Clarkson has taught us one thing: Right-wingers aren't funny

So argues Chris Hallam

Where has the right wing sense of humour gone? This might seem like an odd question. Conservative poster boy Jeremy Clarkson has, after all, just unleashed one of his well publicised and controversial comic remarks.

Most of the complaints about Clarkson’s appearance on The One Show in which he declared that he would have strikers shot ‘I would take them all outside and have them executed in front of their familie’) have come from the Left after all. Surely they’re the ones who have lost their sense of humour? Can’t they take a joke?

Clarkson isn’t the only TV personality to get in trouble over risqué jokes recently. Comics such as David Walliams, Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr and particularly Frankie Boyle have all come under attack for their ‘edgy’ material.

Clarkson isn’t specifically a comedian, of course. After criticism from the Prime Minister (actually a friend) and outright condemnation from the Ed Miliband, Clarkson has apologised. Despite this, he still has many defenders in the press.

James Delingpole in the Daily Telegraph in a piece entitled ‘Jeremy Clarkson’s critics should be taken out and shot’ labeled the 21,000 or so people who reportedly complained to the BBC about Clarkson’s remarks ‘morons’ and emphasised Clarkson didn’t mean what he said.

Chris Moncrieff writing in the Daily Mail welcomed Clarkson’s remarks ‘as a great gust of fresh air blowing through the fetid atmosphere of the politically correct’. It’s hard to imagine them providing the same valiant defence for Frankie Boyle.

Politically, Clarkson has never been hugely sophisticated. As anyone who has ever seen him on BBC Question Time or facing environmentalist Jonathon Porritt on his now defunct show Clarkson knows, the Top Gear star flounders when involved in a genuine political debate.

The main focus of his 2009 criticism of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown (not a leader, most of us would agree, without flaws) was that Brown was a) Scottish and b) had been blinded in one eye. Some might find Clarkson’s recent attempt to align himself with the common man when talking about strikers on The One Show somewhat bizarre too.

‘I mean how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?’ Millionaire Clarkson, friend of David Cameron clearly regards himself as one of the ‘rest of us,’ one of the downtrodden masses.

Another problem is that Clarkson (when discussing politics at least) is rarely very funny. Even ignoring the ethics of talking about executing people in front of their families on a show watched by many children as a publicity generating device, on paper Clarkson’s remarks just look bigoted, not funny at all.

The dearth of a sense of humour on the right is, of course, nothing new. Boris Johnson manages calculated buffoonery and entertaining feats of vocabulary very well but lacks real wit. Louise Mensch MP is sharp rather than out and out funny. Ian Hislop is the only genuine conservative political satirist in town.

But now more than ever, the comedy world is overwhelmingly dominated by the left. The attacks on political correctness have done nothing to diminish this.

Perhaps conservatives are fatally inhibited by their enduring respect for the traditions such as the monarchy and government. Perhaps they have never recovered from the fact that most people no longer find jokes about ethnic minorities and gays acceptable.

Whatever the reason is, the fact remains: right wing people just aren’t very funny.

Published: 2 Dec 2011

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