UK-based comedian Dapper Laughs has become a minor internet sensation over the past year by posting short video clips mainly centred on the time-honoured traditions of womanizing, harassing strangers and making fun of the less fortunate. “Bantz” as it is more commonly known. Finding time in his busy schedule between telling random audience members that they were “gagging for rape” and recording numbers such as ‘Cranking On To A Sweetheart’ for charity, he’s become a genuine grassroots success story. He’s managed to build himself up to over 2 million Facebook followers and his own ITV comedy show. The uproar about the feminist connotations of this are of course justified, but this is ignoring another very serious problem – how this man got a show in the first place.
He is endemic of a relatively modern tragedy, where people become famous purely for being offensive and not much else besides. Katie Hopkins and too many B-list stand-ups to mention have been the beneficiaries of this. Though they are not necessarily funny on their own merits, they are just acceptable enough to get televised while simultaneously inciting enough key minorities to get publicised. Following the age-old mantra of all publicity being good publicity, entertainers manage to ride on the wave of social unacceptability towards commercial success, and lots of it. Moral outrage hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, back in day; it helped legitimately decent bands such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin achieve the worldwide success that they did. Back in the 1960s, stand-ups like Lenny Bruce caused controversy by actually challenging the status quo of the time and were sometimes imprisoned because of it, whereas Dapper Laughs serves only to reinforce the current ideology of metrosexual hypermasculine twats.
The fuss that the affair incited propelled the whole thing from being, well, a minor ITV comedy show, to a nationwide talking point. We are now encountering the problem of things being popular and well-publicized purely because of the fact that some people find them offensive. Our culture is essentially giving people a license to live off of being offensive. A stubbly man running around using the word “moist” wouldn’t be a ticket to internet stardom if we didn’t have an army of hacks condemning him for some cheap clickbait. It would not surprise me in future if TV market research consisted mainly of discovering new minorities to defend. A culture of political correctness is now doing as much to keep hack comedians from returning to their jobs at Homebase as it is improving female equality. By vilifying bad comedians, our media is elevating them to a status which they very much don’t deserve as sort of pseudo-counterculture heroes. These people don’t really deserve moral outrage they receive.
Though misogynistic comedy is literally as old as time itself, jokes were not based in their own provocativeness. Some content was behind the whole “I really shouldn’t be saying this” aspect. British comedy is – and this may not be saying very much in the grand scheme of things – considered to be among the best in world. Classics such as Monty Python still today maintain worldwide respect, and the fact that this artistic heritage is getting eroded is a huge problem.
My problem with Dapper Laughs is not that his work is tainted with misogyny. There is sexism everywhere and he is just another example. My problem is rather that – in layman’s terms – it’s shit. And if there’s one thing British TV needs it’s significantly less of that. It shouldn’t have been cancelled because it was offensive, it should have been cancelled because it was bad. At the end of the day, things are funny because they shouldn’t be. But just because something shouldn’t be funny, doesn’t mean it is.
Political incorrectness has its merits, but when it’s done purposefully and artfully.