The Death of Comedy?

Yesterday, Dr Sean Gabb spoke on the Stephen Nolan show, on BBC Radio 5, about a joke made by Michael Gove on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

Below, we have excerpted all of Dr Gabb’s comments made in that interview. If you would like to listen to them, please click on the audio file link below.

(The interviewer spent quite some time speaking to another guest,  Shelagh Fogarty, both before and after Dr Gabb’s comments. If you would like to listen to the full interview, please click on this link and go to about 1:56:45.)


  1. Dr. Gabb clearly had to better of it, and I was greatly entertained, but it’s pearls before swine with these people, surely? It’s an intelligent and educated man addressing people with a deeply-embedded agenda, some of them actually quite intelligent in their own right but completely insensitive to the basic precepts of a free society.

    I loved the part when Shelagh Fogarty claimed not to have “especially left-wing” politics. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

    I do think Dr. Gabb is slightly mistaken on one point. He says that in the past it would have been seen as ridiculous for a radio show to make a fuss about an inappropriate public joke. Actually, complaining about jokes and other relatively harmless and trivial indiscretions is a very English thing to do and it’s also very English indeed to get up a massive fuss about things of moral concern – occasionally with justification, it has to be said. Was it Macaulay who once commented on this? This English trait – a sort of microscopic form of correctness – does look hilarious to those who can surmise it, and this radio discussion is a perfect examples of the tendency, and hilarious to listen to. A group of grown adults debating over the appropriateness of telling jokes. I can think of nothing more English, but at least we’re not French: they wouldn’t have the debate at all, but would instead just enact a directive which everybody in France would promptly ignore.

    I will also give Shelagh Fogarty her dues and say that there is something in her point (and I think this is what she was at least implying) that a mild sort of political correctness does have validity to the extent that it forces people to be polite. A reasonable person could see little wrong with that, but then the danger is that the matter is taken too far and it’s not clear that she appreciates this.

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