I have therefore decided to revive my long-held tentative ambition to be a comedian. Because the news is hilarious/tragic/tragilarious. What with all the civil war, international war and class war. And it’s not like there’s any other comedians or websites or TV or radio programmes doing satirical topical news-based comedy, is it? (1) Especially when it’s in a weekly post that’s out-of-date by the time it appears.
So, I came up with some material for a 90-minute stand-up show about how the government are evil, lying bastards. You know, really ground-breaking stuff.
“IDS?! IBS, more like – yeah. Irritating BASTARD Syndrome! Take THAT, you democratically elected fascist!”
That’s how the show would begin. I’ve always thought that you shouldn’t waste your best joke too early. I came up with some classic, witheringly sarcastic anti-Tory stand-up of which the most right-on, lefty 1980s Alternative Stand-up comedian (2) would be proud. (3)
““We’re all in it together”, that’s the mantra, isn’t it? If there’s anyone here who believed that for a single second, I heartily recommend you keep your mouth shut for the rest of your fucking life.
It’s like that bit in The Assassination Of Richard Nixon where Sean Penn’s character goes to the Black Panthers office to donate some money, and he says “we’re in the same boat.”
And the Black Panther guy eyes him coolly and says, “You own the boat.”
Anyone seen that…no? Well, I thought it was a good angle. It’s really not an obscure reference. Honestly, watch a film sometimes, yeah? One that isn’t advertised on the side of a fucking double-decker bus. You might learn something.
You might learn, for instance, that the government, like all political parties eventually do, is fighting itself, and this presents a major opportunity for its opponents – so, sane humans with some kind of conscience…
The Tory party is tearing itself apart, and there are some deep ideological divisions. One wing of the party favours smashing disabled people in the face with a sledgehammer and then setting their corpses on fire, before selling their wheelchairs and giving the proceeds to an arms company. Whereas the other wing is, of course, much less compassionate towards the poor and disabled.
So, you see, there’s a serious political battle going on…”
As in the 80s, that kind of thing might be quite popular. As in the 80s, it might be mostly shit.
After playing around with the idea for a few minutes, I realised that satire these days is, like everything else these days, mostly online. So I penned a few satirical news bulletin-style headlines for this recent realworld event that caught everyone’s attention. One of them got several likes on facebook and a few re-tweets, which (momentarily) sated my need for attention/affirmation of my wit.
Breaking news: Heartless rich pantomime villain resigns from government of "heartless rich pantomime villains"
Breaking news: Disabled-Bashing Oik used as human sacrifice by Bullingdon Club
Breaking News: Rat Leaves Sinking Ship, blames Disabled EU immigrants
Breaking News: Government’s 18th indefensible benefit cut deemed “indefensible” by person who planned all of them
Breaking news: IDS resigns after losing “World’s Worst Human” Contest to Donald Trump
This next section would involve making some props to illustrate the Batman (70s TV version, not overblown nonsense film versions)-style onomatopoeia, in an appropriate comic font:
According to the BBC News website, Iain Duncan Smith said the new cut was “"not defensible" within a Budget that "benefits higher earning taxpayers"”…..take that, government:
OOF! That’s like being called a fat racist by Bernard Manning.
KAPOW! That’s like being called an attention-seeking, cheap, ugly populist by Donald Trump.
ZORK! That’s like being told to calm down a bit with the religious fundamentalism by a gun-toting, masked DAESH militant.
KLERP! That’s like being called an opportunistic deviant by the ghost of Jimmy Saville.
SKOYP! That’s like the bass player leaving Coldplay because they’re “a bit boring”
BAKARK! That’s like, umm….well, that’s probably enough.
Some ideas I started to develop into articles that might appear on a spoof/satirical news website (4):
Head Of Dept For Work & Pensions Develops Sudden Interest In Social Justice (Concussion Suspected)
The Secretary of State responsible for screwing money out of the poorest and most vulnerable people has developed a very sudden interest in helping them.
“I was just sitting at my desk, signing an order to transfer another billion pounds from people who really need it to people who really don’t, and I just thought “Shit, this might make me look bad”, said the former hapless party leader.
“I had previously been working on a scheme to allow police officers to turn homeless people upside down and shake them to see if any coins fell out, and then I thought “gosh, that’s a little bit unfair”, said the former benefit claimant, before adding “all the other cuts I’d already made were fine, though.”
“It’s been quite a conversion. I’m just like Saint Paul, really.”
The scene at Mordor (some people know it by the tasteless nickname “Tory Party HQ”):
“Iain, we’ve drafted your resignation letter. I expect you to sign it and send it to Number 10. We’ll need to issue a surprised-sounding statement. Pure PR, you understand. Look, in a few months, when this has all died down, you can come back to government – a smaller department, of course, as a stepping stone, but after that, who knows? We’ll be briefing that the PM is furious and so on, so just try to keep your head down for a while, won’t you?”(5)
In the end, instead of following any of these threads, I decided to pour out all the ideas to give you an idea of what revulsion and an impotent-sounding anger channelled toward humour is like. And take my mind off the real implications of all this shit, even while thinking about it.
Hope you enjoyed it. (I didn’t.) (6)
1. I assume prior knowledge of the events discussed in the main body of text above. In case you don’t live in the UK, or live in the UK but don’t pay attention: Iain Duncan Smith, the Work & Pensions Secretary, resigned from the government on Friday 18th of March, for reasons of conscience/EU referendum political wrangling/self-serving ambition/personal animosity toward the chancellor, depending on your reading of events. And, possibly, which newspaper/s you read.
According to The Guardian: “He could no longer “watch passively”, while “certain policies… are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest”. He calls it “not defensible” to announce cuts to disability payments in a budget that also eased the taxes on the more affluent. He goes on to suggest that “we are all in this together”, the government’s mantra over the past six years, is essentially a lie. This is not a novel line of attack on David Cameron and George Osborne, but it is an excoriating one when it comes from the pen of a man who has sat with them in cabinet for six years.”
2. You know, Ben Elton or one of them.
3. Isn’t it funny how lefty and right-on go together? Do you think it’s axiomatic of the fallacy of an ideological split in a political culture which operates as an adversarial debating society with a thin veneer of legitimacy built around voicing an anger that representatives couldn’t possible feel, or even relate to…? Emblematic of a political discourse which presents binaries which simply no longer apply given the neoliberal consensus that has dominated parliamentary politics for decades? Or is it just a coincidence?)
4. The Daily Mash, or Newsthump, or The Daily Mail, or one of them.
5. This is the weakest one, isn’t it? I think I imagined it as a Yes, Minister sort of thing, but it didn’t go very well.
6. No, I honestly didn’t, not really. Well, not much, anyway. Well, you know, I didn’t enjoy it like I’d enjoy a nice warm pint of ale on a cold morning. More like I’d enjoy the taking down a peg (or several pegs) of a terrible, terrible person. Where the enjoyment would be somewhat tempered by the fact that the terrible person did most of their terrible things in public and everybody knows about them and almost everyone I know feels the same way about the whole thing. And their bullshit self-pitying public whining will in no way militate against the very worst of what they did. And we may well be dealing with the consequences for a very long time. And all the failures and problems that put that terrible person in a position to do terrible things are still in place. As are all the terrible person’s terrible colleagues who remain.