by Ben Sixsmith
Friday, 12
March 2021
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14:30

The Mash Report: too Left-wing or just not funny?

We don't care if comedy is partisan — just make it good
by Ben Sixsmith
Nish Kumar’s parting message

Reports arrive that the BBC’s satirical news programme The Mash Report has been cancelled for being biased against Conservatives. According to The Sun, its cancellation is due to BBC director general Tim Davie’s belief that BBC comedy needs “a radical overhaul as it was too biased against the Tories and Brexit.”

Left-wing radio host and angry bulldog impersonator James O’Brien says:

While arguments about exactly what constitutes “cancel culture” are boring, it is worth saying that there is a difference between insisting that something not be said and deciding that something not be said too much. The BBC still carries Left-leaning comedy programmes like Mock the Week, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, Have I Got News for You, The Now Show et cetera. If it carries one that is discernibly Right-leaning then it has escaped me.

Still, I do not think The Mash Report should be cancelled for being biased towards the Left. If it was cancelled solely on those grounds then it is bad news for TV as it suggests that content is being judged less by its quality than by its message.

Personally, I think The Mash Report should have been cancelled for being miserably unfunny. It belonged to a stale genre of cheap, contrived, self-satisfied “satire” programmes where the jokes are as predictable as rain on Bonfire Night and have all the freshness of a week-old slice of mackerel.

Watch five minutes of the show and tell me I am wrong. Every joke had essentially the same formula. I could create my own: “Dominic Cummings says he drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight,” the host Nish Kumar would say, a smile gathering on his lips like water building up inside a blocked drainpipe, “Which is about as believable as Boris Johnson saying he is a faithful husband.” Then he would arch his eyebrow as if he had dropped a line so incisive it would have made H.L. Mencken give up being a critic and become an accountant.

But there would be no value in a “Right-wing” equivalent to The Mash Report. Conservatives can be as miserably unfunny as Leftists. In the noughties, impressed by the popularity of the progressive satire programme The Daily Show, American Republicans produced a rival series called The Half Hour News Hour. Filled with tired jokes about liberal stereotypes, it was also miserably unfunny. If the BBC presents us with a bunch of windbags cracking jokes about student activists being oversensitive and Diane Abbott not being especially good with numbers, I will be no more glad than I was when I observed Nish Kumar’s eyebrows jig.

What comedy needs is not just more conservatives but more imagination. Chris Morris is certainly Left-leaning but I would love to see a programme as original, fresh and cutting as The Day Today or Brass Eye. I don’t know what the Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder thinks about anything but I would love to see a British series with the absurd genius of Nathan For You.

Mr Kumar has reacted to the decision by uploading a photo to Twitter that displays him gurning next to the words, “Boris Johnson is a liar and a racist.” He absolutely has the right to say that… but there is absolutely nothing funny about it.

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Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Being old enough to remember “Yes Minister” makes me deeply saddened to see the abyss of trivialised monotony that the BBC now deems good enough to broadcast.
There are definitely two problems to be solved – making stuff funny, which can be achieved with far better writers – but keeping political balance is harder.
Have I Got News For You managed both of these things 20 years ago (before it descended the same MSM u-bend) so it is possible.
Tim Davie should be supported in removing low quality material from the BBCs output, and if this results in fewer better channels, then we will be getting somewhere ….

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Indeed, if the BBC lived up to its charter I might just start paying for a licence again after 13 years.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

As you say, HIGNFY used to be funny and balanced… Then brexit happened and it turned into a propaganda broadcast for the EU, and become both annoying AND unfunny to the point that it became unwatchable.

Dave Bradley
Dave Bradley
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I entirely agree with you it use to be one of the best thing on the BBC but as you say “Then brexit happened” and Sara Cox in one episode compared people that voted brexit to people that go dogging I have never watched it since then

Bob Green
Bob Green
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Am I the only one old enough to remember TWTWTW? – David Frost?
Great satire, I’m not sure the writers were going for laughs but they certainly made the audience think more deeply about events.
I could not attribute any political leaning to Frost, he slapped both sides in equal measure, but only if it was deserved, and the show moved with the news every week, not the same tired topics again and again.
RIP David

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
1 year ago

My surly cat is funnier than Nish Kumar. People appointed to roles just because they tick a diversity box rather than on their competence or ability eventually do come unstuck. But the diversity hustle continues relentlessly.
To think that this organisation once produced Yes Minster and Yes Prime Minister, and I am sorry I don’t have a clue.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
1 year ago

BBC radio “humour” seems always (and only) to entail utterly anodyne variations on the themes of:

  • The country is racist
  • Brexit was stupid (and racist)
  • Orange man bad (and very racist)
  • Boris is a liar (and racist)
  • Men are useless and in the way (and usually racist)
  • Old people are irrelevant (and racist)
  • Immigration is an unalloyed good, and to suggest otherwise is racist.
  • The BBC needs (even) more women

This is not a good recipe for fresh humour. So,yes, cancel more if the crap. It is tedious and almost never funny.
It is also the case that the BBC, compulsorily funded by Joe Public as it is, has a duty not to so relentlessly, and uncritically, shove a specific political posture.
The failure of BBC “comedy”, like the poor state of its news output, is why I no longer pay a fee. I gave up BBC TV.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joe Blow
D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Tedious and UNfunny?

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
1 year ago
Reply to  D Ward

Ah yes. Thank you – edited!

