Sunday, October 17, 2010

When channel controllers would never put conservative comedians on air

Going by BexSix's comment on the last thread, there's going to be a demand for this, so please keep comments on Standpoint in that thread, and ones on Nick Cohen on god knows what here.

I pretty much gave up at the 'conservative comedians' bit. Really? Does Nick watch TV at all?

"Gingham is a very BBC material." "How's that, then?" "Very small checks." [Pause. Laughter.] "Copyright [laughter] copyright Ronnie Corbett, 1983"

Bruce Forsyth, last night. Isn't Ian Hislop a conservative? Jeremy Clarkson is only bearable as a comic. I know nothing about cars, but I watch Top Gear for the clowning. And so on.

But then, Nick would probably see this as having some kind of hidden left-wing agenda, because John Sullivan wrote Citizen Smith, he probably sees 'My Family' as bursting with Trotskyite subtexts because Robert Lindsay played one once and was sort of Derek Hatton in 'GBH'. Sorry about the ad.

Other gems (I do go on, don't I?):

When apparently serious people thought that Michael Moore was an honest thinker.

More honest and more thinking than you, old cock.

"One only found out he was Jewish at all in the course of making a television programme in which he was confronted on camera with who he really was. In the final frame of the film, he was disclosed weeping before a memorial in Auschwitz to dead ancestors who, until that moment, he had never known he'd had. ...

Nick quoting Howard Jacobson. This sounds awfully like Christopher Hitchens to me.

Now 'Jonathan Miller, Alexei Sayle, [and] Stephen Fry' have joined Nick Cohen's enemies list. Bloody hell.


Blogger Sarah Ditum said...

Visible political allegiance in art is BAD, Jacobson's novel is GOOD, Cohen praises Jacobson for his political allegiance - which is visible and is somehow NOT BAD. Where I was formerly semi-interested in reading the novel, Nick's critical work has made it sound like the most tedious piece of pro-Israel propaganda ever and I am now out. Incidentally, Jacobson himself who made loads of the Booker's antipathy to comic novelists (in a lead essay for the Guardian Review, so hard to miss if you're someone with more than a fleeting, politically motivated interest in books) - lumping the author in with Cohen's "critics who have missed the point". Well done Nick.

10/17/2010 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

Like Sarah, thanks to Nick, I won't be reading the book. I have to say though, I thought Cohen does it a great service here:

Hermione Granger, Jacobson's magical don, announces on Desert Island Discs "with a falter in her voice" that although she is a witch, "on the matter of house elves I am profoundly ashamed".

"Profoundly self-important, you mean," snaps Ron, but his scorn has no effect on Hermione.

Her shame makes her a star and friend of the stars. Comedians, actors, directors and professors hail her "bravery" and join her group, SPEW, as it meets in a room at the Leaky Cauldron to discuss how to boycott Hogwarts and explain away Deatheater violence.

He manages to make a Booker Prize winner sound like unspeakably leaden and obvious shite. As Sarah says, well done Nick.

10/17/2010 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yes, Nick had that effect on me too, I've lost all interest in reading it now.

I thought it was Jacobson himself who 'made loads of the Booker's antipathy to comic novelists' but he doesn't mention the Booker by name, although I suspect that the words 'Man Booker prize' were present in a draft. He certainly seems to be thinking about the Booker. It was the Guardian which Nick may be thinking of, although he doesn't seem to have read Sam Jordison's Booker prize disdains comedy? What a joke. Spot the difference: Sam Jordison reads books.

10/17/2010 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Now, if the National Theatre announces it has found a brilliant young playwright, you know without needing to be told that his or her politics will be a faintly hypocritical and unforgivably shallow version of liberal-leftism
A pity that the sub-editors have removed the examples he undoubtedly has to support his contention.

10/17/2010 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

ah, sam jordison - he's not bad there, but elsewhere...

Visible political allegiance in art is BAD, Jacobson's novel is GOOD, Cohen praises Jacobson for his political allegiance - which is visible and is somehow NOT BAD.

yes, it's a mess, like most of Cohen's output on the arts.

