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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Are we running out of funny?

Last night I caught five minutes of the new Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse show. There was a sketch about two old duffers in a gentlemen's club (good to see comedy doing its bit to preserve long-dead social history) which involved the repetition (and I do mean repetition) of the words "is he queer?", a sketch about some semi-criminals with an attack dog which involved the repetition (and I do mean repetition) of the words "shut it" and one called Mr Bean, Psycho which was about throwing a grenade into a crowded lift and then stepping in to the blood stained compartment. (I bet somebody at the BBC was more worried than most about the threatened "Mumbai-style" attack yesterday.)

It was clever, accomplished, edgy, humorous and exactly the kind of thing we have come to expect from two of TV's most popular comic actors. Unfortunately, it wasn't funny. I know funny. Funny makes you laugh. Funny has surprise on its side. Funny is - correct me if I'm wrong - the only thing that actually matters in comedy. It's like tunes in pop music. If you've got a tune you can do anything. If you haven't got a tune there's nothing you can do.

Maybe there's not enough funny to go round any more. Makes sense in a way. You've got all those channels that are looking for funny. Funny can't be an infinite resource. You've got the movies immediately signing up anyone who so much as raises a smile on TV. Then they're writing books that promise more funny. Then there's the internet. And adverts. And Twitter. And then there may be the fact that they've told all their jokes. There was Victoria Wood the other week complaining about the fact that nobody at the BBC seemed to care about her stuff anymore. But then, as people pointed out, her last big TV spectacular wasn't actually funny.

Look, I remember Morecambe and Wise. They were funny for about 20% of the time. The rest of the time they were merely comical. Seems to me we've got too much that's comical and not enough that's funny.