Society & Culture

The Death of Comedy

The left hates comedy. It subverts and challenges the dicta of the liberal hegemony, and is closed down whenever possible. The Left has had notable successes, especially in Britain, where I can point precisely to the roughly two decades in which the free comic spirit operated on TV before the cultural commissars took control. This time span begins in 1968 and ends in 1989.

In 1968, the reforming Home Secretary Roy Jenkins steered through Parliament an Act that decriminalized homosexuality. That led to a period when homosexuals were inducted into the world of comedy. What had been a serious matter became a repository of gay jokes, open and unabashed. Many viewers will remember John Inman as Mr. Humphries in the long-running TV series Are You Being Served? Inman was the outrageously camp follower in the Grace Brothers department store, whose feature line was his enthusiastic affirmative response to the question, “Are you free?” He was very popular in America, where he became a gay cultural icon. On one occasion a cyclist in Los Angeles fell off his bike on seeing his idol, crying out, “I love you, Mr. Humphries!” To the signature question put to him by members of the public, Inman himself would answer “No, but I’m reasonable.” The TV show ran for 12 years (1973-85) but shades of the prison house grew around Inman.  He incurred the wrath of those who thought it his duty...

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