Kate Smurthwaite

Kate Smurthwaite

Kate Smurthwaite started performing as a comic in early 2004, and 18 months later quit day-job in finance to become a pro. She made her solo debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006 with the show Adrenaline.
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'Comedy's doomed because we all have to be woke'

Critic Kate Copstick slams increasing sensitivities

Comedy is sinking into a ‘quicksand’ of woke thinking, veteran reviewer Kate Copstick has argued.

The Scotsman’s chief comedy critic has made a Radio 4 show about the so-called ‘culture wars’, claiming comedians are under increasing pressure to censor themselves.

She said: ‘I fear a deepening quicksand of prescription in which the art and craft of comedy is arguably sinking.’

Of the increasingly sensitivities from the easily offended – the sort of person she called ‘a streak of woke that erects itself at the sound of a racial stereotype’ –  she said: ‘People apparently can’t get over themselves and just laugh.'

And she claims comedy has been subject to ‘weaponised offence’ to the detriment of the at. ‘Comedy’s doomed to a cotton-wool covered future covered in sugar and spice and all things nice, because we all have to be woke,’ she suggests.

Several comedians backed her in the programme, Taboo, which airs tonight.

Tanyalee Davis said the problem was ‘the victim mentality with the woke generation  is crippling society as a whole.

‘Our big message is – get over your shit. I’m just trying to have some fun here, why have we got to be so intense, so nitpicking about what comedians say these days? Just lighten the hell up.’

Desiree Burch added: ‘Shutting that comedian down isn’t going to change anything, it’s just going to make that comedian angry at progress.’

And wondering why comedians are held to a higher standard than politicians, she suggested it was because they were easier targets: ‘Everybody seems so disempowered in every other aspect of society the only people they can hold to account is comedians who are trying to make a buck.’

Comics were divided over the need for taboo. Transgender stand-up Jordan Gray said: ‘Put a wall up quick, don’t make me think about it, that’s all taboo is…’

But Scott Capurro: ‘If you take away the borders, the things you can and cannot say you are taking away some of my ammunition’

He added that causing ripples was part of his job. ‘Don’t go with the flow, go against it,’ he told Copstick. ‘That’s what’s funny. The more tension there is in the room, he funnier.’

Tim Renkow agreed, saying he saw his role as being ‘to push the audience a step further than they want to go’.

Kate Smurthwaite was invited to give an alternative view, and while she said ‘‘I don’t think offence is the right thing to decide what can and can’t go on stage’ – she pointed to research that ‘jokes influence people’s opinion more than facts, adding: ‘So yes, we should think about what our jokes actually do.’

• Taboo is on Radio 4 at 7.15pm tonight, then on BBC Sounds.

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Published: 11 Jul 2021


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