Harold Aitch
Harold Aitch
1 year ago

As I’ve often noticed from comments from some of the American commentariate. Many comics aren’t comedians anymore, they’re activists who clamour for applause not laughter

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Harold Aitch

Indeed. In fact this phenomenon already has a name: “clapter comedy”.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Harold Aitch

‘Still, I do not think The Mash Report should be cancelled for being biased towards the Left.’

I do, as I believe Liberal Leftyism is as evil and destructive to that which is good as any of the monsterious ismms of the past, I think it should be cancled in the same way that a government created pro Hitler show should have been canceled in the 1930s. It is against our culture, Nations, and the Global freedom.

Now being very pro freedom of speech, I believe it should not be banned to make this kind of show, but that the State has no business in making it as it is pure political ideology which is hostile to everything the Nation stands for.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

The jaded old cynic who lives in my basement has his own take on this decision. He reckons the BBC decided to drop this show because, as the author suggests, it just wasn’t funny. But they also wanted to kill two birds with one stone. So the official reason for cancelling the show is that BBC comedy is too biased against conservatives. Now, when conservatives complain about political bias at the BBC, the Beeb’s management can point to The Mash Report and say they’re dumping shows that are too left-wing: what more do you want?
As I mentioned, the fellow who lives in my basement is very jaded, but he’s right surprisingly often.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

As an aside, Kumar seems to have clearly proffered his resignation by breaking the BBCs rules on social media impartiality.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Quite a few of them do that on a daily basis, but they remain in post.

thomasalexand
thomasalexand
1 year ago

The fact that BBC employees mostly read the Guardian, that licence payers pay for, sends a clear signal as to where their political allegiance lies. The so-called satirical shows are so biased and unfunny. Mr Kumar experienced first hand that not everyone shared his humour when he performed at the Lord Taverners annual charity lunch in December 2019. He was booed and took umbrage that the ungrateful audience didn’t appreciate his talent.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

He absolutely has the right to say that
Yes, he does. He also has no expectation of being granted an audience or of people agreeing with him. And calling someone a racist is beyond tedious.

R P
R P
1 year ago

Agree – it was an awful show led by an awful host in Kumar, just never fouund him funny at all.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago

It’s unfunny precisely because of its laboured leftishness.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

How did you find the Sesardic book?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Oh hello! It’s arrived in the post, but I’m afraid I haven’t got around to reading it yet – I’m presently immersed in George Meredith’s novel The Egoist.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Hi there. Did you get a notification of Cassian Young’s reply to you? If so could you tell me where it was? Ta very much.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

No I didn’t. I came across Cassian’s reply when revisiting the comments under this article. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. I wish they’d fix this issue.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago

Not much can be less honest than calling this cancel culture. But they do.

Stuart Y
Stuart Y
1 year ago

Seems to me the funniest programme i have seen on the BBC in eons is “Would i lie to you”. Likely popular because of the fact very little or no politics intrudes, despite the proliferation of lefties that appear.

Even Jo Brand is funny on it and thats saying something!!

Alex Wilkinson
Alex Wilkinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Stuart Y

Let’s not go mad.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Wilkinson

I think Jo Brand is very funny, though I probably don’t agree with her politics.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago
Reply to  Stuart Y

i’d agree with that, ( well maybe not the Jo Brand bit) and you don’t even need to go to the Ministry of Truth to watch the best bits, they are on youtube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vE8ExuuNZQ

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Well I would imagine it is both too left-wing and not remotely funny. But I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen it and I don’t have a TV. The fact is that lefties generally don’t have a sense of humour, the wonderful Jimmy Dore notwithstanding.

Last edited 1 year ago by Fraser Bailey
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I guess you missed out on all the side splitting comedy shows out of Russia and China during the 1960s and 70s.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

The Right Wing comedian JP Sears is an anodyne needed after a painful bit of Left wing hate comedy. I like his news reporting from AOC’s ‘Safe Room’ where she was able to hide from the rioters out to kill her from a mere 3 blocks away. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9-5QPqDAfI

Susie E
Susie E
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I always considered JP Sears quite left leaning, but very pro free speech, which is why I watch his stuff and enjoy it! He’s been particularly brilliant during the “pandemic”. Thanks for sharing this clip – I hadn’t come across it yet!

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t find him that funny, really. It’s shallow of me, I know, but I can’t stop looking at his awful hair.

David J
David J
1 year ago

Dismal, predictable, unfunny.

tony deakin
tony deakin
1 year ago

I actually thought the first series was quite good! Alas, the other series saw a gradual succumbing to the ‘clapter’ tendency mentioned elsewhere in the BTL discussion. This tendency irked me even though I was often sympathetic to its liberal positioning on a number of issues.
Btw, I have not at anytime been known as ‘Tony Deakin’….not even as a ruse in order to claim the nickname Freakin’ Deakin.

Last edited 1 year ago by tony deakin
Peter Fisher
Peter Fisher
1 year ago

Hang on, I thought cancel culture was a right wing myth??

Matt Whitby
Matt Whitby
1 year ago

The only comedy show of that kind of format that makes me laugh on the BBC or indeed any channel is Would I lie to you, and it does so by being almost completely apolitical. It may essentially be a cheap parlour game but the dynamic between the 3 regulars with their own differing comedic strengths keeps it enjoyable. Whilst David Mitchell is clearly somewhat left-leaning it isn’t a source of the comedic output. I think focusing comedy on comedy and not using cheap gags as a front for what is essentially mild propaganda is what should be focused on, and if it is funny then the popularity will overwhelm any of the mobs of censorious bores online from impacting on it providing the people making decisions stop putting so much weight on their ill-informed bullying

R P
R P
1 year ago

Definitely the latter, good comedy pokes fun at all areas not just one!