Stan Freberg on political correctness and censorship

April 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm (comedy, Free Speech, Jim D, RIP)

The death of Stan Freberg, at the age of 88, has been all but ignored this side of the pond. But there was a time (the 1950s and 60s) when as well as being a leading US comedian, he was also a familiar voice on BBC radio. His great spoof recordings were not intended as political satire, but one at least is as relevant – possibly more relevant – today than when he recorded it in 1957:

H/t Gene at That Place

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‘Jazz hands’, the NUS, and identity politics ad absurdum

March 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm (Beyond parody, comedy, post modernism, posted by JD, relativism, strange situations, students, surrealism, wankers)

I thought this was satire at first: specifically, an exercise in reductio ad absurdum directed against identity politics. But, depressingly, it isn’t. This is what lies behind the widely-ridiculed NUS Women’s Conference decision to replace conventional applause after speeches with so-called “jazz hands”:

From Gay Star News :

UK students’ union passes policy to stop white gay men acting like black women

Cross-dressing and drag is banned as delegates use jazz hands instead of applause

Do you find this offensive?

Photo via Will & Grace/NBC.

UK’s National Union of Students has passed a policy to stop gay men appropriating black female culture.Delegates at the Women’s Conference today, many of them self-identified feminists, have passed plenty of motions.Just one of them was ensuring everyone at the conference understood that some behaviors were damaging.On Twitter, they announced: ‘Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping as it’s triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!’

A later motion passed was 503: ‘Dear White Gay Men: Stop Approprirating [sic] Black Women’. Put forward by the NUS LGBT Committee, they believe the appropriation of black women by white gay men is prevalent within the LGBTI scene and community. ‘This may be manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to black women. White gay men may often assert that they are “strong black women” or have an “inner black woman”,’ they said.

‘White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege. ‘They claimed the appropriation is ‘unacceptable and must be addressed’. Passing the motion, they agreed to eradicate the appropriation of black women by white gay men and to raise awareness of the issue.

A second motion passed was the banning of cross-dressing or drag as it could be offensive to trans women: ‘To issue a statement condemning the use of crossdressing as a mode of fancy dress,’ they pledged.

‘To encourage unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use cross-dressing as a mode of fancy dress’.

This ruling was given an exclusion to queer students who want to use cross-dressing in their everyday lives as a mode of expression and to those who want to cross-play by flipping the gender of a fictional character in fancy dress.

A NUS spokeswoman told Gay Star News: ‘We’re a democratic society, and if members voted for it, these are our policies’.

Several have mocked the policies online, with the New Statesman calling into question the second motion for being ‘remarkably conservative’ for a group ‘otherwise so much at pains to stress the variety and fluidity of gender’.

Others on social media also questioned the first, saying inspiration for the slang like ‘shade’ and ‘spill the T’ was taken from the underground drag culture in the 70s and 80s, Paris is Burning and modern shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race.

***********************************************************************************************

More on this nonsense over at Comrade Coatesy’s, and a particularly interesting comment from someone with a genuine anxiety condition,  here.

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Stewart Lee on Top Gear

March 12, 2015 at 12:21 am (Anti-Racism, comedy, Jim D, Tory scum, TV)

The suspension of Cameron’s friend Jeremy Clarkson and the subsequent question-mark over the future of Top Gear (but, I fear money talks, and Clarkson and his show will return), at least gives me an excuse to show you this clip of Stewart Lee (in 2010 I’d guess) on the subject of Top Gear and its presenters. I think Lee’s very, very, funny, but not everyone agrees.

It lasts 14 minutes, and all I’d advise is if you decide to watch it, please watch all the way to the end:

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“There’s no real difference between Labour and the Tories…”

March 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm (class, comedy, film, history, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, Socialist Party)

David Osland writes:

There’s no real difference between Labour and the Tories. Apart from 25 hours free child care, £8 minimum wage, abolishing the bedroom tax and the NHS Act, a freeze on energy bills, a million new homes, a job guarantee for NEETs, £3000 reduction in tuition fees, the introduction of a national care service, reduced GP appointment and cancer test waiting times, thousands of extra nurses and doctors, mansion tax, a ban on MPs taking second jobs, an end to the Free School programme, bankers’ bonus tax and 50p top rate for the rich. But other than that, there’s no real difference between Labour and the Tories.

JD adds: Socialist Party members and (the few) others involved in the rather pathetic ‘T.U.S.C”, should take note.

