Miranda. Now there’s a word that will either put a smile on your face or make bile rise from your gut. And that in a nutshell is the point of this post. How is it possible that comedy, something practiced solely to bring laughter and enjoyment to others, can achieve the polar opposite and turn some of us into hate vomitting banshees of doom?
Lets put Miranda back under the microscope. It’s light inoffensive BBC comedy deemed safe enough to be screened pre-watershed, yet it provokes reactions such as this from The Guardian:
So, why so angry? And why does it feel like reactions to comedy are stronger than any other form of art? Much like my local train line (Abellio Greater Anglia) nobody hates it when it’s working for them, but when it breaks down and fails to deliver, then we’re quick to start foaming at the mouth and brandish burning torches. It’s just comedy. It’s meant to amuse us. Why do we feel so enraged when it fails to tickle us? Well, let me with my D in A-Level psychology put this forward.
Is it because we can’t express what’s wrong?
One problem with ‘bad’ comedy is that nobody can put their finger on what’s wrong with it exactly. It’s not like a bad meal at restaurant – you can’t say, ‘too hot, too cold, not enough spice’ – you just say ‘It’s not funny!’ and repeat that at increasing volume and with increasing frustration until you wear yourself out. You can try and dissect it, line by line, but from my experience when you don’t like something no amount of tweaking will fix it – if all the notes are wrong, it’s the wrong tune.
Is it because you can’t please everyone?
Mass market comedy (or Tesco comedy, as I like to call it) – y’know the type of stuff – you walk into a supermarket and there’s some comedian/comedienne’s face grinning inanely at you, pulling a silly face, pointing at their latest book/DVD – and why is it on sale there? – it’s because it has mass appeal. The problem is popularity is no sign of quality, if it was then McDonald’s would he held up as the pinnacle of cuisine. In trying to please everyone it satisfies nobody fully…and satisfies some not at all, which only leads to frustration when others find it so funny. Take Miranda, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Michael McIntyre: each sell out arenas and each have a show on BBC1 on Christmas night (yes! All three! On one night! I must’ve been really bad this year). Yet as popular as they are, there will be plenty of people I’m sure who will spend Christmas wishing they’d got more booze in and bought extra batteries for the remote to save themselves getting locked in this BBC feat of festive scheduling.
Is it because comedy isn’t divisive enough?
On the flip side of trying to please everyone, do we hate comedy because it doesn’t go far enough? If you’re looking for cutting edge daredevil comedy – TV is not (and arguably never has been) the place to look. By the time it’s on TV it’s sanitized, filtered, and vetted. There are no rough edges. It’s no surprise Michael McIntyre was asked to host the recent Royal Variety Performance – a performer safe enough for royalty – that is surely the nail in the coffin in the career of any self respecting comedian. Do we get angry because, like drug users, we’ve grown tolerant and need something harder for our fix? And we don’t get it, or don’t find what we’re looking for, we react. Badly. Could it be that nobody has come on TV and broken the mould, because if they could do that – no producer who valued their job would let them anywhere near TV. Russell Brand might be the closest example of an unpredictable outrageous mouthpiece, he too has his contractors as much as Miranda (maybe even more so – check this Sun front page out).
Is it because we hate to feel left out?
Or, if we cut through it all, is it simply that people hate to feel left out of a joke? They might understand the joke perfectly, but fail to see why it’s funny, and whilst the rest of the world is rolling about laughing at it, they got red in the face shouting ‘but it’s not funny! Stop finding it funny!’ – subconsciously…it’s showing where you are with a group – if you’re not sharing the laughter, you’re on the outside, a place no primal instinct wants you to be. This could be why people get so hateful, they come up with these ‘Ebola’ put-downs to show they are as funny, if not funnier than the act they are ridiculing.