Brexit god­send for UK satirists

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - By Nel­son Ren­te­ria

Di­vi­sive, chaotic and with im­pli­ca­tions for al­most ev­ery as­pect of na­tional life, Brexit has been a god­send for po­lit­i­cal satirists - giv­ing them a wealth of ma­te­rial - and au­di­ences des­per­ate for a laugh. “There’s a vo­ra­cious ap­petite in the UK for any­thing to do with Brexit, and there’s a huge ap­petite for satire,” said Neil Raf­ferty, edi­tor in chief of the pop­u­lar satir­i­cal web­site The Daily Mash. He told AFP: “It’s a mas­sive sub­ject. There’s also a mas­sive num­ber of colour­ful char­ac­ters in­volved. There are some very ex­treme views, which are great for satirists.”

Bri­tons have a long tra­di­tion of turn­ing to hu­mor in trou­bled times, and the June ref­er­en­dum vote to leave the Euro­pean Union has in­spired co­me­di­ans across the coun­try - even if most of them op­posed the de­ci­sion. “When it comes to writ­ing jokes, this ref­er­en­dum out­come is a bet­ter one,” co­me­dian Al Mur­ray, who adopts the per­sona of a xeno­pho­bic pub owner, told The Guardian news­pa­per. Satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Pri­vate Eye is en­joy­ing record sales of 230,000 copies ev­ery fort­night, while Twit­ter and the In­ter­net are alive with Brexit-re­lated gags.

“Well, I f***ed that up, didn’t I?” read the head­line of one Daily Mash story about David Cameron, who re­signed as prime min­is­ter af­ter his cam­paign to keep Bri­tain in the EU. An­other poked fun at the in­sis­tence that Bri­tain will be bet­ter off out­side the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket, with the head­line: “Aus­tralia ideal trad­ing part­ner, say Bri­tons happy to wait three months for stuff.”

Com­edy can also help Bri­tons deal with some of the darker is­sues thrown up by Brexit, in­clud­ing re­ports of an in­crease in hate crime af­ter a ref­er­en­dum cam­paign dom­i­nated by im­mi­gra­tion. “Brexit raised a lot of ten­sions, some of them racial, a lot of them po­lit­i­cal,” said Steve Ben­nett, edi­tor of com­edy in­dus­try web­site Chor­tle. “I think com­edy is an im­por­tant tool in smooth­ing over that.”

‘Bet­ter Than Cry­ing’

One Fri­day night in the Com­edy Cafe in east Lon­don, a stand-up co­me­dian asked the crowd if any­one likes gaffe-prone for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son, a lead­ing Brexit cam­paigner. When one hap­less au­di­ence mem­ber ten­ta­tively raised his hand, he was treated to a bar­rage of jokes at his and John­son’s - ex­pense. Most co­me­di­ans were among the 48 per­cent of vot­ers who op­posed Brexit in the ref­er­en­dum, but the jokes are also flow­ing from the other side of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide.

“Straight af­ter the vote hap­pened, a lot of my friends were say­ing ‘well, thank you very much, leavers, now we are go­ing to have a fu­ture with no money or hu­man rights’,” said stand-up Ge­off Nor­cott, who backed Brexit. “And I was think­ing - no, we are leav­ing the EU, not join­ing North Korea. Let’s just turn down the rhetoric a lit­tle bit. But it’s that hys­te­ria that makes it funny.” He told AFP: “We’ll laugh un­til we are re­ally poor. And then we’ll laugh for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Be­cause laugh­ing is bet­ter than cry­ing.”

‘Ar­gul­foop means Ar­gul­foop’

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has re­peat­edly re­fused to out­line her ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy ahead of talks with the EU early next year, say­ing only that “Brexit means Brexit”. The phrase has been widely mocked for be­ing mean­ing­less, while clips of sev­eral politi­cians in­ad­ver­tently say­ing “break­fast” in­stead of “Brexit” have brought a sur­real as­pect to pos­tur­ings on Bri­tain’s fu­ture. For some comics such as singer­song­writer Mitch Benn, how­ever, the jokes can­not dis­guise their anger at the sit­u­a­tion.

He has lived in France and Spain, and has a song of­fer­ing an af­fec­tion­ate look at the stereo­types of Euro­peans, from the nap­ping Spa­niards to the “bor­ing” Ger­mans. “Say­ing ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is a mean­ing­less state­ment be­cause it’s like say­ing, ‘Ar­gul­foop means Ar­gul­foop’,” Benn told AFP. “It’ a word you’ve just made up and you’ve said that it means what it says it does. We’ve no idea where we’re at or what we’re do­ing.”

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