Alternative Comedy and Politics: is there really No Alternative?
Gavin Schaffer’s article “Fighting Thatcher with Comedy: What to Do When There is No Alternative,” highlights that much of the alternative comedy coming out in the 1980s and 1990s in Britain presented itself as the “focal point of leftist opposition” to the Thatcher government. Being cautious not turn this post into a political opinion piece, I would argue that the austerity we have seen under the past 11 years of Conservative rule, and in particular leftist response to the government, is not too dissimilar to the diffracted British society under Thatcher. Having followed the British stand-up scene for many years, I would struggle to name any prominent comedians who identify as being right-wing or have done a set which supports a right-wing agenda. In fact, most comedy which errs on the side of politics tends to be vocally and often radically left wing. Channel Four’s The Last Leg (2012–) began as a special late night show during the London Paralympics, but has since become a home for regular outright criticism of the Conservative Government. Because two of the hosts, Alex Brooker and Adam Hills, are themselves physically disabled much of the critique of the Tories comes from the vantage point of a disabled person trying to access government aid – queue lots of jokes about ‘shit hands.’ In addition, many of their guests, often coming from the stand-up scene, are vocally critical of the government as well.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbbbJ32V9No – Miriam Margolyes on disability cuts
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn0AHXNt_tg – Miriam Margolyes and Richard Osmond on the 2019 election win
In the second clip, Osman makes a good point about the audience of The Last Leg, at around the 3:13 mark Osman says, “the people that are watching this are the furious ones, right, the ecstatic ones are not watching this, they’re in the pub, or maybe they’re queuing up in A&E going, “hold on a minute – I thought this was supposed to be the best health service in the world?”” This neatly links back to Schaffer’s point that comedy, even though it has very clear goals and intentions, is “inherently unreliable as a political weapon.” It is unlikely that supporters of the Tories will be watching The Last Leg on the eve of their election win, and less likely will their opinion be changed by what they see on screen.
For an example of what happens when you get a left-wing comic in front of a right-wing audience, check out Nish Kumar at a charity gig. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVuC6DRKQgA&t=329s
 Schaffer, Gavin. “Fighting Thatcher with Comedy: What to Do When There Is No Alternative.” Journal of British Studies 55, no. 2 (2016) p. 376
 Schaffer, “Fighting Thatcher with Comedy,” p.386