Class Comedy – The Sociology of Dapper Laughs

Ironically, this article starts with a Guardian quote – “the best comedy is a tragic story.” Bending over in the supermarket and accidentally flashing another customer is an embarrassing and tragic story. Likewise, missing a step when climbing up some stairs is mortifying! It’s hard to disagree with the Guardian (in this instance) that everyone can and should be allowed to be funny.

But then, if a comedian tells a joke in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does the comedian make any noise? The sociology of a comedian ought to be negligible, but it isn’t. What of the sociology of the audience?

This is a student mag based in the West End of Glasgow. It’s for students at a damn good university – our cultural capital will be high. Hell, I come from one of the poorest areas of the country, but since moving to the West End I’ve been to more theatre shows than I care to remember, and I wear pretentious cardigans.

A quick whip-round of students and their favourite comedians saw a few people dominate – Bill Bailey is a clear front runner. Dylan Moran, Stewart Lee, Dara O Briain, Rhod Gilbert all popped up a few times too. Not many mentioned women, but that’s an article for another time. Katherine Ryan and Sarah Millican did get a look in. The only black person mentioned was Reginald D Hunter.

No one came close to mentioning acts like Mrs Brown’s Boys, or anything Keith Lemon does. No one mentioned Dapper Laughs.

Despite knowing that Dapper Laughs was a sexist act that promoted sexual assault, and everyone reading this knows that, it did not stop any of his hype or his audience growing over time. His influence across social media was immense, with plenty of YouTube videos collecting his “best” Vines into 20 minute videos.

There is an audience for what he does – if there wasn’t, he would have been a lone lunatic yelling sexist bile into a void. The words “lad culture” make my skin crawl, but it is a thing that exists, and for a while Dapper Laughs was one of its poster boys. He had 1,600,000 Facebook likes. The Lad Bible has 6,200,000. To his fans he is a martyr, and his downfall represents all that is wrong in the world – suppressing freedom of speech when all it was was banter.

During his very public execution social media was awash with people defending him. According to the Newsnight interview where Daniel O’Reilly, the man behind the character, killed off Dapper Laughs, his own father was defending the type of humour that the character peddled.

There were plenty of articles about how and why what Dapper Laughs was all about was a poison to our society. You have to wonder – how many people who read those articles were laughing at Dapper Laughs “jokes”?

A class divide exists in comedy, and ignoring that allows acts like this to slip through. Is Mrs Brown’s Boys my kind of thing? No, but it is one of the most watched shows in the country, so I can say it’s shit, all the critics can say it’s shit, but some journalist saying the humour you like is the wrong kind of humour breeds divisions.

Is everyone who liked Dapper Laughs sexist? Highly doubtful, but they were encouraging the promotion of violence against women by giving him any sort of attention or praise. Many don’t know that – that is why we saw the response of “it is just a joke.” When it comes to letting people know why something is a stain on our society it is best left to the people to pass it on. Being told by such middle-class sources like the Guardian gives off the appearance of a parent who only shows up when a child is misbehaving.

Don’t let class divides dictate what you enjoy. The critics hate Mrs Brown’s Boys, and I do too, but what do we know. I don’t need you to sit and watch Ed Byrne stand-up with me. What we need to be critical of is the dangerous and harmful messages in the guise of “humour” and “comedy.” Then we need to talk. Over six million people like The Lad Bible. We need to keep talking.

[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]

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