Dapper Laughs: On The Pull has itself been pulled from the ITV schedule and with any trace of it deleted from ITV’s On Demand service, ITV Player. Plus any plans for a second series of On the Pull have indefinitely been shelved. Dapper Laughs, a persona utilised by creator Daniel O Riley has recently become involved with controversy in regards to what some consider being misogynistic statements within his act and with 37 complaints Ofcom and 68,000 signatures on petition site change.org. ITV have done what was only seemed inevitable and have pulled the plug on the ITV2 show.
However unsuitable or unfunny you may find O Riley’s persona and material to be, to me that is not the biggest issue. I’m more concerned about how ITV buckled fast under pressure or at least made acknowledgement to the petition. I believe this could set a worrying precedent in the future about how and what comedy shows may be produced or broadcast.
There is more to comedy than someone falling over or the fluffy pieces of nonsense that Michael McIntyre typically pieces together. Comedy should be used as a tool to make light of the horrible but inevitable aspects of life and world. Comedy can take taboo or sensitive topics and decode them in to an approachable and understandable language and encourage us to laugh with it or give us a sense of catharsis from it and ignoring that part of our brain which tells us whether or not it should be okay to laugh. In comedy, offense is taken, never given.
Also if people rose to action like this before seeking to pull the plug on shows that were considered to obscene or offensive at the time, then we never would have had humourists and writers such as Chris Morris, Charlie Brooker, Armando Lannucci, Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong create shows like Brass Eye, The Day Today, The Thick of it and Peep Show.
Not to mention how we could be denying ourselves great comedy shows in the future that may choose to address issues with a critical perspective or perhaps offers us new insight into the worlds of news and politics. Or it might even just make us laugh without any other motive appearing. But we risk not seeing these show if companies such as ITV bend down to the wills of some of the people so quickly just because they don’t agree with it.
People do forget how subjective comedy can be as a performance piece. I may not agree with the idea that ITV needed to axe the show, but I’m not blind as to why it was wanted. Yes there is a lot of misogyny and ignorance in the world and that needs to be addressed and as someone who followed the debacle surrounding #GamerGate and witnessed the embarrassing and hostile depths that sunk to can attest.
But nowadays comedy is a lot like the press. Some of it is vulgar, tasteless and relies too much upon shock value and some of inherent prejudices or values of the reader. But you don’t ban it solely for that reason! Good, critical pieces can arise from it too and I think the vulgarity, tasteless-ness and emphasis on shock value from some media products is a price worth paying for in the end.