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Society: Comedic Criminals: HA HA HA(VE) We Become Too Sensitive?

The Battle Between ‘Right Wing’ Comedy and its Liberal ‘Snowflake’ Spectatorship.

The Liberal and Right-Wing Battle/Narrative.

Journalist George Monbiot poses the concept that ‘it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful narratives.’[1]Whilst Monibot’s sentiment is very much true in the sense that a powerful narrative can influence the societal perception of certain issues, it should also be understood that within the realms of comedy both politics, public sensitivity and narrative are strong elements that feed the battle between Right-wing comedy and Left-wing spectators.

Specifically their dispute on where the comedic line between edgy humour and offensiveness sits, all sparked by the recent prominence of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and other Civil Rights Movements. It is these precious and tenacious issues that were the catalyst for a contemporary moment that enabled society to reflect upon offensive comedy and its history.

Alternatively, it must be noted that it is easy to push forward the narrative that offensive comedy is the antagonistic Villain, designed to provoke heroic liberals and their attempts to rid the world of offensive comedy and injustices.

The plot thickens when attributes such as the basic human right to the freedom of speech and the notion of Cancel Culture and political correctness are attributed to such debates. This subsequently stimulates discussions surrounding who truly is the Hero and Villain, does offensive comedy and the role of the transgressed spectator instead fulfil the roles of the antihero?

How does the narrative structure of such ongoing issues truly play out? Can these questions be answered? This shall be revealed.

Society: 2020 Vision: Trying to Make it Clear-Who are the Heroes and Who are the Villains?

2020 was the year of much, demonising, defending and discussion surrounding many a British comic which ultimately ensued much speculation in who was at fault in producing offensive content. Is it Right-wing comedy that produces and propagates prejudices?

Or is it the Left-wing ‘snowflakes’ `(a ‘derogatory term for someone deemed too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own.’[2])  Who negate the right to freedom of speech and seem to banish any sense of comedy due to that of their own sensitive sensibilities? Before such a classic Hero Versus Villain, narrative is discussed it is imperative to firstly gain an understanding of where such ‘us versus them’  plot first sprouted.


Television Producer John Yorke details how such classic narratives are first formed. ‘In the first act of any story, a character is presented with a particular flaw or need. An inciting incident occurs towards, or at, the end of that first act, and the protagonist ‘falls down a rabbit hole’.[3]

Yorke’s concept seamlessly emulates the narrative that occurs when public perception deems comedy to transmit discrimination and oppose social norms.

A contemporary example that mimics such a concept is the way that the once thought iconic British comedy duo David Walliams and Matt Lucas, who,  not only fell ‘down a rabbit hole’ but were very much forcibly pushed into it. This was by the British public and societies rapidly changing consensus towards ‘offensive’ comedy in terms of the formerly much adored and cult-followed television comedy, Little Britain [4](2003).

 Political Correctness: ‘Oh My God I So Can’t Believe You Just Said That!’

Comedy ‘heroes’ [5] and creators of Little Britain (Walliams and Lucas) used Little Britain to narrate upon the fascinations and stereotypes of British society whilst also observing and consequently, mocking the nations differing communities.

However, in a twist of irony Walliams and Lucas’s renowned Little Britain character ‘Vicky Pollard’  and her catchphrase ‘Oh my God I can’t believe you just said that![6]’ mimicked much of society’s attitudes regarding ‘offensive’ comedy within 2020.

Whilst, in the early 2000s insult comedy and observational comedy, was accepted genres of comedy. Public opinion changed within 2017 and even more so in 2020 for this was the year which the show was labelled as homophobic, transphobic, and racist, with ‘no place in 2020.’ [7]

Thus, Little Britain is key in denoting how comedy will inevitably always age and outgrow the political context of its time. This is due to how Right-Wing spectators deem public opinion to be ‘political correctness gone mad’[8] and Left-wing viewers would believe it to be about time.

For instance, Walliams and Lucas have recently been held accountable for their long-time watering of racism and its systemic roots that have been planted throughout much of history. Although considered to be wilted in the past, if we unearth Little Britain sketch shows such as Ting Tong Arrives[9], Breakfast[10]  and Cake[11] we see a clear ‘comedic’ pattern that features characters who impose on cultural appropriation.

