Come on Down? Popular Media Culture in Post-War Britain

By Dominic Strinati; Stephen Wagg | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

You’ve never had it so silly

The politics of British satirical comedy from Beyond the Fringe to Spitting Image

Stephen Wagg


Well, I used to be disgusted
But now I try to be amused.

(Elvis Costello, ‘Red Shoes’)


People who are sad
Sometimes they wear a frown
And people who are kings
Sometimes they wear a crown
But all the people who don’t fit
Get the only fun they get
From people putting people down
People putting people down.

(John Prine, ‘People Putting People Down’)

Anthony Wedgwood Benn MP spent much of Saturday 28 September 1963 in Bridlington on Labour Party business but, as he recorded in his diary,

I dashed back in time to watch That Was The Week That Was, which returned to TV tonight. It was savage and brilliant in parts, and the room was packed with Labour leaders and journalists. Not a single anti-Labour joke was made and even I wondered if it had gone too far.

(Benn 1988:65)

Benn’s reaction to ‘TW3’, BBC television’s late night satirical programme, first broadcast in 1962, was a typical one in the Labour Party and on the British left: the show, and the ‘satire boom’ of which it appeared to be a part, was ‘on their side’ and against the Conservative government. But for how long could they get away with it? However, a meeting a year later with That

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