And as someone in the pub after last Saturday’s Unite The Union United Left meeting (at which the SP/T.U.S.C received a well-deserved hammering), noted, listening to the SP on the subject of the Labour Party, you can’t help thinking of this:

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Oscars for the Most Barking Mad Left Comment of the year

February 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm (Andrew Coates, comedy, conspiract theories, cults, posted by JD, socialism, wankers)

We are proud to join with Tendance Coatesy in co-sponsoring this prestigious and coveted award:

The ‘Barking': Top Award for Mad Left Writing.

The Oscars tonight will be overshadowed by the new ceremonies for the ‘Most Barking Left Writing’ (Hat-Tip: Dave Osland).

The principal coveted trophy, (pictured), will be awarded this evening in the Spring Road Allotment Shed – former Telephone Box.

The past year has seen some strong contenders for the prize.

We have had John Tummon, of Left Unity, and his ‘Calpihate motion

To show solidarity with the people of the Middle  East by supporting the end of the  structure of the  divided nation states imposed by the Versailles  settlement and their replacement by a Caliphate type polity in which diversity and autonomy are protected and nurtured and the mass of people can effectively control executive authority’. Left Unity distances itself specifically from the use of intemperate, inaccurate and moralist language such as ‘terrorism’, ‘evil’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘viciously reactionary’, ‘murderous’, genocidal’, etc in discussion about the Middle East; these terms are deployed by people and forces seeking not to understand or analyse, but to demonise in order to dominate, and they have no place within socialist discourse.”

We have had Socialist Worker publishing Hassan Mahamdallie who compared the outsiders fighting for the genociders of the Islamic State (Da’esh) and the foreign  volunteers who backed Spanish democracy (“in the 1930s radicalised young men from the same mining communities illegally made their way into Spain to take up arms against general Franco’s fascist army”.

He added this sentence, “It has been disheartening to watch establishment Muslim leaders apologetically rushing out with condemnations. They have pointlessly distanced themselves from “John the Jihadi”—who is alleged to have killed Foley—and declared that Isis is “un-Islamic”.

The tonnes and tonnes of material written about the Ukraine has been ruled worthy of a special award – to follow.

The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, and the Hyper-Cacher, has brought a fine crop in.

Tariq Ali set the bar high by announcing after the attack (this is a version from the 28th of January),

How serious is Islamophobia in France and other European countries?

France is the worst in Europe and tries to mask it by proclaiming its secular values (sound familiar?), but these values don’t apply to Islam. In fact, French secularism means anything but Islam. And when satirical magazines taunt them, they react. It’s as simple as that.

Only yesterday he tried to keep in the running by saying (Guardian), of Charlie.

In the 80s it had become a stale magazine, and people have told me that one reason for attacking the Muslims and reprinting the Danish cartoons was to boost circulation.” He argues that Je suis Charlie stickers express something other than support for freedom of expression and condemnation of those who murdered in the name of Islam – a loathing for Muslims.

Note: Charlie Hebdo stopped publication from 1981 t0 1992 except for a special issue in 1982.

The Socialist Workers Party Central Committee gave Tariq his angle on the 8th of January,

Racists and right wingers are trying to use Wednesday’s horrific killings in Paris to divide working people, justify imperialist intervention and whip up Islamophobia.

Almost everyone will recognise that the attacks are wrong and completely unacceptable. We must not let them be exploited to generate racism, justify more wars, or to give a boost to the far right.

The media present Charlie Hebdo as simply a “satirical magazine”. But it is not the French equivalent of Private Eye as some commentators have suggested. It may have been once, but it has become a specialist in presenting provocative and racist attacks on Islam. That does not justify the killings, but it is essential background.

Let’s unite against racism and Islamophobia.

The ever-reliable John Wight on Socialist Unity said this (8th January)  as the dead still lay unburied,

The free speech ‘merchants’, those who were so up in arms over matters related to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, who use free speech as a sword rather than a shield, would like nothing more than to silence one of the only voices in the country’s national life who dares challenge the demonisation of Muslims and the Muslim community, establishment support for the apartheid state of Israel, and a political status of quo of military intervention overseas and social and economic injustice at home.

But it’s the Economic & Philosophic Science Review that stands out,

Fake-”left” line-up once more with imperialism to “condemn terror” over the Paris attacks, proving even further their craven capitulation to the warmongering demonisation being used to whip up World War Three. Attacking the Islamists as “reactionary” is opportunist sophistry, as is writing them off as “isolated individual terrorists” . Such pretend “Marxism” is just a cover for petty bourgeois moralising and “free speech and democracy” reformist humbug that solves nothing but helps feed the “kill them all” fascist revenge mentality stirred up by capitalist cynicism.

Further afield Ramzay Baroud‘s efforts post-Charlie in the Morning Star to pin the blame for hatred of Muslims and the crimes of Imperialism on the New Atheists merits an honourable mention.