For example, Blackface (‘the act of one stereotyping black people through its appearance and character traits.’[12]) and specifically within Cake puts forth the ‘punch-line that the mention of any ethnicity other than White British or oppressed groups such as the LGBTQ+ community is sickening, all extremely Right-Wing ideologies.

Whilst Walliams, in an  interview with The Times Newspaper (2005), defended the use of ‘offensive’ characters: ‘You’re laughing with them […] We don’t stereotype […] We celebrate difference.’ [13]Much of the population collectively shared Walliams defence and proceed to share opinions online.

Shane O’ Sullivan tweets: ‘Little Britain…has been pulled from Netflix UK because some characters are deemed too offensive completely missing the point of the show.[14]’ Twitter user FPL Forest also concurs, writing: ‘We’ll forever be remembered as the snowflake generation.’[15]

Though, the ‘snowflake generation’ snapped back, with Twitter user Remy responding with ‘Actually, I was disgusted as a child, as much as I am now but didn’t feel empowered to make a stance…what are you suggesting? Bring back G*llywogs?’[16] Hence, it seems the ‘snowflake generation cannot excuse Walliams and Lucas for the way that they obscured abhorrent biases through that of ‘comedy’ and do not believe that the clichéd ‘it was a different time’ is argument enough.

This is not just the consensus of Left-wing spectators but also of academic Michael Billig. Billig poses the thought that such comedy ‘cannot be justified as ‘just a joke’…racist hate comes with ideological, historical and emotional baggage.’[17] A concept that those who oppose the ‘snowflake’ point of view simply do not understand or do not care to.

Whilst in 2020 there seemed to be a colossal shift and ‘snowflake’/Left-Wing thinking was prominent within the media and amongst the public, it seems the identification of      Villain and Hero roles is not so straightforward with ever-changing public consensus and opposing views which refuse to meet in the middle.

However, this is not to say Heroes and Villains cannot be distinguished, as Left-wing spectators will believe that Right-wing comedy deserves censorship for its harmful effects. Conversely, Right-wing thinkers will inevitably always perceive Left-wing spectators as villainous in the ways they wish to ‘cancel’ ‘harmless’ comedy. How do both parties plan to win such a ‘battle’? They try to ‘cancel’ each other of course.

Calling Out ‘Cancel Culture.’

‘A mistake is made, a word is spoken out of turn, a cultural norm is broken, and all is fair in the pursuit of cancelling this person, erasing them off the face of the earth, banishing them to a world of shame and regret.’[18]  Whilst at first glance this outline seems to be a rather hyperbolic portrayal of ‘Cancel Culture’, past comics do not stray too far from Taryam’s definition.

Take the contemporary ‘cancellation’ of YouTube veteran and comedy creator who, since early June 2020 and till now, (the current date of writing (19th April 2021) has been banished from, and withdrawn from, the internet due to his previous displays of Blackface, anti-Semitic, racist and crude joke-telling.

The effects of which forced Dawson into making a tearful apology video and led YouTube to demonetise Dawson’s content. This is just a small insight into the way ‘Cancel Culture’ can impact the lives of current comedians.

Though it would appear that the ‘comedy’ of Dawson is inherently wrong it still sparked debates between fans of Right-wing comedy and Left-wing spectators and whether Cancel Culture is a force of good or evil.

Some members of the public demonise ‘Cancel Culture’ and declare it to not only cancel people but the entire purpose of comedy.

In an article dedicated to defending Dawson, a spectator writes, ‘Dawson shouldn’t be  cancelled …Despite all of the horrible, offensive things he’s done in his past, his actions—as well as his content as of late—demonstrates a person who is committed to change, and who ultimately wants to bring people together instead of tearing them apart.’[19]

Thus reinforcing the idea that though ‘Cancel Culture’ exists to ensure oppressed groups are not penalised and inclusivity is met. Cancel Culture subsequently works to also exclude members of society like comedians who have made questionable jokes.

However, these ‘jokes’ are no longer seen as ‘jokes’ and many believe that ‘Cancel Culture’ does not rebuke someone for an ill-told joke but instead improves comedy by combatting sexism, racism, homophobia, and other types of discrimination. It holds people accountable for their actions in ways that weren’t possible in the past.

 Conversely, the impact of ‘Cancel Culture’ can be disputed for it must be noted that if ‘Cancel Culture’ was so successful in its aims in ridding the world of its injustices, how can we explain the celebration of Blackface within the early 2000s after such comedic ‘gags’ and been vigorously reprimanded and proven to be politically incorrect forty years prior.

