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Welcome to the House of Comedy, where laughter goes to die


INTRODUCING British democracy’s unofficial third chamber – the House of Comedy.

It does not meet in the Houses of Parliament. Nor anywhere within the moderating sound of Beau Bercow’s Bellow – not that he’d be any more even-handed.

The HoCom’s members are neither elected nor accountable. The modern comic is offered many parliamentary-style privileges, such as lavish expenses and tax exemptions ranging from sole trader status through private limited company to the Full Jimmy Carr.

Many members have suffered nothing worse in their lives so far than parental disappointment that they didn’t take up traditional middle-class professions. The irony being that these days there is no safer space for the unchallenged bourgeois than the BBC Writing Room.

Senior member Marcus Brigstocke followed his brother into the House, and he undoubtedly will have his children’s names down for a place in this exclusive enclave, once they’ve learned to judge the poorer half of Britain prejudicially.

Like many of the rituals of our democracy, there are strange anomalies in the House of Comedy. None of its members tells jokes any more. There are few moments of levity when listening to The Mash Report. The requirement for self-deprecation, warmth and amusing insights has long been abandoned in favour of speeches. These are of such a whiney tone they’d make the most complacent bench-warmer in the Lords wake from his coma and kick in a stained-glass window.

This style of conceited joke-free speechifying has been identified as an official genre, the Nish Narrative.

It’s usually delivered through gritted teeth in a thinly disguised attempt to pass off a sneer as a smile. This grimacing delivery has come to be known as Rachel’s Rictus.

Another popular speech format is personified by Steve N Allen, who specialises in the spoken guilt transference technique of Posh Person’s Projection. This involves accusing random strangers of being everything he hates about his own background. It makes for difficult viewing, and his speaking style is known in the House of Comedy as Allen’s Angst. Here’s Julia Hartley-Brewer explaining some home truths to him.

No member of the House of Comedy is on PAYE. So, like their parliamentary counterparts, they are receipt-hoarders, expenses-claimers and tax-avoiders. They have perhaps the best of all worlds. They have the sense of entitlement of the Lords and the influence of MPs, with none of the responsibilities.

As a recent addition, the House of Comedy has a much more modern structure than the traditional Houses of Commons and Lords. It’s not a single ‘house’ at all, but a virtual (i.e. fluid) composition of TV and radio recording studios and event venues. The sitting of BBC Question Time – which by law must include one Left-Wing Comedian on its panel of Brexit scaremongers – comes from a different location every week.

One day they’ll be meeting in The News Quiz Room. The next assembly might be in the production office of the BBC’s Newsnight, where a Greek comic from the club circuit will be providing important insights into the Greek economy. (Yes, this really happened.)

BBC Radio 4 hosts a number of meetings and debates. Since we cannot see them, and they all speak in exactly the same whiney, entitled mockney accents and make identical speeches from the same narrow perspective, some suspect this is not a sitting of the House at all, but one actor unsuccessfully trying to disguise his/her voice.

Since they are unelected, unrepresentative, untaxable and, for the most part, unemployable, many critics say that comedians are ‘out of touch’.

But who cares? Certainly nobody at the BBC, which sends henchmen out to council estates to take money off families who’d otherwise have to choose whether to spend it on heating or eating. Thanks to the BBC’s Unique Funding, they don’t have to worry about that decision any more. The kids are getting The Mash Report, whether they like it or not!

Last month, Newsnight invited the comedienne Luisa Omielan to share her views on our membership of the EU.

To bring the issue alive to her audience, she likened Brexit to her quest to find male companionship on a Saturday night. There didn’t seem to be any comic content in her explanation. Still, this is the House of Comedy – there’s no need for any funny business.

The conditions of the House protect them from the pressure to think of interesting and original insights into universal social challenges. This frees them to offer their glibbest knee-jerk reactions, from their opinions on Brexit to the latest load of old Goebbels on Donald Trump.

It’s a worry that so many Left-wing comedians have become so captivated with the Big Lie tactics of the Third Reich that they are starting to fall in love with them. The House of Comedy should provide a shuttle bus to the Priory, where victims of this terrible condition (caused by Brexit, no doubt) could be treated for Stockholm Syndrome.

In future, I hope to bring you political sketches outlining the important issues of the day as debated in the House of Comedy. I’ll be reporting what the likes of Miles Jupp, the member for Balamory, Frankie Boyle, the member for Misogyny, and Jeremy Hardy (Whine Central) have been saying.

These are people who are passionate about the EU and there is so much we can learn from them. Though seemingly deeply in love with Europe, their weekly focus is entirely on whatever Donald Trump’s been tweeting this week. Anyone who doesn’t know any better might think none of them know a directive from a didgeridoo.

I will let you know if they ever offer any constructive insights into the EU. Mind you, I’ve been waiting two years.

Still, I’m going to listen so you don’t have to. Look out for future dispatches from the House of Comedy.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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