A few years back, comedy was incredibly edgy.Then we hit wave upon wave of recession, and retro warmth replaced the forward thrust of cutting humour. Now you can’t find any sharp comedy writing on TV. It’s still there in popular literature; ‘How I Became A Famous Novelist’ by Steve Hely is a knife in the ribs of publishing, and ‘Kill Your Friends’ by John Niven is the rudest book ever written about the music industry.
So where are the film and TV shows that make your mouth drop open? I’ve looked into this before (see ‘The Horror of English Humour’ and ‘Black Comedy Primer 1’) but never has the field been so devoid of anything remotely sharp-witted and politically pertinent. You’d think that given the collapsing Euro and the banking crisis, we’d be seeing the return of ‘Spitting Image’ at least. ‘Abigail’s Party’ is back on in the West End, and created a kind of spin-off in the disgustingly laugh-out-loud show ‘Nighty Night’, but that was the last time we had anything genuinely black-hearted on our screens. In many ways, ‘Nighty Night’ went so far beyond the accepted boundaries of good taste (whatever that might be) that it was hard to see where we could go next.
I’ve recently rewritten a very black comedy-crime novel I first tackled a few years back, and am waiting – and waiting – to hear if it’s been sold. ‘Plastic’ is about murder, kidnap and credit cards, but it looks, once again, as if the time is just not right.
To remind you just how cheeky things were for a while back there, here’s a commercial that played on TV while I was writing the book (it leads to other Pot Noodle ads, including another copy line that probably wouldn’t be used to sell a product now – ‘It’s dirty and you want it.’