It appears ‘Cancel Culture’ does not hold any power in helping one political party or style of comedy dominate the other, with both parties facing ‘cancellations’ and neither seeming to ‘win.’

Freedom of Speech: Demanding Stand-up Comics Sit Down When We Don’t Agree.

‘Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.’[20] These are the words of late Prime Minister Winston Churchill and also the words that Piers Morgan Tweeted out, landing already controversial public figure Morgan in hot water.

One Twitter user responded  ‘Freedom of speech is fine; I would agree with you on that. But there is freedom of speech and then there is a way in which we use that freedom of speech.’[21] It is this response that showcases that the ‘line’,  (as previously mentioned) blurred.

It is also Morgan who, in 2017, used his platform of Good Morning Britain and the segment: ‘Do We Need to Censor Humour? [22] to highlight the ways that the British comedy scene favours Left-wing comedy/comedians and in turn created much exclusiveness, an element which PC comedians campaign to avoid.

This is still an ongoing conflict within the year 2021 and as Carl Jung denotes ‘A conflict requires a real solution and necessitates a third thing in which the opposites can unite.’ [23] Meaning, only a solution can provide the Left-wing and Right-wing parties with the possibility of seeing eye to eye or at least understand the perspective of the other. This begs the question, is there a solution?

Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC believed there was and felt the solution lay in tackling perceived “left-wing bias” in the corporation’s comedy subdivision. Tory MP Ben Bradley expressed to the Newspaper:  “In recent years lots of BBC comedy shows are just constant left-wing rants about the Tories and Brexit. If the BBC is to truly represent all license-fee payers, that needs to change.”[24]

And Right-wing comedian Leo Kearse (heard of him? No? That’s the problem) furthers this notion by accusing BBC commissioners of being ‘paranoid about what the ‘cretins’ on Twitter…and Nish Kumar gets another gig instead.’[25] Hence, it is thought that the sense of Left-wing bombardment is what fuels such Right-wing anger and therefore robs Right-wing humour/comedians of their freedom of speech.

Davie, therefore, strived to reinforce political balance amongst BBC panel shows, enabling a fair equilibrium of freedom of speech between both parties.

This ‘solution’ though has its own problems because, despite the BBC’s attempts in enabling free speech by wishing to promote Right-wing speech we, in turn, neglect the reality that Left-wing comedy also faces much shunning of their views.

Previously mentioned Left-wing comedian Nish Kumar, the poster child of Left-Wing comedy, faced furious backlash in response to his anti-Brexit speech performed at London Grosvenor House, a charity event. Video footage of the event showcased Kumar being interrupted by hecklers, one undistinguished voice shouted, ‘don’t do politics.’

This was then followed by (in rather ‘tory’ fashion) a member of the audience pelting Kumar with a bread roll. Kumar then declared, ‘I did think it would be nice to come here and talk to some people who had a different political outlook to me, and I thought it’d be interesting for me to share my perspective but clearly that’s not been the case.’[26]

This signifies that regardless of your views or BBC ‘favouritism’ you can face silencing which imposes on one’s freedom of speech. Yet, the complexities of freedom of speech are furthered by Kumar’s acknowledgement of the audience’s right to boo. Whilst yes, as a consequence Kumar was silenced, the audience is still entitled to express their opinions.

Therefore like most gripping stories, such ‘solutions’ are met with varying obstacles. With both parties and audiences being entitled to freedom of speech, both facing backlash and the reality that there is a lack of Right-wing representation within mainstream media alludes to the fact that peoples freedom of speech will unavoidably be questioned, denied, and used to excuse the ongoing battle between Right-wing and Left-wing comedy and their spectatorships

These Discussions on Comedy Have Been No Laughing Matter.

‘Laughter is the best medicine’, although sometimes it’s hard to swallow and tastes like Calpol (the gross sugar-free orange flavour to be exact.) A conception derivative of having to pull apart the intricacies surrounding politics and comedy.

Though despite its tedious nature it is important to narrate; for the course of comedy is forever changing and to even begin to keep up with such fluctuating circumstances we must understand the contemporary moment. On the contrary, it is through close examination of political correctness, ‘Cancel Culture’, and the complexities regarding freedom of speech that help in understanding the reasoning behind the prolonged and intense battle between Right-wing comedy and Left-wing spectatorship.

