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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I've had it with post-laughter comedy


I quite enjoyed watching "Fleabag" but I only laughed once in the first three episodes. It was where the guy came into her cafe, said he didn't want to order anything and then plugged in all his various electronic devices.

It was a pretty tame, old-fashioned gag in the context of "Fleabag", where most of the jokes are about grim stuff. I'm not sure these programmes are actually supposed to elicit laughter so much as shared recognition of that grim stuff. I'm not saying programmes like this don't have a place. I just think comedy should make you laugh.

Of late I've started to take evasive action when I find myself not laughing. I watched the Ricky Gervais film "Special Correspondents". I like Ricky Gervais and this film had a good premise but I turned it off after three-quarters of an hour when I realised it wasn't actually making me laugh.

I watched a whole series of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I love Tina Fey and Ellie Kemper. Only at the very end did I realise that since the joke about the water bottle in episode one I hadn't laughed at all. However I read lots of pieces explaining how good it was.

I'm always hearing that comedy is essentially political, essentially provocative, essentially subversive, essentially challenging or essentially a feminist issue. Well, yes, it might be some of those things as well, but essentially it should be funny.

This is of a piece with the growing tendency to judge entertainment on anything other than its entertainment value. When Beyonce's last album came out the reviews in the heavy papers were about what this record "said" about women and celebrity and fidelity and a whole host of things that you'd expect slim volumes of fiction to be "about".

Pop music is only "about" one thing: tunes. If you haven't got those you're sunk. Same with comedy and laughs.