Socialist Fight, Gerry Downing and Graham Durham of the Crickelwood People’s Republic (twinned with the Donbass),  is outstanding.

Ian Donovan is also one to to watch, “in his opinion, there is a Jewish “pan-national bourgeoisie”, which has constituted itself as ruling class “vanguard” in key imperialist countries, and it is this that accounts for US support for Israel.” (Weekly Worker).

Donovan’s recommendation, Support George Galloway MP for Bradford West, is surely in line with these views

The Weekly Worker’s Letter Page has rich crop notably this which is clearly the front runner:

Sounds absurd?

Phil Kent has accused me of holding positions I never held in relation to Stalin, the issue of peak oil and reptilians (Letters, January 15). He also claims I am an elitist, because I believe in leadership.

Firstly, I never argued that Stalin’s victims “deserved to die” – I challenge Kent to prove otherwise. In passing, it’s interesting to note that following the demise of the Soviet Union, when Boris Yeltsin released the figures for individuals in Soviet prisons, these were lower than the USA. The capitalist media went silent.

Secondly, I never argued that rising oil prices would “soon” mean the end of capitalism. What I argued is that rising oil prices in the period of declining oil production, following the global peak, would lead to the collapse of capitalism, if no viable substitute for cheap oil was found. World oil production goes through three stages: rising production, peak and decline. We are still at the peak stage, when oil supply is at its maximum.

Thirdly, I never claimed that the future of humanity “may rest on the beneficence of extra-terrestrial reptiles”. I replied to Andrew Northall’s letter of December 18 and referred to the reptilian control theory, which argues that for thousands of years humanity has been controlled by a reptilian race, using their mixed reptile-human genetic bloodlines, who have oppressed and exploited humans, while claiming descent from the ‘gods’ and the divine right to rule by bloodline. Ancient and modern society is obsessed with reptilian, serpent and dragon themes, possibly due to this heritage. Even the flag of Wales has a dragon on it.

Most people have closed minds, depending on the issues. Mention the possibility of aliens secretly manipulating humanity behind the scenes and the shutters come down. Perhaps Kent should contemplate Einstein’s words: “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, there is no hope for it.

Tony Clark Weekly Worker.

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Fraternity with Charlie Hebdo

January 7, 2015 at 12:51 pm (Civil liberties, comedy, Rosie B) ()

We the people declare our inalienable right to take the piss.

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To no person will we deny the right to cock snooks at, give the finger to, take the mickey out of.

FRANCE-ISLAM-RELIGION-WEEKLY

Fraternity with Charlie Hebdo.
schama2

(Crying as I post this.)

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Hancock revisited

November 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm (BBC, comedy, Jim D, Sheer joy, wireless)

Image for The Missing Hancocks

Above: Hancock (left); McNally (right)

Above: the TV version

Radio 4’s  The Missing Hancocks which commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of  Hancock’s Half Hour, is a treat for listeners of my generation, who can just about remember the originals. For those who don’t know, the radio show ran for 103 episodes between 1954 and 1959 on the Light Programme and at its height was a national institution. The TV version ran from 1956 to 1961. Twenty of the radio shows have been “lost” (actually, wiped by the BBC in order to re-use the tapes) but the original scripts by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were rediscovered by the actor Neil Pearson and five (chosen by Galton and Simpson themselves) have now been re-recorded in front of a live audience at the BBC Radio Theatre.

It’s become something of a cliché to describe Hancock’s Half Hour as the first modern sitcom, but that description is probably deserved: it was certainly the first British comedy show to revolve around the characters and to dispense with catch-phrases, set-piece sketches and variety acts. And, on the whole, the shows still work today, largely thanks to Galton and Simpson’s brilliant scripts in which Charles Dickens meets Harold Pinter.

The recreations are superb and Kevin McNally does more than simply impersonate Hancock’s intonation and phrasing – he manages to convey all the pent-up frustration, self-righteousness and delusions of grandeur that constituted the Hancock persona. The rest of the cast are nearly as good, though the chap who plays Sid James doesn’t have quite the right voice.

In my humble opinion, this stuff stands up far better than most supposedly “classic” comedy, including shows of twenty or thirty years later, like the grossly over-rated Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the abysmal Only Fools And Horses, the enduring popularity of which remains the source of complete bewilderment to me.

Of course, it’s difficult to listen to these recreations without remembering the real-life Hancock’s sad decline and tragic end. And the scripts make a fascinating comparison with the show Galton and Simpson went on to write after Hancock effectively sacked them – Steptoe And Son.

This isn’t just nostalgia or show-biz archaeology – it’s genuinely “classic” comedy that still works.

