Those concerned about the lack of rightwing comedians on BBC shows should write and perform jokes themselves because the comedy industry is a “pretty free market”, Dara Ó Briain has said.
The host of Mock the Week, which is to end on BBC Two after 17 years, laid into critics, Brexit and other panel shows in a new comment piece for the Guardian.
“People got angry that there weren’t enough ‘rightwing jokes’, whatever they are, and seemed surprisingly uncalmed by my regular response that if they wanted different jokes they should just write them themselves and go on stage, because the nursery slopes of comedy are a pretty free market, and we’ll see them after they’ve done a few years on the circuit,” Ó Briain said.
“This did not seem to make people happy as a response, even though it was exactly the kind of ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ advice that rightwing types love to give.”
Critics, the Irish comedian added, were also angered that Mock the Week seemed to have only one opinion on Brexit, which he said was “fair, because it pretty much did”.
He added: “Brexit was a terrible idea, that has never delivered any benefits, and unlike politicians I’m not obliged to pretend it’s not a terrible idea, and while I’m generally really dubious of trying to see collective intent in seven comedians competing for laughs, I think we got that one totally right.”
The eight episodes of Mock the Week this autumn will be the last after 21 series and more than 200 episodes of the show, which first aired in June 2005. Series regulars have included Hugh Dennis, Chris Addison, Frankie Boyle, Rory Bremner and Russell Howard.
The show has also been credited with being a platform for comedians who have gone on to become household names, with Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges, John Bishop and Rhod Gilbert all featuring in the early stages of their careers.
Ó Briain said those behind the show wanted it to be a positive experience for the comedians appearing on it: “Partially because I remembered just how unfriendly the senior talent on the previous generation of panel shows (Buzzcocks and Have I Got News, in particular) were towards new comics.”
While a press release about Mock the Week’s end included a quote from Ó Briain saying it was because the UK had “finally run out of news”, he clarified that in reality it was down to the BBC’s dwindling finances.
“The BBC has less money than it used to; and to do something new, something old has to stop. This chipping away will continue, and is why people should fight to protect the BBC before it becomes a shell of what it used to be.”
While the show had become a Rorschach test for culture warriors, he continued, comedians had no agenda other than getting a laugh from the studio audience.