Friday, September 04, 2009

Russell Howard and Mock the Week

Last night I boasted on Twitter that I am the number three result on Google for Russell Howard is not funny. There were a couple of bewildered tweets in return and today Alex Foster has written in Howard's defence.

But I am not alone.

Unenlightened Commentary has written a longer version of my opinions on Howard. After effectively skewering Andy Parsons - who "seems as though he ought to be funny until he opens his mouth" - he continues:

The nicest thing that can be said about him is that he isn't Russell Howard. His jokes aren't always terrible (many of them would be funny if said by someone else), but he creates such an irritating persona as an attention seeking child who is always acting up to try and win the approval of his elders that he simply makes me want to slam his face in a car door. I wouldn't actually do that to an attention seeking child I must add.

That posting also links to an article by Nick Cohen attacking Mock the Week as a whole and Frankie Boyle in particular:
Here is Boyle again, responding to a question about the BBC's decision to replace the 66-year-old Arlene Phillips as a presenter on Strictly Come Dancing with a younger model. "What's the big fuss about her getting sacked, eh? It's show business, Arlene, not ugly business... It's not like she's completely disappearing from TV. Straight after this, she's going to be on live autopsy with Gunther von Hagens, and then she's back on our screens at Christmas being chased by the Ghostbusters."
I do find Boyle funny from time to time, but in cold print that sort of material is hard to defend.

And Cohen is write that Mock the Week is unrelenting in the way it attacks easy targets. Besides the obligatory showbiz anti-Toryism, the programme has the ethics of a school bully.

Two years ago, after the resignation of Menzies Campbell, I wrote:

It must also be admitted that Ming could sometimes appear a rather elderly 66 - quite understandably, in view of his illness a few years ago. But the way he was ridiculed for his age tells us something unpleasant about modern British society. It suggests we no longer have any respect for age, wisdom or dignity.

I think in particular of the Mock the Week show that went out in September just after our Conference. This is the BBC2 programme where five leading comedians and Russell Howard improvise comedy based on the week‘s headlines.

For 10 or 15 minutes they unleashed a tirade against Ming, all of it based on the assumption there is something inherently funny about being old. If they had attacked a woman or someone who was gay or black in the same way they would never have worked for the BBC again.

Even among those who uncritically admire it, I suspect Mock the Week will go the way of Whose Line Is It Anyway? When that show first came on you stayed in to watch it, then you caught it if it was on and eventually you could not believe they were still making it.


dreamingspire said...

This week I was sent the job spec for the CEO of a Quango company of which I am a Member (a non profit distributing Membership company with rather a lot of government involvement). It claims that it is an equal opportunities employer - except for the age limit (a 3 year contract, so men must be under 62 on appointment, and women under 57) - and the company is likely to be closed or sold into the private sector at the end of that time, so the contract is unlikely to be renewed. An ideal appointment for a recently retired person (but not for Ming, 'cos its very technical in a non-financial area).

Ross said...

Thanks for the link and for pointing out your January post on Russell Howard.

I knew I hadn't come up with the idea of him as an annoying schoolboy show off myself, but couldn't recall where I'd seen it before.