by Gareth Roberts
Wednesday, 28
July 2021

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. 

Join the discussion

  • 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.

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

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