satisfied
by Gareth Roberts
He’s frowning because the Prime Minister is a very bad man! Credit: YouTube

‘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. 

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
9 months ago

The biggest problem with the current state of BBC satire is that it has taken sides.
Pick any comedy panel show – be it HIGNFY, Mock the Week, The Now Show, Last Leg, any terrestrial channel comedy panel show, and try and find any that goes against the ‘liberal’ orthodoxy. There isn’t a single one.
One or two comedians dare to kick against the traces – but only in stand-up and only once they’ve made an unassailable name for themselves, because they know it comes at the cost of a lucrative TV career. It seems you can only build a successful stand-up career at the moment by establishing your name on such comedy panel programmes.
If a guest-booker actually had the b***s to book a comedian who came out with a whole anti-EU schtick, or made fun of Joe Biden, or possibly mocked any aspect of identity politics or the current accommodations towards “woke” culture wars – they would guarantee firstly that the guest never got booked again for the show and secondly that the booker would be hauled in front of the commissioning editor the next morning for an interview without coffee.
Neither the booker, nor the guest – if they value their careers – dares to step outside the liberal consensus. To do so would be to get a flavour of what it would be like to be accused of heresy.
Another strange thing is that we all still refer to this as the “liberal consensus”. It is, surely, the very antithesis of “liberal” thought. What could possibly be more authoritarian than promoting a narrow worldview and punishing and shaming anyone who dares to think outside it? One of the Left’s favourite insults when castigating the Right is “Orwellian”, do they honestly not see that the tag could be far better applied to this insistence we all adhere to the orthodoxy or face the consequences?
Geoff Norcott is always wheeled out as the comedian who disproves that all BBC comedy is leftist – but GN, as funny as he is, is essentially playing a character. The audience is invited to laugh at (not with) his observations because he is depicted as an unreconstructed Faragiste, a cartoon Brexit untermensch, a figure of fun because his opinions are SO outrageous (despite them actually being the majority view the last time we asked).
Even a man like Ian Hislop, who made a career out of having a dig at the establishment, has become – since the referendum – the sneering face of on-air remoanerism. Once a satirist has picked sides and only attacks the ‘Other’ he ceases to be in any way relevant. It has made HIGNFY unwatchable and Private Eye unreadable.
The satirists of the 1960s, 70s and 80s would hang their heads at the neo-puritanism, the homogeneity of today’s crop of comics. Actually none of those people would even get the gig nowadays. The head of BBC Comedy Commissioning proudly stated that the Python crew would never be hired today, because who wants more ‘Oxbridge educated white men’? … Right on! Who cares if they’re funny, just don’t let them be well-educated and white!
The current panel show regulars who infest our screens may tick all the right boxes, might fulfil all the right quotas, might make fun of all the approved targets and avoid making fun of all the ‘protected victim groups’, but some of these ‘comedians’ (to stretch the definition almost to breaking point) fail in one rather important area – THEY ARE NOT FUNNY. (Has anyone, honestly, ever actually belly-laughed at anything Nish Kumar or Ellie Taylor have ever said? Or a hatful of – evidently forgettable – others)
The 3 most dispiriting words to hear in the English language are supposedly “Replacement Bus Service” though I’ve personally found no three word combination saps my will to laugh more than “…….. featuring Nish Kumar”.
When he announced he was off to “break America”, I was delighted he’d be off our screens for a while, but a quick look at the trailer for his US show (which I seem not to be allowed to link to) …. and it was glaringly obvious that it wouldn’t / couldn’t last long.
Not one ‘joke’ that ventured to say anything other than “I hate Trump”, “I hate Britain”, “Anyone who doesn’t think I’m funny is a racist and a bigot”.
HOW did this man ever have a career? Oh yes, the BBC.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of comedians who are talented, plenty who are funny, but for all their supposed “edginess” there isn’t one on mainstream channels who’d dare admit to an unapproved political viewpoint.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Your comment is better than the article!

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
9 months ago

I’ve never seen the thing, though I have heard of it. I’ve got a vague recollection of someone once telling me they gave it a try – they lasted about ten minutes.

Still, I’ve learned something today from this article – that weird phenomena of an audience signalling approval but not actually properly laughing at supposed comedy. I never knew it had a name, clapter. It fits, and I look forward to using it …… inappropriately if I can.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I think it was canned laughter from a US show – British people don’t woop!

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
9 months ago

One of The Mash Report’s biggest (of many) flaws is that it just tries so damn hard to be funny.
A significant portion of comedy is in the delivery. As everyone and anyone who has seen someone try tell a joke but fail because they have been unable to tell it without finding themselves hilarious in the process.
Secondly as the article correctly points out – its humour thinks itself edgy when it’s in fact at barely sixth-form level satire. As many comedians have said, good comedy should always “punch up” not down.
Yet they are too blind to see that they are well-educated metropolitan types sneering down at anyone who doesn’t share their world view.

D Ward
D Ward
9 months ago

Now Andrew Lawrence has been cancelled, there’s even fewer comedians out there challenging the consensus

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  D Ward

Anyone miss Alf Garnett, or Steptoe?

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yup. (To both.)

Last edited 9 months ago by Richard Parker
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

The world is 100% on an unsustainable economic debt cycle, and all Politicians just vote for more un-funded spending as they out bid each other to buy more votes, even as it kills the nation, and will destroy the poor ultimately……

I watch a lot of finance on Youtube – instead of sick streaming cr* p.
Dalio is the founder of the world’s largest Hedge fund, so is one of the ones who created modern finance, and does Youtubes on money and the state of the world, I believe out of social conscious, and I very much recommend this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XKG2hdu2qg

The main reason is he always gives the basis of the world getting through the coming chaos as being dependent on income fairness (equity), justice in finance, prudent government finance, AND that we all, as citizens, try our best to get along and be good citizens first. That if we are not good citizens first, the system cannot last.

That it takes a ferocious Billionaire Hedge-fund manager to tell us what everyone should be saying, but do not, is sad.

This sort of disgusting sneering Liberal hate show is the very opposite of that. It is out to divide and make anger and attack that which is morally correct and decent. (I have never seen it, but seen other stuff like it is described) This insidious dividing people and belittling of the Nation and culture and great swaths of the people will destroy us all. The BBC has a great deal to answer for.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
9 months ago

I gave up on BBC pseudo-satire several years ago. The reason was their perverted notion of what constitutes “balance”. A programme such as The News Quiz would have some riffs satirizing the Tories and some satirizing Labour. The Tories were satirized for being too right-wing of course. But Labour? Well Labour was also satirized for being too right-wing! That is the BBC definition of “balance”

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 months ago

The sketch about “Women everywhere telling everybody to just f-off” has long since lost any comedy value but is still doing the rounds on social media. It’s just tedious.

Sean McGrath
Sean McGrath
9 months ago

It’s just not funny. Smug, self satisfied and sneering. No wonder Nash Kumar got bombarded by bread rolls when he tried that patronising line with a bunch of cricketers and their backers in London.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
9 months ago

Have deleted this comment – it was the same as my other post on this page.
Posted this first and it was in “Pending” limbo, so removed the link and reposted.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
9 months ago

Never seen it.

Al M
Al M
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Keep it that way is my advice.