They say that much of the right-wing backlash being observed in the political mainstream across the world stems from how overly PC society has become. And if that’s true, comedy may have a lot to answer for.
Long been a vessel for expressing risque observations of society comedy is the one element of life in which we can down our weapons in the name of a good giggle. But as far as Trainspotting actor Keith Allen is concerned, we’re at risk of losing it and the important function it plays – and it’s all down to one thing.
The BBC has been accused of stifling up-and-coming comedians amid a fear of upsetting viewers. Allen blasted the organisation for giving up on young talent and said a culture of ‘playing it safe’ has denied hundreds of comedy wannabes a chance to make the big time.
Allen, father to singer Lily and actor Alfie, who plays Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, said: “Most major TV networks have given up on satire.
“The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 now deal almost exclusively in comedy designed not to offend anyone, which is something entirely different from comedy.
“Moreover, they have fallen into the trap of only relying on established names who can be trusted to tow the party line, not giving chances to anyone ‘untamed’.”
Allen was speaking as he launched a new search for comedy talent around the UK to recruit for a new TV show to be broadcast in the UK on the Russia Today channel later this year.
The programme will be based on The Establishment Club, the legendary haven founded by master of satire Peter Cook.
Fronted by Allen, the club will take a Routemaster bus to five cities – Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.
The ex-punk rocker will be judging along with a panel of Establishment Club greats, including producer Victor Lewis-Smith of Associated-Rediffusion and Mike O’Brien of Laughing Stock Productions.
The best of the performances will go up on the Establishment Club website and the cream of the crop will feature on a television show about the club to be screened in the UK on the Russia Today channel later in the year.
Keith Allen added: “The comedy circuit is in desperate need of a cattleprod in the bollocks, and to then be slapped about a bit with a fetid badger cadaver, just to make sure it’s fully alert.
‘’The Establishment Club is taking to the road to search for exciting new talent to deliver the beating the British comedy scene, kinky bugger that it is, so desperately craves.
“We want fresh voices – angry, passionate, original, razor sharp. We want state of the nation stuff- whether it’s anecdote or poetry, performance or something else that doesn’t fit any of the boxes.
‘’We aren’t interested in a dissertation on social justice, and if it’s a diatribe about the media, it better be stroke-inducingly funny.
‘’We are on the lookout for vibrant, virile new acts.
‘’Anyone and everyone with something to say on the state of the nation is invited to give it their best, but what is likely to make you stand out is having a unique take, or a routine that isn’t just an offshoot of the tired old political commentary of the day.’’
The idea is a reboot of the original Establishment Club, founded on Greek Street in Soho by the legendary Peter Cook in 1961.
The old Establishment club was a hotbed of cutting edge comedy, and featured such razor-sharp names as Stephen Fry, Terry Alderton, and John Cooper Clarke.
The Club’s comedy talent hunt starts in Bristol on Wednesday 9th August then on to Brighton, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.
Victor Lewis-Smith said: “In recent years, mainstream broadcasters seem to have given up on investing in edgy and boundary-pushing satire.
‘’Satirical current affairs show News Thing makes Have I Got News For You look like Blue Peter, just without the coked-up presenters.’’
Starting in Bristol on August 9th at Anchor Square from 10am-4pm, the Establishment Club bus will then wind its way along the length of the country, stopping off in:
• 15th August- Brighton, Jubilee Library Square 9.30am-4pm
• 23rd August- Edinburgh, Castle Street 10.30am -4pm
• 30th August- Manchester, Exchange Square 10am-4pm
• 6th September –Newcastle, Grainger Street 10am-4pm
Those who are not able to make it to the bus are invited to submit their performances via the Establishment club website est.club – and join the conversation via the campaign hashtag #EstClubTour