Monday, September 10, 2007

"There's a black fella..."

I've stumbled across a good YouTube clip of Bernard Righton, a reformed and politically-correct version of dead hate-comic Bernard Manning, and the creation of ex-Fast Show and Cold Feet bloke John Thomson. I heard some clips of him a few weeks ago on a Radio 2 documentary about Steve Coogan, who Thomson toured with in the early-90s and compered for in character as Bernard Righton. It's funny.

The death of the odious, bigoted and unfunny Manning in June of this year brought all the usual "he's just a different generation" nonsense back to the surface as his celebrity friends closed ranks in the media. "He was a perfect gent who loved his family and would never swear in front of his mother." Just a pity he hated people because of the colour of their skin then really, wasn't it. I'd say the world became a slightly better place when he died. But now I can hear my producer saying in my ear that to actively glorify the death of someone is a social faux pas, so I'll stop.

At least Bernard Righton lives on and, given the fact he tackles the same subject matter, might even be able to exploit Manning's market.

Bernard Righton (YouTube): "There's a black fella... a Pakistani and a Jew having a drink in a nightclub. What a fine example of an integrated community."


Blogger Dan said...

Very timely after the rehabilitation last night on a BBC2 reality show of a 1970's TV comic called Tony Barton.

You would have loved him: "In 1898, an Irishman invented the toilet seat. In 1899 an Englishman put a hole in it." How I laughed.

I'd forgotten all about Thomson's character. "Two homosexuals bummin' in the back of a van. What's wrong wi' that, they're both consenting adults?".

September 11, 2007 5:40 pm  
Blogger Dan said...

That should be:

"What's wrong wi' that? They're both consenting adults".

Hell on a handcart, that's me.

September 11, 2007 5:41 pm  
Blogger Paddy said...

This Tony Barton character seems quite the pioneer of his art, and I must look into more of his work. Next week: some jokes about mothers-in-laws (mothers-in-law?) and then some more about the Irish.

I still prefer Righton:

"There's a lesbian, a bisexual and a homosexual in a wine bar. They had a great night."

September 12, 2007 11:53 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

I wrote a facebook note on the day of Manning's death or for those yet to join facebook:

So, Bernard Manning has passed on. Saying “good riddance” might be a tad harsh, I don’t think he was an evil man – just a bigoted relic of an era best forgotten. Over the years I have heard his humour defended and excused by people who make claims such as:

"He was only having a laugh and anyway he can’t be a real racist coz I heard he once saw a n— I mean a black person walking home and stopped to give him a lift in his Rolls Royce."

And more recently…

"He’s exposing the hypocrisy of UK political correctness gone mad. It’s all right for them to make jokes about us but they don’t like it on the other foot do they?"

Now, I’m not an overly PC person, I follow the Rowan Atkinson mantra that reserves the right to take the piss out of any subject – regardless of who may be offended. Morally, I feel this position holds up as long as two things are provided for.

1) The motivation behind the joke is not hatred.
2) The joke is funny.

Whether Manning really hated blacks/gays/jews/insert-minority-here is hard for me to say, only he and the people close to him can answer that. I do feel, however, that his jokes were presented from a starting position of hatred. Moreover, he simply wasn’t funny. Manning got his laughs by exploiting ugly, lazy stereotypes. His audiences reacted positively as he made them feel OK about their own prejudices and they found themselves forming an alliance in laughter. Watching footage of a Bernard Manning performance, I always get the feeling that the audience at a lynching or book burning would act in a similar way.

Case in point, can you think of a Bernard Manning joke that wasn’t racist, homophobic or chauvinistic and was funny? Neither can I. He apparently tried from time to time but with poor results. I’ll say it again – he simply wasn’t funny.

I watched Frank Carson on BBC breakfast this morning talk about his friend, claiming he was “Manchester’s favourite son” and the funeral would be on a scale “not seen since Matt Busby’s”. I seriously doubt and hope for the sake of my city’s image that this won’t be the case. The eighty-year old Carson (probably last seen actually performing sometime before my birth) also blamed racial equality for Bernard’s demise in popularity stating:

“[racial equality] has turned life in Britain on its head.”

I wasn’t sure if he thinks racial equality is bad thing or even if he knows what he means by the term. As far as I’m concerned if the cultural shift over the last 30 years achieves nothing for our society apart from eradicating Manning’s brand of humour, then it’s a step in the right direction.

I’m sure Bernard’s family and friends will miss him but I’m equally sure that comedy and I will not.

September 13, 2007 12:22 am  
Blogger Gez said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 13, 2007 12:25 am  
Blogger Gez said...

Curse my crapness, that link was meant to be:

September 13, 2007 12:27 am  
Blogger Dan said...

I enjoyed that, Gerard.

What was Manning's funeral like in the end?

I saw a bit of that Channel 4 programme about his death, and he really was as vile as his 'act'.

If I believed in Hell, I'd say he was giving Hitler a right old chuckle now, and enjoying it.

September 13, 2007 9:28 am  
Blogger Paddy said...

A fine synopsis that, Gez. The fact he wasn't funny was arguably his greatest crime of all, and served to highlight just how hateful he was. If he'd managed to be genuinely humourous then the sincerity of his bigotry would maybe have been less clear.

You're right about his audiences too. I think I saw the same TV programme as Dan, and the audience operated on such a herd level that they seemed to need to look at each other when laughing. That's always a giveaway. You shouldn't need some form of 'back-up' to find something funny. I usually laugh while staring directly ahead.

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