I'd be willing to wager a substantial amount of money (safe in the knowledge we'd never have proof, obv) that Nick hasn't actually read either TFQ or even HJ's awful essay on comedy in novels from last week.

anyway! it's pretty clear that Nick's not exactly got his finger on the Jacobson pulse. Googling HJ on 'JFJIP'?

Googling HJ on Independent Jewish Voices, though...

It is very clear what the target of HJ's 'satire' is. Though I'd also add that this stuff hasn't, as Cohen thinks, been ignored - in almost every review, whether positive or not, it comes in for some stick as being not satire but straightforward, fairly nasty propaganda. This is fundamentally dishonest:

I don't know if literary journalists were baffled or unable to handle a delicate subject. For whatever reason, they refused to describe how he reserved his mockery for Jewish celebrities

well, actually, nobody refused to describe that; either they didn't think much of it (the satire seems so heavy-handed it's almost offensive) or they did actually mention it. I can recall at least 3 reviews i read when it was published that explicitly dealt with that very topic.

onto the rest of NC's piece:

He writes about sex and loss with more poignancy than his PC contemporaries have managed

this is a serious problem with NC's philistinism - he views everything through two prisms - 'PC' and 'liberal'. if a work of art is either of those things, in Cohen's eyes, it's indisputably bad. I can't work out which 'PC' novelists he's talking about here, though. I certainly think a lot of people currently do loss and sex better than HJ, who's stuck in a pretty narrow stylistic cul de sac.

a few other nuggets:

When apparently serious people thought that Michael Moore was an honest thinker.

sa someone above said, more honest than this hypocritical and dishonest article by Nick, but also - how is Moore not an honest thinker? his films are pretty propagandist, but then again, so are all the documentaries Nick likes (Bright onKen, Littlejohn on British Jews).

Forty years ago, there were great conservative writers – Amis, Larkin and Powell. Now that exotic species appears extinct

there are lots i can immediately tihnk of. Alan Hollinghurst, for one; Zadie Smith another (also prone to awful political 'satire'). Ali Smith's The Accidental - a spectacularly good book - cites a certain N. Cohen in its epigraphs!


The great liberal or leftist playwrights of the postwar period – Pinter, Stoppard and, in his Look Back in Anger days, Osborne – did not allow politics to impinge on most of their work.

er - doesn't The Birthday Party deal with Jewishness and politics pretty explicitly? why yes it does! Nick must've 'forgotten'...

10/17/2010 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

in reply to skidmarx, to be fair, he does give one example of a young up and coming playwright at the National - er, Mike Leigh, whose cast improvised the script.

a bit that i had to add:

They bawl their beliefs to anyone who will listen. They make it clear that the audience cannot disagree by refusing to create plausible characters to articulate contrary viewpoints.

funnily this does remind me of a play i saw at the National last year. Not by a young playwirtght but a certain H. Kureishi. Only difference was, that Nick would have approved of the politics, which were anti-liberal and suggested that any Muslims offended by The Stanaic Verses are likely suicide bombers.

to end:

It is no use saying that writers have been "making stands" or following their conscience. If their work is mediocre and their stands fashionable rather than thoughtful, a conscience is no substitute for art.

but if you link politics and quality, as nick does elsewhere, then you can't actually comment on mediocrity or otherwise.

philistinism in excelsis.

10/17/2010 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Hmm, reading that column, I can hear Nick revving up a jetski to leap over a large aquatic predator.

Like I say, parsing art for political Badthink and fitting it into a pre-existing political agenda is the essence of wingnuttery. Nick might as well don an orange wig and a pair of massive shoes before putting pen to paper. His obliviousness is hilarious, and not a little bit sad.

10/17/2010 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeremy Clarkson is only bearable as a comic. I know nothing about cars, but I watch Top Gear for the clowning.

...and the joke wears thin after a while.

As for Cohen, has he read Osborne's The Entertainer or A Patriot for Me? Or is he recycling his demand that the National Theatre stage his as-yet-unwritten classic 'Oh What a Lovely Humanitarian Intervention'?


