Image credit: BBC

Before the laws of political correctness, we told jokes. Many were profane. They could be sacrilegious, obscene, racist or downright sick. Some of these I found funny while at school and shortly after, but no longer do.

Others are still funny but not very pleasant. Looking back I chortle or snigger at the clever ones, many of them two-liners. But it is a long time since I heard anybody tell a joke. Is it because we stop telling them as we age or is it that we no longer have the same sense of humour? We need to laugh. We must be joking.

It is difficult to imagine any “snowflake” being offended by this: Customer: “Fish and chips twice, please.” Waiter: “I heard you the first time.” Or the Sunday night weather forecast: “Tomorrow will be muggy, followed by “Tuegy, Weggy, Thurgy ….” Maybe such jokes turn up on social media, but I very much doubt it.

On the other hand, many people today would be outraged by this: Customer: “I´ll have the pissoles and chips.” Waiter: “Sorry?” Customer shows waiter the menu: “Here; pissoles and chips!” “That´s not a P, it´s an R.” “Okay, then; arseholes and chips.” And yet the F-word is used as frequently on television today as the word “never”.

In the past, comedy shows commonly raised their laughs by the way the lines were spoken. In many cases, as long as a poor “joke” was delivered in a Cockney or Northern accent, audiences would howl with (canned?) laughter. Today, it seems that a gay accent has the same effect.

More recent popular television comedies included “Mrs Brown´s Boys” while today´s most popular comedian seems to be Michael McIntire. I rest my case.

On the other hand there used to be many very funny and very clever comedians and comedy sketches. From the respectable Two Ronnies and the saucy Benny Hill to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and from Monty Python to Spitting Image and the situation comedy of Fawlty Towers, they were very amusing. And we had unique stand-up comedians ranging from Bob Monkhouse to Les Dawson and from Spike Milligan to Jasper Carrott. And we should not overlook the scriptwriters.

Today, comedians are treading on eggshells. It´s not only the more risqué that need to be careful, but the inoffensive as well. This is because there are so many sensitive groups who object to the mildest hint of criticism or discrimination. Is this why they are no longer so funny? Or is it me?

Recently, a sitcom from the seventies “Rising Damp” may be edited to be re-run for modern audiences on the grounds of racial slurs. Likewise a proposed resuscitation of Fawlty Towers is to be scrutinised for gratuitous violence (against Manuel)!

If shown again unedited, it would be an interesting test of how far we have come – up or down – since the seventies.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.