For, nobody seems to ever win. Comedy is subjective and hardcore devotees of Right-wing humour will always defend dark humour, Left-wing spectators will contrastingly disagree, there is no shift. Likewise,  in terms of ‘Cancel Culture,’ both parties consistently enter a battle of cancelling each other, one never winning due to such intense disagreement.

Finally, freedom of speech condones equality, hence  Right-wing comedy should be able to exist freely, and Left-wing spectators should equally be able to convey uproar at its existence. Both Right-wing comedy and Left-wing spectators, therefore, accumulate the roles of Hero and Villain due to the personal belief systems of each member of the public.

As narrative studies have progressed roles such as the antihero emerge. The antihero refers to the ‘disillusionment with and alienation or withdrawal from societal problems; opposition to or rebellion against those problems.’[27] This encapsulates the modern-day role of both politics and comedy and furthers the inability to distinguish between a clear-cut Hero and a Villain.

[1]“The Guardian”, How Do We Get Out of This Mess? George Monbiot, Accessed: February 18, 2020.

[2] Iryna Alyeksyeyeva, Defining snowflake in British post-Brexit and US post-election public discourse. The University of Kyiv, Volume 39, Issue 143, 2017: 24.

[3] John Yorke, Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them, Penguin Books LTD, 3rd April 2014: 24.

[4] Little Britain, BBC One Television, BBC Three Television, 9 February 2003.

[5] Bath Festivals, “MY HERO: DAVID WALLIAMS, Accessed: March 12,  2021.

[6] “Biggest House of Cards” Little Britain. Little Britain Productions. BBC. 9, February 2003.

[7]“Glamour”, Finally Little Britain has been pulled from iPlayer and Netflix because it has no place in 2020, Accessed April 17, 2021.

[8] The Versed, Is TV And Film Just Being Inclusive, Or Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?  Accessed: March, 3, 2021.

[9] Ting Tong Arrives, Series 3, Episode 1, Little Britain, BBC, 2005

[10] Breakfast, Series 3, Episode 1, Little Britain, BBC, 2005

[11] Cake, Series 2, Episode 2, Little Britain, BBC, 2004

[12] Sébastien Chauvin, Timo Koren, and Yannick Coenders, Never Having Been Racist: Explaining the Blackness of Blackface in the Netherlands. Article in Public Culture, September 2018: 510.

[13] Mick Hume, ‘Is Little Britain the slightest bit funny? The clear answer is ‘Nobutnobutno’, Times Online, Notebook, (2005)  3

[14] Shane O’ Sullivan (@shaneillustrate) “Little Britain…has been pulled from NetflixUK because some characters are deemed too offensive completely missing the point of the show.” Twitter, 10 June 2020, 2;20 am.

[15] FPL Forest (@NFFC_FPL) “We’ll forever be remembered as the snowflake generation.” Twitter. 5th June 2020 1:07 pm.

[16] Remy @RemyG_90. “I was disgusted as a child, as much as I am now but didn’t feel empowered to make a stance…what are you suggesting? Bring back G*llywogs? 5th June 2020. 2:36 pm.

[17] Michael Billig, The Humour and Hatred: The racist jokes of the Ku Klux Klan, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, (2001). 275.

[18] Aysha Taryam, “Cancel culture, an obstacle on the road to redemption”, accessed April 9, 2021,

[19]Atlas, Why We Shouldn’t #Cancel Shane Dawson Accessed: April 7, 2021

[20] Richard M. Langworth, Churchill by Himself: In His Own Words. RosettaBooks. 24th May 2011.


[22] Good Morning Britain. Do We Need to Censor Humour? December 17th, 2018. Accessed: 18th April 2021.

[23] Carl Jung, The Conjunction, Mysterium Conjunctions,  R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (H. Read et al., Eds.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1955-56) 14

[24] Chortle, New BBC Boss targets ‘left-wing’ comedy shows. Accessed: 19th March 2020.

[25]The Sun, Leo Kearse Right-wing comedians like me can’t get a look-in at the ultra-woke BBC-it’s time they supported diversity of opinion, Accessed: 19th March 2020.

[26]News Addict, Left-wing, anti-Brexit, Nish Kumar booed off stage- Glorious! December 3, 2019, Accessed: 19, April 2020.

[27] Carlos Rey Perez, Hero and Antihero: An Ethic and Aesthetic Reflection of the Sports. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. 50