‘Where Are All the Right-Wing Comedians?’: The New Alternative

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This chapter addresses an oft-posed question: why does there appear to be a prevalence of left-wing bias, and so few right-wing comedians, in today’s comedy scene? It is argued that part of the reason for this perception lies in imprecise definitions of both left- and right-wing. A more stable approach to identifying the comedic right is proposed by invoking theoretical frameworks from Norberto Bobbio, Francis Fukuyama, and Michel Foucault, and by drawing on Steven Lukes’ ‘principle of rectification’. Case studies of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, Andrew Lawrence, and Jimmy Carr are used to advance three examples of the hidden prevalence of the political right in the contemporary comedy industry.

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The verdict delivered by voters in the 2015 and 2017 British General Elections and the European Union Referendum surprised pollsters, pundits, the media, and even the victors. Political choices representative of Globalist outlooks saw defeat at the polls. Liberal Democratic support was below 10% and voting to remain in the EU underperformed predictions. Empirical analyses demonstrate that there is a Nationalist–Globalist policy divide, partially rooted in demographics and authoritarian predispositions, which go beyond traditional valence factors in explaining the recent choices of the British electorate. Moreover, this outlook influences how satisfied citizens are with the way democracy works in Britain. Nationalist viewpoints, when juxtaposed against Globalist outlooks, are salient in a way they were not during the height of Thatcherism, encompass left–right economic concerns and may portend a new era in British political culture.
This book examines why there are so few conservative political satirists today and explores the consequences of this imbalance.
This article offers a history of British alternative comedy as a case study of political challenge and opposition in the 1980s and considers the role of humor in political campaigning more broadly. It explores left-wing thinking on culture as a potential political weapon, and questions how this informed the development and impact of alternative comedy as a genre. The article observes that pioneering alternative comedians went some way to change British comedy values and inform political discussions. However, it also argues that the complex operation of jokes and the tendency of comedians to become “incorporated” within the political and cultural mainstream ensured that the impacts of radical alternative material were limited and ambiguous. It contends that the practice of alternative comedy was undermined by business and political values that were often influenced by Thatcherism, and that alternative comedians mostly failed to capture the imaginations of working-class Britons. These communities retained instead an affection for more traditional, differently rebellious, comedic voices. Ultimately, this article frames alternative comedy within a longer history of radical humor, drawing out broader lessons concerning the revolutionary potential of jokes and the relationship between comedians, their audiences, and politics.
Comedy is currently enjoying unprecedented growth within the British culture industries. Defying the recent economic downturn, it has exploded into a booming billion-pound industry both on TV and on the live circuit. Despite this, academia has either ignored comedy or focused solely on analysing comedians or comic texts. This scholarship tends to assume that through analysing an artist’s intentions or techniques, we can somehow understand what is and what isn’t funny. But this poses a fundamental question – funny to whom? How can we definitively discern how audiences react to comedy? Comedy and Distinction shifts the focus to provide the first ever empirical examination of British comedy taste. Drawing on a large-scale survey and in-depth interviews carried out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the book explores what types of comedy people like (and dislike), what their preferences reveal about their sense of humour, how comedy taste lubricates everyday interaction, and how issues of social class, gender, ethnicity and geographical location interact with patterns of comic taste. Friedman asks: Are some types of comedy valued higher than others in British society? Does more ‘legitimate’ comedy taste act as a tangible resource in social life – a form of cultural capital? What role does humour play in policing class boundaries in contemporary Britain? This book will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology, social class, social theory, cultural studies and comedy studies.
Comedy is crucial to how the English see themselves. This book considers that proposition through a series of case studies of popular English comedies and comedians in the twentieth century, ranging from the Carry On films to the work of Mike Leigh and contemporary sitcoms such as The Royle Family, and from George Formby to Alan Bennett and Roy 'Chubby' Brown. Relating comic traditions to questions of class, gender, sexuality and geography, A National Joke looks at how comedy is a cultural thermometer, taking the temperature of its times. It asks why vulgarity has always delighted English audiences, why camp is such a strong thread in English humour, why class influences what we laugh at and why comedy has been so neglected in most theoretical writing about cultural identity. Part history and part polemic, it argues that the English urgently need to reflect on who they are, who they have been and who they might become, and insists that comedy offers a particularly illuminating location for undertaking those reflections.