The series began last week with The Matadore and continues this week with The Newspaper  

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Nationalist Banality

August 20, 2014 at 6:34 am (comedy, history, Rosie B, scotland, theatre)

Well, I have had one of the worst evenings of my life in the theatre. It’s the Edinburgh Festival, and of course that is to be expected, but a bad night there is usually stumbling into a hopeful group of students doing the Medea on roller skates in a church hall performing to an audience of four. It is not going to the splendid Festival Theatre to see a play that has received pages of press coverage and is sold out.

This was James III: The True Mirror, the third part of a trilogy about the early Stewarts. James was a useless king who irritated his nobles by promoting favourites and neglecting business and was eventually killed- i.e. he was a little like Richard II and Edward II, and though you can’t expect any dramatist to use language like Shakespeare or Marlowe, you would think they could learn a bit about structure and tension and narrative drive. But instead of, say, alternating scenes of a frivolous king with the powerful plotters against him,, there were endless going-nowhere soap opera domesticities of him talking to his wife the Danish Queen Margaret (played by Sofie Gråbøl from The Killing, who made her likable) fighting over custody of the children, a whole meandering pointless mass of boneless characters, sweiry words and button pushing jokes  that got knowing laughs – eg – James to his missus – “all I got with you was Orkney and Shetland”. James III was presented as an anarchic guy pissing round, like Russell Brand and the play was as intellectually light-weight. 

The staging of a high wall with a tier of benches for the meetings of the Three Estates was rather grand and looked promising. Then it began. A red-haired laundry maid tells a bloke that she’s heard James the King is gorgeous. Then discovers she is in fact speaking to James. Squeaks from the maid, and his wife tells James that he’s been doing his man of the people act again. This was the first ten minutes, with dialogue so self-conscious, slack and banal I wanted to leave at that point. At the interval my friends and I discovered that we were all having a bad time, and what the hell was everyone laughing about? But we hung on to the end, and that’s when we got to the worst part of all – cringe-making, boag-inducing awful – a final speech from Queen Margaret who has become regent and tells the Scots lords (who rhubarb aye, aye) that she is a rational Dane from a rational country and they are heaps of manure, but aren’t they a lovable lot, and Scotland could be a nation again, and never fear for the future – in short a party political broadcast for the Yes side of the referendum. Oh how the audience loved it- tell us we are rogues with a bad attitude but lovable and we’ll lap this like Irn Bru.

James_3_poster_notitleV2

There are other shows dealing with this matter of Scotland, all pro-independence, which is to be expected as Yesses are full of vision and enthusiasm and poetry, while Noes are grumpy. I did stumble on a comedian, Erich McElroy The British Referendum. He’s an engaging American guy, a naturalised Brit, who is evidently put out and a little puzzled that his newly adopted country could lose one third of its land mass. With some easy laughs comparing British talking head politicking and American raw gun-shooting advertisements, he did get a few digs in the referendum’s vitriol, with pictures of what a nationalistic country looks like (ie an American flag-lined street). And facetiously warned Scotland that the USA could have interesting designs on an oil-rich country with no defences. There were a few Noes in the small audience, relieved that someone was speaking to them.

 

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Robin Williams: good guy

August 12, 2014 at 5:32 pm (cinema, comedy, good people, Jim D, RIP, solidarity, theatre, tragedy, TV, unions)

The late Robin Williams was, by all accounts, a good guy. He was certainly on our side:

Robin Williams.
H/t: Pete Gillard (via Facebook)

Very good obit in the New York Times, here

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Operation Yewtree and popular comedy

July 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm (comedy)

Guest post by Robin Carmody

One of the most important aspects of the Yewtree reckoning is this:- during the 2000s decade, a whole style of humour which peaked during the 1970s and had been deprecated as sexist was rehabilitated and sold to a new generation by a questionable set of “refreshingly politically incorrect” (their words, not mine) comedians and comedy writers/performers. A certain set of people could barely control their relief and joy at it. Yewtree denialists on anorak forums almost always revered Lucas & Walliams, Jimmy Carr et al for “bringing back proper comedy and pissing off those Leftie do-gooders”.

It is the main reason for the recent upsurge of blatant, casual, unthinking sexism in universities and colleges. For most of its audience, its supposed inverted commas no more existed than they would have done for most of the Benny Hill or ‘On the Buses’ audience the first time round. But even beyond that, Yewtree must surely mark the end of it, because it makes the original 1970s stuff seem nastier and creepier than ever and thoroughly justifies everything that was felt about it on the broad Left of British humour during the 1980s. It’s as if several key figures of 1960s/70s rock music had been found out just after Britpop, only a lot worse.

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