I had reason to look at a YouTube compilation of what passed for comedy when I was growing up, in the Seventies. I was shocked at how poor it was; I actually saw very little of it. One reason for this was that we had only one TV in the house and my parents controlled the channel selector switch, there was no catch-up technology. Some of what we watched, and more importantly didn’t watch may have been based on their cultural aspirations; certainly we never had “The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club” on in our house, or in any house in the street; I grew up in, in Ruislip, not a hot house of working class or socialist culture.

In my case, the middle-class miasma was one of both aspiration and latterly i.e. while I was growing up of my parents achievement but there was always the immigrant community anchor to the Union movement.

Some of, was very funny, particularly Monty Python, Dave Allen and Butterflies while I remember with some fondness both “The good life” and “Fawlty Towers”, but most of it was shite!

There was also a series of shows which had the effect of patronising, demonising and bowlderising the working class and its politics, such as The Likely  Lads & Liver Girls where we are meant to identify with aspiration and laugh at the hold-outs. There were another series of shows including “Till death us do part” & “Citizen Smith” which infantilised working class organisation, culture and politics and the possible instruments of change. Some of it is unwatchable today because of the racism.

It was mostly shit, and tool of the ruling class aimed at weakening the principles of solidarity amongst the working class, let’s remember it was a decade that ended with the winter of discontent and Thatcher”s 1979 victory

What’s worrying today is that in the run up to 1997, all comedy was anti-tory, with shows such as Spitting Images, Bremner, Bird and Fortune. It’s not so true today.


Stewart Lee, in a blog posting where he analysis the post-war history of British Standup, more accurately standup on British TV, says of the show,

It’s difficult for people brought up in the entirely class-free world of Blair’s Britain or Cameron’s Big Society to understand how socially segregated we used to be. I know I wouldn’t have watched The Comedians and Wheeltappers’ with my father’s more middle-class family, where both shows would have been viewed as “common”, so I must have seen them at my mother’s parents’ home, where ITV, a channel initially differentiated from the BBC by reflecting working-class tastes, as opposed to the Reithian notion of pushing improving viewing, was embraced. …

Up Pompei, i remember as hilarious; I had a look at an episode or two while researching this article and while it still makes me laugh, much of what I enjoyed may have been an appeal designed to attract pubescent young men, in era where neither sex, nor naughty bits were allowed on TV.


You gotta laugh (or not!)
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