Political scientists often talk about ‘ideological dimensions’ that aggregate related policy issues into a single latent construct. Applying factor analysis and Mokken Scale Analysis to opinion data generated from a Voting Advice Application deployed in England in the run-up to the European parliamentary elections, I show how individual issues may be aggregated into two principal dimensions: an economic dimension that separates Left and Right in terms of the economy and a cultural communitarian–cosmopolitan dimension. I also identify a third (libertarian–authoritarian) dimension, but this appears to aggregate very few issues. By positioning party supporters on a two-dimensional map defined by the two principal dimensions, I show that United Kingdom Independence Party supporters are situated very near the ‘communitarian’ pole of the cultural communitarian–cosmopolitan dimension. Finally, I show that overall, the communitarian–cosmopolitan dimension forms a rather more coherent scale than the Left–Right dimension and this tendency is even more marked among younger voters and voters with little interest in politics. Overall, this would appear to show that the notion of (economic) Left and Right is losing its salience in English politics.
This article examines the political categories of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, in particular as they are evoked and instrumentalized by political actors in the democratic process. Drawing on some of the insights of positioning theory, it shows how ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are discursive resources deployed, contested and resisted in political exchange. The article looks in depth at some of the political uses to which Left–Right talk may be put, discussing in particular acts of partisan profiling, of legitimization and subversion, and the evocation or rejection of political continuity. The article argues that although these usages can be seen as tactical moves pursued for political advantage, they have a larger significance insofar as they indicate one of the ways the democratically important imagery of Left and Right may remain active in contemporary politics.
  This article starts from the assumption that the current process of globalization or denationalization leads to the formation of a new structural conflict in Western European countries, opposing those who benefit from this process against those who tend to lose in the course of the events. The structural opposition between globalization ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ is expected to constitute potentials for political mobilization within national political contexts, the mobilization of which is expected to give rise to two intimately related dynamics: the transformation of the basic structure of the national political space and the strategic repositioning of the political parties within the transforming space. The article presents several hypotheses with regard to these two dynamics and tests them empirically on the basis of new data concerning the supply side of electoral politics from six Western European countries (Austria, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland). The results indicate that in all the countries, the new cleavage has become embedded into existing two-dimensional national political spaces, that the meaning of the original dimensions has been transformed, and that the configuration of the main parties has become triangular even in a country like France.
Politicians and pundits have long disparaged their opponents with polemicist cries of "leftist!" or "rightist!" But with the fall of communism and the recent conservative ascendancy in the United States and Europe, many commentators have flatly declared that the traditional left/right distinction has lost its relevance. Now, even as political players scramble to redefine themselves with freshly "spun" labels, Norberto Bobbio asserts that the demise of the left/right distinction has been greatly exaggerated. Bobbio argues that left and right are not absolute terms, but represent a shifting map of the political spectrum, relative to the particular cultural and historical contexts of a given time. The distinction continues to endure because it reflects the essentially antithetical nature and dynamics of democratic politics. In his accessible yet provocative style, Bobbio constructs a historically informed, analytic division of the political universe along two foundational axes, from equality to inequality, from liberty to authoritarianism. He then charts the past and present tendencies of the left and the right, in both their more moderate and more virulently extreme forms. Ultimately, for Bobbio, the measure of post-modern democracy will indeed lie in where and how we situate ourselves relative to these critical left/right parameters, in whether we cast ourselves, our votes, and our era in terms of political expediency, social viability, or moral responsibility. A bestseller in Italy, where it sold over three hundred thousand copies, Left and Right is an important contribution to our understanding of global political developments in the 1990s and beyond.
This article examines the concept of a central, symbolic place of power in political theory. I trace the genealogy of “place” from sovereign conceptions of power in classical political theory to the problem of state power in radical politics. I then examine the theoretical and political implications of Foucault’s reconfiguration of the concept of power, in particular, his contention that power does not have a place, but rather, is dispersed throughout the social network. I argue that this decentralization of the concept of power denies a universal dimension that “sutures” the political field. I critically engage with the limitations and flaws of Foucault’s theory of power, and turn to the work of Lefort and Laclau for a more viable understanding of the relationship between power, its place or non-place, and the contemporary possibilities for radical politics.
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They Already Got a Comedian for Governor”: Comedians and Politics in the United States and Great Britain
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