Thinking about the crassness of those crude stand up comics of today, a couple of evenings ago we watched an old programme made by Thames Television, ‘Tribute to Tommy Cooper,’ and couldn’t help but think, as we laughed like gurgling drains all the way through, how brilliantly funny the man was without any recourse to smut (there’s an old-fashioned word for you). No four letter words, no dirt, just what used to be called good clean fun. Admittedly today comedians are hamstrung by Political Correctness: no mother-in-law jokes, no Jewish jokes (unless you are yourself Jewish), no jokes about sexual orientation, no nationality or racist jokes, in particular black jokes of which of course in private life there are plenty though I won’t mention any of them here. I must admit Cooper during a ‘This is Your Life’ programme about Bill Frazer, did make one racist joke he certainly wouldn’t get away with today, pretending to mix up Frazer the actor with Frazier the boxer. Black he might get away with, a reference to thick lips he certainly wouldn’t. PC, like elf and safety, really does have a lot to be blamed for when it comes to limiting our lives. Something as wonderfully naïve as the old seaside picture postcards: fat man in swimming costume standing on the beach, his little son beneath his beer-barrel belly and the caption, ‘When did you last see your little Willy?’ or over the garden wall ‘My husband is making his whatnot stand’ banished forever. There were other comedians of a bygone age who were equally as funny as Cooper, even someone like Benny Hill who was always being accused of sexual innuendo (and no that is not an Italian suppository! Boom Boom!) or the suggestive dialogue of the Carry On films, though I am glad to say there appears to be something of a backlash these days with the pendulum beginning to swing back. It would seem the trendy theories about education (no one is a loser, which means no one is a winner) that have led to a generation of virtual illiterates is also being challenged. ‘Put elitist back in our schools,’ says the MP for education. I’ll never forget many years ago when we were living in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Hackney where they were/ are so leftwing they almost came/come around to the right again, we wanted to put on performances of Chris’s one man show, ‘Champagne Charlie’ for the benefit of old people’s homes (Oops! sorry, facilities for the elderly) and, when Chris mentioned the fact that the show was fully professional and really very good, the harpy on the other end of the phone told him the council did not go in for excellence, excellence was elitist! You wouldn’t think that anyone could be that stupid but obviously they can.
Whatever happened to three score and ten? Eighty-four seems the predominant age to be dying these days. Virtually every time I read of someone’s departure from this vale of woe, the latest being the film maker Ken Russell, that seems to be the favoured age to go, though Stalin’s only daughter by name Lana Peters went one better to go at eighty-five. Still eighty-four gives me three more years to rant against the iniquities of this world, ha ha!