The best form of Offence…

A story came to my attention this week regarding a TV show and a comedian I rather like. The basics of the item were that Frankie Boyle had been disciplined by the BBC for a joke he made on the panel show Mock the Week. He said that Rebecca Adlington (of Olympic swimming fame) resembled “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon”. This lead to 75 complaints and precipitated a BBC Trust meeting that decreed the comments may have caused offence to the audience. Boyle has since discontinued his involvement with the show, but the story went on, covering Miss Adlington’s agent recently stating that they thought that he’d not been sufficiently punished and that the BBC had let him off lightly.offense_o_fence_sticker

I reacted in several ways to this article, and they were as follows:

+ I loled, finding the joke reasonably amusing and “it’s funny ‘cause it’s true”.

+ Well that’s a shame, I like that show and he’s the funniest comedian on it.

+ I’m not too keen on her any more. I thought she seemed quite nice, but if she can’t laugh at herself then she’s not as British as I supported her for being (let’s not forget she is from Mansfield after all).

+ What the hell is it coming to when a COMEDIAN can’t make a JOKE on what is quite obviously a COMEDY show.

I can’t believe that anyone could realistically think that regular viewers of Mock the Week don’t realise that some of the content may be a little cutting and would therefore be offended by it. Therefore my conclusion must be that this judgement was made as a horrible knee-jerk reaction to the personal involvement of a well known sporting personality, which is no way to run a public funded television station.

This does obviously raise larger questions about where you draw the lines in comedy and how they should be policed. There are some things we can broadly agree aren’t appropriate for people of certain ages, but that’s not what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about adults in the society we “of-age” inhabit.

Personally I’m a proponent of the Stan Marsh school of thought on this question, “Either everything’s alright or nothing is”.

You can’t start laying down rules, because everything risks offending someone somewhere in someway. Especially when it comes to comedy, as you’re laughing at something and that thing can easily be a person, a group of people or something people feel passionately about.

What exactly is the problem with causing offence anyway? A great number of things offend me. Pumping billions of pounds of tax payer money into the banking system, only to have them immediately start paying out bonuses again. The National Lottery being run by a profit making company, people actually voting for X-Factor contestants, oh, and Miss K Price being at all paid attention to by anyone ever.

However, I’m adult, so I take that offence and channel it into rants like this. I don’t start stamping my feet like a baby and tell them to stop, stop, stop. I simply take note that those people are probably idiots and move on with my life with that in mind.

It is a human right we all have to free speech, the problem I see is that few people realise that it comes with the responsibility to maturely manage any offence you might suffer as a result of someone else exercising that right.

I’ve been taking lessons from Messrs Spielberg and Lucas…

…on how to ruin a franchise. I did it in the first attempt. A good friend of mine put me onto XtraNormal, a site where you can create your own movies over the internets. His version is hilarious and it made me want to try it too.

I think I may be spending some time with this…

1914 to 1917.

Lending my support to Ado’s “Can it” campaign, behold as a laugh track very nearly ruins the greatest scene in British comedy history.

The thing about truley great British  situation comedy is that the situation around which the comedy is developed is so painfully tragic.  The example here is one of the best, though comedy from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s is full of it.

Blackadder goes forth was based in a trench during the great war, a situation which should not be funny, clever writing can make the situation funny, but great writing also never shies away from the true horror of the situation.  I think that the greatest line in comedy history is “We lived through it.  The great war, from 1914 to 1917.”  It’s the type of line which takes a moment’s pause to truly comprehend, I hope that if it was filmed infront of a live audience then they didn’t pause to realise the tragedy within this line, if the laugh track was added at a later date, then it was a huge production error which nearly robs the scene of its plausability as a valid comment on the futility and horror of war.

Can It!!!

It really makes sense, ‘cause that’s the name of my new campaign to try and get rid of canned laughter. [Laughter] You get it?? [Ado stares cheekily at the camera and pauses] [Laughter].

You see how annoying that was?? You do, don’t you?? Well if not, stop reading now and put one of your Everyone Loves Raymond DVDs on, cause this certainly isn’t the place you ought to be.

Ever since I started to develop my own taste in all things comedic, I’ve had this ever increasing pain in my head whenever I hear laughter over a TV show. Honestly, by this point it’s so raw I almost cringe when I hear it, especially over a lame line or something that’s just not a joke at all. Honestly, it’s like someone plunging a fork into my happy sack (not an innuendo), it drains all the joy out of me and I just want to turn off the TV.

I feel both insulted and enraged that the producer doesn’t assume I have the intelligence to laugh at the correct point in their show. Even shows that employ the “Live Studio Audience” device get on my nerves too… I mean has no-one heard of the Fourth Wall?? Is comedy somehow exempt?? Ok, in stand-up or panel shows I can accept this are forums that involve an audience’s presence, but not in a sitcom as it destorys the situation that I am led to believe the comedy is taking place in. Argh!!!

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and this rule is no exception…

Don't do it just cause they tell you to...
I said good day sir!!!

I still watch the likes of Alan Partridge, Blackadder, Red Dwarf and How I Met Your Mother (that’s in descending order :o) and love them to bits. I think this is because these are so exceptionally good that they completely overshadow the pain, like having a headache and then being shot in the knees, your attention is drawn away. However, I can’t help thinking how much better these shows would be without said humour response prompt. Much, much, much better I’d wager.

Realistically speaking (damn it) laughter tracks are needed, as some shows/actors are not funny and some people are idiotic enough that they need to be told when to laugh, therefore my proposal is thus:

I would like to be given the option to turn off the laughter track on, at the very least, any DVDs but, ideally, the actual broadcasts too.

DVD-wise, I feel this is perfectly possible with today’s technology and would be of minimal extra cost to any producer. The laugher track is added onto the soundtrack of a show in post production, so it could easily be treated like a commentary on a DVD.

Broadcast-wise, this may be a little more complicated, but would still entail very little cost at all. I have watched sports events where I was invited to press a button and change the commentary from regular TV, to Radio, to the ambient stadium sound, so why not this??

Is anyone with me on this, or am I out there on my own?? I really would like to know and, if this is something we’re interested in, I’ll start the angry mob process presently.