The BBC at work

Oh how we laughed

Jonathan Ross Jonathan Ross
It's three months since the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair; at the time we wrote this post. For those of you who have forgotten, (well you never know!) this was when Brand, usually described as a comedian, and Ross, who is a TV show presenter, phoned semi-retired actor Andrew Sachs so Brand could taunt him about his affair with his grand-daughter Georgina Bailey. Oh, you may say, not that again! Yes indeed, did you ever think it would go away? At the time the Mainstream Media divided into differing camps, one was very anti- Brand and Ross, the other more supportive. The anti B&R media was led by the Daily Mail who, much to the chagrin of many bright young things, showed an ability to push a campaign in the direction that suited them as cleverly as any global warming activist. The supporters of B&R were to be found mainly within the pages of the Guardian and the Independent. That newspapers normally given the liberal/left tag were doing this was to be expected, particularly the Guardian, as they employ Brand as a football correspondent (how very laddish!).
Russell Brand Russell Brand

These two characters are in many ways very different. Ross has been around for some years so is 'established', perhaps this worries him and he fears becoming establishment, this would be a bit of a problem and not align with the modern curse of 'yoof culture', that all broadcasters, not just the BBC, strive to claim as their own. I would suggest Ross is wasting his time, this has already happened, he is part of the liberal establishment. But his dress style and diction are wearing a bit thin, he could become trapped in a prison of his own making, barred by his advancing age from trying something different. And, while we are on the prison theme, money is the key to the lock, he is stuck where he is due to his vast income. So it's rather fitting that he is the victim of his greed, just unfortunate that the BBC, and that means the licence fee payer, foots the bill. As for his 'talents', well they, such as they are, will come under increasing pressure. All celebrities try to carve out a unique space for themselves, however, Ross will be compared with Michael Parkinson, just one example of the interviewer's art. If so, Ross Peter Cook Peter Cook might come off worse as Parkinson did not see the need to be flamboyant to an absurd level and behave in a childish way many years beneath his actual age.

Brand is a younger man and in trying to carve out a personal space has self harmed more than just himself. He is supposed to have 'edge', the attribute that everyone wishing to succeed in comedy must have these days. The joy here is that edge is hard to define so, rather like in Alice in Wonderland we have the line "all shall have prizes", in comedy all performers shall have edge; Brand is convinced he has it in spades. Others are not so sure but do not dare think aloud for fear of being 'branded', no pun intended, in some way. This could happen as pointed out in the original article on this subject

Dudley Moore Dudley Moore
Janet Street-Porter writing in the Independent was typical, as her support for Brand was pitched on the censorship/anti-liberal notion. This is rubbish. You may criticise a performer such as Brand and say he is not funny but still be against censorship; the two are not linked, though many of the Brand supporters implied this. In fact a vast number of people might think both Ross and Brand are simply dreadful comedians because they fail on the primary function, namely they are not funny. This is so fundamental that the spectacle of the BBC clinging to such performers as Ross is bizarre and it is this that is funny.

Many years ago I had a major problem with the kitchen of my house, at the time I lived just minutes from the local airport that had a choice of restaurants open 24 hours a day so, until the kitchen was fixed, eating out solved my problem. In those far off balmy days airports had public observation platforms on the roof of the tallest Tony Benn Tony Benn building, one evening after a meal I was one of two people observing. The other was an elderly gent with binoculars who rushed up to tell me his story. He was declared medically unfit for National Service in the RAF but spent all the hours he could watching the aircraft from this roof.

