‘Anti-Woke’ Comedy?

I take the view that anyone who readily admits to being ‘anti-woke’ is comfortable with racism, misogyny and probably pretty relaxed about human rights abuses. They may deny these things, but the facts speak for themselves. A couple of days ago, I read on Chortle that there is to be a new comedy show on BBC Radio 4 for ‘anti-woke’ comedians. This should surprise no one. When the new Director-General of the BBC (a blatantly political appointment), Tim Davie, announced that he was going to sweep away what he saw as ‘left-wing comedy’, it sounded alarm bells. The first casualty of the Davie era was the allegedly left-wing Mash Report. Our ‘anti-woke’ comedians may complain about so-called ‘cancel culture’ but were eerily silent about the show’s cancellation. Personally, I haven’t seen or heard any “left-wing comedy” on the BBC’s platforms. Davie himself is a former chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives, which is hot house for the Tory hard-right. You may recall that it was this constituency Tory Party that incubated the now defunct Young Britons’ Foundation.

The pilot for the unimaginatively-titled, Unsafe Spaces, will be recorded next month. This is from Chortle:

The stand-ups lined up for the trial episode of the possible Radio 4 show includes GB News presenter Andrew Doyle and Leo Kearse, pictured, who stood for Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party in May’s Holyrood elections.


It will be recorded at Comedy Unleashed home,  The Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green, East London, next month.

Backyard Comedy Club is owned by the daddy of anti-woke comedy, Lee Hurst, a man who was once a regular on the BBC’s ‘laddish’ comedy panel shows like They Think It’s All Over.

One thing that I’ve noticed about these self-styled ‘anti-woke’ comedians is that they’re entirely white and male. Davie defended this programme by claiming it would offer a “diversity of opinion”, but this is a smokescreen; it is an attempt to control the discourse, and possibly drag comedy back to the 1970s.

One of those ‘comedians’ involved with this project is Andrew Doyle, who is an associate of Spiked, and who typically claims to be a free speech advocate, but would someone so concerned about free speech do this?

Doyle, who also has his own show on GB News called Free Speech Nation, seems rather touchy when challenged on his free speech beliefs (for beliefs they are). It’s as if to say “I say what I like and you shut up”. Free speech is a two-way process. However, what Doyle has in mind isn’t free speech at all; you get no right of reply. This is typical of the Continuity RCP, who demand absolute free speech at all times. Such demands, however, are immature and fail to consider the legal restraints on speech, such as defamation laws and the Official Secrets Act.

Doyle runs a comedy club called ‘Comedy Unleashed’, which gives space to reactionary comedians like Leo Kearse. According to his Wikipedia entry, Doyle also claims to be “left-wing”, and yet, I see no evidence of his apparent leftism.

The backlash against what was seen as ‘political correctness’ began in the 1980s when news of the alternative comedy movement began to filter into the public domain with television shows like Saturday Live, hosted by Ben Elton. The trad comics, who had dominated what there was of British stand-up for 20 years, were displaced by comedians who came from backgrounds in political fringe theatre, and the folk clubs. Alternative comedy, a term never used by comedians themselves, was ostensibly non-racist and non-sexist, and it was this kind of comedy that was regarded by those on the reactionary right as being a threat to their existences. In the 1990s, comedians like David Baddiel, Rob Newman and Lee Hurst began to steer comedy in a rather white and male direction. This kind of comedy was called ‘Lad comedy’.

When I think of these all-white, anti-woke comedians, I’m reminded of the reactionary and racist comedy of Tran und Helle, who along with a mere handful of comedy acts were permitted to perform in Nazi Germany. Indeed, what our anti-woke comedians want is to be able to say words like ‘nigger’ and ‘paki’ onstage without suffering any repercussions. Yet, it remains to be seen whether anti-Semitic jokes will be permitted on this show.


Filed under Comedy, Society & culture

5 responses to “‘Anti-Woke’ Comedy?

  1. I actually went to Doyles so called “comedy” club a few years ago…full of white m/c, r/w dullards, getting off, on hoping to hear the “N” word, or hear a bit of homophobia/transphobia. Ironically, despite their self-image of being ‘edgy’, none of the so called comics, dared.

    Far from r/w comedians being “cancelled”, due to the conspiracy of the “woke”, metropolitan elite”, the reason why they are not on TV/radio, is two fold. (1) They’re seriously not funny (2) W/c audience has largely grown up and away from the ‘humour’ of Bernard Manning, Jim Davidson, Lee Hurst, etc

  2. Jim Round

    Good blog post there Ray.
    Off the top of my head, I remember the Goodness Gracious Me “Going for an English” sketch, the amount of times I heard “if white comedians did that sketch, it would be classed as racist” forgetting the same group also did the likes of “Asian Top Gear” amongst other parody sketches.
    The difference I saw was that unlike Davidson’s unfunny and terrible “Chalky” character, which was a clear example of “othering” the GGM sketch was observational. Although I seem to remember one of the GGM contributors saying that some of their sketches couldn’t be made today, something quite a lot of people from past programmes seem to have been saying these last few years.
    I should read more into it but I have become tired of all the sniping.
    Have you had a look at these blogs, unfortunately the person behind them has stopped writing, I don’t agree with all of their points, but found it a good read:
    Final point, did/do you have any material that you wouldn’t use now as opposed to when you first started out due to changing tastes?

    • Hi Jim, I change my material regularly. In fact, I tend to rely mainly on improvisations. I used to do a parody of a film trailer for years and I became known for that, but about 12 years ago, I ditched it because it became a millstone around my neck. I also do a lot of topical stuff, which dates really quickly.

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