Those concerned about the lack of right-wing comedians on BBC shows should write and perform their own jokes, as the comedy industry is a “quite free market,” said Dara Ó Briain.
The host of Mock the Week, which will end on BBC Two after 17 years, laid out criticism, Brexit and other panel shows in a new commentary for the Guardian.
“People got upset that there weren’t enough ‘right-wing jokes’, whatever those are, and they seemed surprisingly uninhibited by my regular response that if they wanted other jokes, they should just write them themselves and go on stage, because the Comedy children’s shoes are a pretty free market, and we’ll see them after they’ve worked on the track for a few years,” said Ó Briain.
“This didn’t seem to make people happy in response, even if it was exactly the kind of ‘pull yourself up on the bootstraps’ advice right-wingers like to give.”
Critics, the Irish comedian added, were also upset that Mock the Week appeared to have only one opinion on Brexit, which he said was “honest, because it pretty much did”.
He added: “Brexit was a terrible idea, which has never brought any benefit, and unlike politicians, I am not obliged to pretend it is not a terrible idea, and although I am generally really hesitant to try to see the collective intent of seven comedians, competing to laugh, I think we got that all right.”
The eight episodes of Mock the Week this fall will be the last after 21 series and more than 200 episodes from the show, which first aired in June 2005. Regular series included Hugh Dennis, Chris Addison, Frankie Boyle, Rory Bremner and Russell Howard.
The show has also been credited as a platform for comedians who have become household names, with Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges, John Bishop and Rhod Gilbert all starring in the early stages of their careers.
Ó Briain said those behind the show wanted it to be a positive experience for the comedians who appeared on it: “Partly because I remembered how unfriendly the senior talent on the previous generation of panel shows (particularly Buzzcocks and Have I Got News) were in the direction of new comics.”
While a press release about the end of Mock the Week included a quote from Ó Briain that it was because the UK “finally ran out of news”, he clarified that it was in reality due to the BBC’s dwindling finances.
“The BBC has less money than it used to; and to do something new, something old must stop. This crumbling will continue and so people must fight to protect the BBC before it becomes a shell of what it used to be.
Although the show had become a Rorschach test for culture warriors, he continued, comedians had no agenda other than laughter from the studio audience.