Saturday, April 13, 2024
HomeNewsNick Booth: Are you narrow-minded enough to write jokes for the BBC?

Nick Booth: Are you narrow-minded enough to write jokes for the BBC?


The hilarious radio sketch programme Newsjack returns this month, with its wacky brand of prejudice-confirming scape-gloating humour.

Fans of non-sequitur sneering – an art form pioneered by Bernard Manning and subverted by a new generation of ‘comedians’ – will love the new series, which promises to be even less intellectually challenging than ever. Lovers of satire will be pleased to know that it will focus on an even narrower band of prejudices. The show will go out on BBC Radio 4 on Saturdays and be repeated on the Narrowband Prejudice and Dog-Whistle Bigotry channels.

Non-seq Com takes an untrue assumption, and then creates a punchline that delivers on the false logic of the original premise. When pioneered by race-hate-monger Manning, the ‘set-up’ was based on a bogus and unpleasant idea about some vulnerable ethnic group. Now, in a brilliant application of the Two Wrongs Make A Right principle, Newsjack humour is based on an equally offensive set of assumptions. Anyone who is disappointed at the way the European Community panned out, for example, can be portrayed as a xenophobe or, worse, a member of a violent racist party. The punchline then uses confected outrage to sneer at them.

‘We’ve taken the Bernard Manning model, and improved on it,’ said Newsjack script editor Tickety Gender-Box, who identifies as metropolitan and chic, despite being from a one-horse town in the Home Counties. ‘We call it scape-gloating.’

In a hilarious twist, the host of the show, Angela Clarke, began one monologue in the last series by saying, ‘I know absolutely nothing about Europe.’ Then she embarked on a five-minute rant in which she accused complete strangers of being knuckle-dragging Little Englanders, with no evidence whatsoever to back up this offensive prejudice. Now 17million people are asking themselves what they did to deserve a nationally broadcast defamation by some posturing loudmouth that they’ve never met!

It’s a formula guaranteed to have the canned laughter cranking right up to 11.

If the show has a message, it’s that emotional grandstanding is more important than ever. Clarke likes to remind people that she was a drop-out student nurse and is ‘passionate’ about the NHS. The new series promises to fine-tune the focus of its satire, concentrating on an even narrower set of views. ‘We need to build a safe space for even the flimsiest of moral grandstands,’ said Clarke, adding, ‘I was a student nurse and I’m passionate about the NHS. But you’re not.’

To make sure of it the BBC has invited anyone to send in a sketch. It is open to script submissions (details) Based on previous series, we offer some helpful guidelines for aspirational BBC comedy writers:

All jokes must show that you are passionate about Europe/obsessed with Donald Trump.
Never joke about Angela Merkel. Or Jean Claude-Juncker. The EU is sacrosanct. EU royalty can’t answer back.
Attacks on any member of the Trump family are welcome.
If in doubt, shout. These are ideal shouty punchlines: UKIP, Trump, the Daily Mail!

The BBC conforms to colour-chart comedy. Which means: racism is never acceptable – unless it’s the right shade of racism. Violent mobs in white hoods are NOT OKKK but violent mobs in black hoods are Ab-Fab freedom fighters.

Target your audience: people who’ve either just moved to London or who desperately want to. We call them the Mini Mets. Imagine a first-year student, getting uppity on snakebite at a Politics Soc party, straining to over-compensate for being in the Scouts until he was 17. Imagine the desperation to prove, with every line, how urban and sophisticated and completely at ease he is with multi-culturalism. And always has been, mind.
It’s that level of humble bragging, scapegoating, self-acclaiming virtuosity we’re looking for. Every joke must point the finger at someone else, in order to detract from your own shortcomings. Every gag must set you up on a moral pedestal and every punchline be aimed down at a straw man.
Good luck. And remember, we’re all really nice people. Unlike that bloke reading the Daily Mail over there, who is to blame for absolutely everything in the world.
Happy scape-gloating!

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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