10/17/2010 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Another enemy for Nick.

10/17/2010 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

As a matter of interest, would anybody see the hand of Nick in the bizarre assertion in the latest Private Eye that Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature because he had condemned the Israeli incursion into Gaza?

10/17/2010 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

given that nick's written an inchoerent rant on his standpoint blog page, i think we can definitely assume that he only read the book after the booker win.

10/18/2010 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

When channel controllers would never put conservative comedians on air

I am sure we all secretly long for the days when Jim Davidson and Bob Monkhouse used to stalk the early evening television schedules.

10/18/2010 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

The great liberal or leftist playwrights of the postwar period – Pinter, Stoppard and, in his Look Back in Anger days, Osborne – did not allow politics to impinge on most of their work.

I think the word "most" here has the meaning "except when they did".

Incidentally, is Tom Stoppard really in the "liberal or leftist" camp"?

re: Vargas Llosa, he might indeed have condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza, but he spends most of his time condemning lefist Latin American political leaders, and I don't just mean Chávez. I'd have thought his politics (UPyD, last time I checked) were really very Decent indeed, but I suppose if you aren't committed to Israel, you ain't really doing the job.

About his novels, I know nothing.

10/18/2010 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Stoppard's been on the Right all along - Jumpers says "don't be too liberal or rationalistic or secular, or you'll ruin the treasures of art and philosophy", and the message of Travesties is "don't be too radical or idealistic because, hey, Gulag Archipelago". And there's an absolute stinker of a gag in Cahoot's Macbeth about how the Czech cultural underground has finally realised the dream of bringing culture to the masses*. It's just that when he arrived the Right did not know him, because he was young and formally experimental and had a sense of humour.

*Because the audience consists entirely of dissidents who have had to take manual jobs, instead of the elite positions which by implication are their right.

10/18/2010 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Also, of course, Travesties, Jumpers, Night and Day, Professional Foul and Cahoot's Macbeth are deeply political. Perhaps his later plays are masterpieces of Jamesian unworldliness, I wouldn't know.

10/18/2010 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Not forgetting Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.

10/18/2010 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Anyone with access to the aarowatch gmail account, I've left a message in there...

10/19/2010 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Llosa ran on a pretty explicitly neoliberal platform in 1990, and has supported a range of what I guess you'd call "moderate" right wing candidates since then. He's fairly consistently anti-authoritarian though, AFAIK.

I thought War at the End of the World and Conversations in the Cathedral were very good indeed. Not read anything else.

10/19/2010 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

I can't even remember the one novel I read by Vargas Llosa, but it concerned internal Trotskyist shenanigans in Peru and was actually scrupulously accurate in its depiction of Trotskyist politics, avoiding caricature, parody and demonisation. Hardly the kind of novel I could imagine Nick, David Taube or Mikey Ezra writing on such a subject.

10/19/2010 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

From Stoppard's wikipedia entry:
"I'm a conservative with a small c. I am a conservative in politics, literature, education and theatre."[19]In 2007, Stoppard described himself as a "timid libertarian".
I've always tended to find his contempt for East European dictatorships somewhat attractive, but maybe I'm less sympathetic to said regimes than many on the Left.

10/19/2010 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Yeh I dunno why nick thinks that Stoppard is a 'liberal or leftist' - i have a feeling he was made to insert that 'liberal or' by an observer fact-checker, too.

Personally I've never been all that much convinced by Stoppard. He's clever and writes good dialogue, but he doesn't really have anything of interest to actually say.


great liberal or leftist playwrights of the postwar period – Pinter, Stoppard and, in his Look Back in Anger days, Osborne

Would anyone really call Stoppard a 'postwar' playwright' either? He only really came to prominence in 1966 after all.

10/22/2010 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Elephantine in everything but memory" is a line that will stay with me until I die. (But who was he parodying? Brian Glanville or Geoffrey Green?)

10/22/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/22/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry all, OC's comment went into spam, possibly for length. Have despammed it, and it's now back in the timeline.

10/23/2010 09:45:00 AM  

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