It was soon clear that his was not a normal interest in aviation, the RAF had correctly decided he was mentally unfit for service. Twinkly- eyed old soul he was and, although he did not know his engine from his aileron he knew of every disaster that had occurred, including the very small ones. His interest would not be satisfied until the world's largest aircraft landed upside down and burst into flames with total loss of life in front of this very roof. So I really do wonder about the thousands of people who rushed via Facebook to support Brand and the millions who viewed the return of Ross. They're entitled to go looking for disaster as much as anyone but let's all remember that this started out as entertainment, humour even. What is strange is that neither Ross or Brand
seem to be able to allude to disaster to satisfy their fans, it has to be the real thing. So low score on acting skills for them both. Brand harps on about how brilliant he is and that but for this fact he might, by the average person, be thought of as having a mental illness. Is that funny or what? And all with as much edge as a football.
Ed Stourton Ed Stourton

Humour comes without a guarantee. Years ago Peter Cook and Dudley Moore had a following equal to that of Ross and Brand. Then they made the Derek and Clive tapes. At the time these offerings were described as controversial, cutting edge, vulgar but brilliant etc. They were Cook and Moore swearing and fantasising with the former deliberately and cruelly aiming at and taunting the latter in a very tasteless manner. Time has moved on and they are now seen as awful! Take away the swearing and extreme vulgarity from Derek and Clive and nothing is left, as there was as good as no humour there in the first place, but many were fooled at the time.

Mark Thompson Mark Thompson As pointed out in this post the BBC is intrinsically funny but does not know it. The return of Ross, complete with a fresh controversy to dwarf his 'humour', was overtaken by events, as a day later the BBC gave us the Gaza Appeal sketch, who other than the BBC could turn this serious matter into a joke? There was to be an appeal for aid for the people of Gaza but, fearful of compromising its impartiality, the BBC cried off. The idea that the BBC should be worried about such a thing had many people heaving with laughter. But on the Saturday version of the Today programme that nice Ed Stourton interviewed Tony Benn on this very subject. Now posh Ed as we know is back and feeling his way along, and no doubt wonders: "what went wrong"? As indeed he might. Benn is also posh and has striven all his life not to be so, but failed. Likewise he has striven all his life to be taken seriously but this is the man that was completely taken in by Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G, so failed again. .

John Humphrys John Humphrys Like many of the upper class Benn sincerely thinks that rules apply to others but not himself so, despite the BBC management decision not to broadcast the Gaza appeal, gaga Benn read out the address to send money to and it would seem Stourton allowed him to do so. The jokers immediately said that this was as big a gaffe as the one that got Ross into trouble. So the only way around this was for Benn to be suspended for three months, the BBC could not really sack Stourton, they had already tried this and failed! Benn also used his Saturday morning opportunity to advertise his afternoon demonstration outside the BBC, later it was said only 2000 people attended. But the readers of the Independent and the Guardian mounted an email campaign directed at the BBC, this generated about 12000 emails. These numbers are interesting when we remember that 42000 people complained to the BBC about Ross and Brand.

The BBC like a spoilt child is only happy when it is the centre of attention so must have been pleased with the numerous headlines, especially in the Sunday papers that said "BBC under pressure over Gaza Appeal". Looking at the numbers above we can see that this pressure was not as great as the Ross and Brand incident but obviously more to their liking. So on the Monday morning edition of the Today programme there was only one thing to do, wheel out the big guns. It was Mark Thompson Director General of the BBC to be interviewed by John Humphrys, that would have the UK population either reaching for the off button or laughing out loud or maybe a bit of both. I have to admit I was caught napping here so I'm relying on a friend who I phoned later in the day who took notes. He said Thompson only managed to finish 25% of his replies to Humphry's questions without interruption. When I asked for detail about the questions my friend could remember hardly a thing, we had a laugh at that!
Ali G Ali G
I have to confess I've given up on the Today programme, I just can't see the point of verbal tennis at such an hour. My friend is made of sterner stuff and told me of an interview by Humphrys of David Cameron about a year ago. It seems Cameron saw it as fair for him to fight back and interrupted Humphrys mid question, "I'VE NOT FINISHED THE QUESTION" fumed Humphrys!

The Today programme is like that, you could sell the funnier moments from it on DVDs and give the money to charity.