Just read Stewart Lee's splendidly baroque piece about Ricky Gervais's almost unbelievable new venture.
One of the more encouraging developments of the past year or so has been a gradually dawning, what-were-we-thinking realisation that noughties Brit comedy was an utterly morally bankrupt final travesty of the notion of "alternative comedy". If anyone still doubted that Little Britain was a sinisterly bigoted attack on the weak, after Come Fly With Me this view was no longer tenable. Similarly, the bizarre disability sadism of this "Derek Noakes" thing will probably make people look much less fondly on The Office and its oh-so-ironic wheelchair/midget/sexism gags.
The Gervais project that really riled me though, the point at which the whole edifice came tumbling down and I began to feel profoundly guilty for ever finding The Office funny, was this:
It's quite a short step from this squinting, buffoonish northerner to Down Syndrome sufferer Derek Noakes isn't it? Sometimes I think I get carried away with the north-south divide thing, but when I look at stuff like this, all doubts vanish. Comedy is supposed to dismantle hierarchy and suggest alternative worlds by targeting and undermining power. So what on earth is going on when supposedly alternative - but actually extremely wealthy and influential - comics choose the working class north as a primary target of satire? Oh yeah, what is required of satirists in an age of spiralling inequality, unimaginable elitism and barbarous wars is a lampooning of ethnic minorities, the disabled, and minimum wage workers in depressed former manufacturing towns. What kind of insane bourgeois fetish is this? And what does this cultural stuff say about the distribution of power in the UK more generally?
Even 15 years ago Gervais's shtick would never have flown. For all its flaws, something like The Fast Show is a record of the notably less mean-spirited, more establishment-ridiculing, stereotype-inverting culture of pre-noughties alt-comedy: