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Cult British TV comedyFrom Reeves and Mortimer to Psychoville$
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Leon Hunt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719083778

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719083778.001.0001

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Near the knuckle? It nearly took my arm off! British comedy and the ‘new offensiveness’

Near the knuckle? It nearly took my arm off! British comedy and the ‘new offensiveness’

(p.201) 8 Near the knuckle? It nearly took my arm off! British comedy and the ‘new offensiveness’
Cult British TV comedy

Leon Hunt

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines the politics of ‘offensive’ comedy in two different contexts - the media response to Chris Morris’ Brass Eye (particularly its paedophile-themed Special) and the aftermath of ‘Sachsgate’, including the debates surrounding what journalist Brian Logan called a ‘new offensiveness’ in which ‘all the bigotries and the misogyny you thought had been banished forever from mainstream entertainment have made a startling comeback.’ It argues that there needs to be a critical position that avoids both Daily Mail-style outrage and the unreflexive assumption that ‘edgy’ comedy is by definition subversive, particularly during a period which seemed to invite a taking of sides. It looks at the new sensitivity created by ‘Sachsgate’, with particular reference to some of the controversial jokes told by Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle during this period. Given that some of these jokes, far from being subversive, ‘kicked down’, it asks: what is the difference between an ‘offensive’ comedy that can be recuperated as edgy or challenging and the kind of humour that is dismissed as simply reactionary and lowest common denominator?

Keywords:   offensive comedy, ‘Sachsgate’, Frankie Boyle, Brass Eye

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