Brits still waiting for full Brexit comedy dividend

News Hour:

They were the two stories that rocked the Western world last year. But while Donald Trump’s election injected new life into U.S. political comedy, the British are still waiting for Brexit to usher in their new golden age of satire.

Americans can choose from half a dozen weekly or nightly TV shows for acute observations of a political transformation that has given veteran actor Alec Baldwin a whole new career as a Trump impersonator , reports Reuters.

“(My comedy career) did die and I’m being reincarnated as Trump, oh God!” Baldwin told Reuters.

In Britain, comedy fans have thin pickings as broadcasters have to respect rules on impartiality, and chatty panel shows, rather than hard-hitting satire, dominate the schedules.

“I don’t know if there’ll be a boom in satire here. Clearly there’s some big issues to get stuck into,” satirist Andy Zaltzman told Reuters after recording an episode of “The Bugle”, his weekly “audio newspaper for a visual world”.

“In America, their politics and in particular their media are conducted at a much higher pitch … There’s an unending stream of news stories that are ripe for satirical comedy which we probably don’t have here, but we should be able to do a very strong weekly topical satirical TV show.”

Zaltzman launched The Bugle in 2007 with fellow Brit John Oliver who has since become one of the most influential TV satirists in America with his own weekly HBO show “Last Week Tonight”.

The re-booted Bugle, with a roster of co-hosts to replace Oliver, gets 12 million downloads a year and gives Zaltzman independence he would not have with a broadcaster.

“Because you don’t have a commissioner saying ‘you can’t say that’ or ‘you have to balance this out’, you can just say whatever you want,” he says.

That was not always a problem.

The social revolution of the 1960s was met by “That Was the Week That Was”, the BBC show that launched the career of David Frost. The famously vicious 1980s puppet show “Spitting Image”, broadcast on the main commercial channel ITV, had a grotesquely domineering Margaret Thatcher as its central character.

The closest thing Brexit Britain has is “Have I Got News For You”, a panel show running since 1990 that, some critics say, is ripe for retirement.

“Images are required to spit in a balanced, proportionate fashion,” Guardian columnist Peter Preston wrote, branding “HIGNFY” a “semi-satirical quip show”.

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