Thursday, March 05, 2020

The trouble with satire

For the Guardian's Nadia Khomami, writing in 2017, satire is more important than ever, and Private Eye's Ian Hislop argued that we're living in "a golden time". Talking to Channel 4's Jon Snow last autumn about his new film The Day Shall Come, Chris Morris also refused to accept that satire was dead, though admitted it was perhaps ailing - the problem, as he saw it, being that much of what currently passes for satirical comedy "essentially placates the court" when what we really need is "something with a bit more clout".

In a recent This Much I Know interview with the Guardian, Simon Blackwell added his thoughts on the issue: "Watching politics for the last three years has made me grateful I'm no longer writing about it. With The Thick Of It and Veep we found comedy in the gap between the illusion of competence and the chaos underneath, but with Brexit and Trump that façade fell down. I don't know where the laughs are now. What can you write that is more bizarre than what's actually happening?" His view - that satire might not be dead but is certainly next to impossible - is probably closest to my own.

Where I disagree with Blackwell is on the role of the satirist. He claims that the label "is too grand for what I do. I'm a comedy writer who sometimes does politics. Satire to me is bigger and well above my station - it doesn't only critique the world, but also offers answers. I'm afraid to say I have no solutions." For me, the satirist's function isn't to suggest solutions (that should be left to others), it's simply to highlight that there are problems to be solved in the first place.

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