Stooshie Alert


This week’s stooshie in ‘Bonnie Scotchland’ has centred on the lack of political satire here.

This has, of course, been used by the ‘Bitter Together’ campaign (see what I did there…comedy gold eh?) to throw another squib up the close (in a fairly long line of squibs) to see if it will frighten the natives – not that I think the Mothers of Niddrie are too worried; it’s just something else for us chattering classes to angst over. ‘Oh no- if we can’t even do political satire then how could we run a country? Those Oxbridge boys just do everything so much better!’

The stooshie occurred because the funny and lovely Susan Calman dared to bemoan the lack of political satire here and it brought a barrage of nasty criticism to her door. And she is right, as is Bruce Morton, that there isn’t much here. Nor actually in Ireland, Norway, Spain – nations not known for their biting political satire either.

There are many reasons why it doesn’t happen here in the way that it does in London. To do political satire, your audience has to know who you are talking about. In a media dominated by London-centric Westminster politics and politicians, it stands to reason that no-one outside the political classes or interested parties will know what Scottish politicians you are talking about. It’s maybe fine to do political gags in a small comedy club to fellow travelers, but standing in front of 1,000 doing gags about Johan Lamont or Willie Rennie when 90% of the audience are asking ‘Who?’ isn’t pleasant. Comedy performers, satirical or otherwise, need laughs, it’s their lifeblood, and if a gag or story doesn’t land with an audience then it’s ditched…pronto!

It’s not fear that stops comics doing gags, or a desire not to offend; it’s that the lack of visibility of our politicians and what goes on in our parliament . A few years ago I was asked to be involved in a TV show that was a sort of Scottish ‘Have I got News for You’ and I turned it down because it wouldn’t work. Not because I didn’t want to take our ‘maisters’ to task, but because our parliament was too new with unknown politicians and no-one really knowing how devolution was going to work. There was a lot of hope around too; satirical comedy about hope? How sad would that be? 

If the audience know only three politicians – Salmond, Sturgeon and Dewar – then it isn’t comedy, it’s a slagfest of individuals.

We should note that this is a small country and slagging off people is a bit like slagging off your distant family – if you do it then you should be prepared for that eventual meeting when a finger is pointing and a voice shouting, ‘Say it to my face, smartarse’. I know that this happens in London, but in general you can lob a satirical grenade and then hide. There is also more of a balance – all sides get slagged off because all sides get mass coverage. My God, more Scots will know who Nigel Farrage is than Ruth Davidson.

Susan was unjustly rounded on because she is a rare, lone Scottish voice on the patrician Radio 4 and therefore Scots listen keenly to what she says when addressing the rest of the UK. And because of the huge frustration that Scotland gets mentioned only if a UK politician deigns to visit. George Osborne’s visit was on the UK news and therefore a legitimate target for Newsquiz. Sadly and unfairly for Susan, she became the target of that sense of injustice.

Political satire here would, I fear, end up with a few individuals getting slagged off. That might raise a laugh but it ain’t good comedy.

I hope that changes and we get fairer, more balanced coverage, but maybe the bigger question should be, ‘”Why aren’t we making ANY comedy programmes in Scotland at all?’ One from BBC Scotland a year, nothing from STV for 20 years, surely isn’t good enough…..

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  1. Given Scottish political satire currently consists of variations on two jokes:

    “My isn’t that Salmond quite fat?” or “Salmond and Sturgeon eh? Can anyone not think that’s a bit fishy” I am inclined to agree.

    Though 20 years is a bit unfair on STV. High Times was, for a sitcom on the third channel, no bad?

  2. Les says:

    Only Sovereign States have the capabilities to facilitate “balanced coverage” E.

  3. polwarthian says:

    I’m sorry Elaine, but with the greatest of respect this whole article hangs on the premise that Susan Calman came in for a “barrage of nasty criticism”. I’ve hunted high and low for this barrage and can’t find it. There was also talk of death-threats to Susan all over the media, but no-one seems to know where they might be!

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here and admit that the real stooshie is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into believing that someone was grossly maligned in a terrible way, without any evidence of it happening. The real stooshie is that the No campaign have got us all apologising for something that never provably happened. Are we so afraid of the BBC and the No friendly media that in the week that a high profile Labour activist uses racist language to tell us that Scots are racist, that the story which we deem important is a comedian being told their jokes are crap?

    1. Absolutely agree,
      this insistence in accepting blame when no evidence exists of any wrong doing is ridiculous,
      Calman would be well advised to put up or withdraw the complaints we’re to quick to accept blame when all I’ve seen is abuse from the no camp,
      I cannot hand on heart remember seeing a direct personal attack on anyone in the better together camp but the avalanche of bile from people like Ian Smart, George Foulkes Tavish Scott, Willie Rennie, Joanne Lamont, Jack McConnell, need I go on the list is truly endless and it is terrible the the main stream media do not stand up an take these people to task for their disgusting behaviour

  4. Congratulations, Elaine on finding the “barrage” of nasty criticism brought to Ms Calman’s door, which she was apparently told about and reported as hearsay without having seen it. No one else in cyberspace could find it, either on the web, Facebook or Twitter. As shown in my blog, all that cound be found in cyberspace were 9 comments on a WoS blog which were unappreciative of her comedy, but harldy abusive and one tweet.

    While the mainstream media may be po-faced about the indyref, there is plenty of fun on the interweb. BBC Scotlandshire leads the pack, probably closely followed by Better Together, as their outpourings are frequently the start-point for much mirth. For example their #500 questions, which the whole nation had lots of fun with, offering more for their list such as “who will put the ramalamadingdong in an independent Scotland. The Hootsmon similarly can cause some jollity, especially when they try to ramp up the cybernat menace.

  5. “To do political satire, your audience has to know who you are talking about. In a media dominated by London-centric Westminster politics and politicians, it stands to reason that no-one outside the political classes or interested parties will know what Scottish politicians you are talking about.”

    Try telling that to folk like Kenny Farquharson and David Torrance, both of whom were trying to deride me for making that *exact* point on Twitter a few days ago. I’m still waiting for Kenny to give me a good joke about a Welsh AM…

  6. wanvote says:

    I wonder what RabC and MaryDoll would make of the Indy Road Show if they were still around today:)

  7. Dave Dick says:

    “Thell be nae swally in this hoose till yi gie us some o that pitiful satyr”

  8. ben leiper says:

    Who needs satire when reality is just so funny.

  9. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Aside from comedy where is the Scottish soap? Where is the demographically representative everyday story of Scottish life? Has such a thing even been planned or projected? If so, was it scuppered by the bias that a Scottish based equivalent of Corrie, Enders and Emmerdale would be too “regional”. Waterloo Road, natural home NW England, can be made in Scotland though. What a collection of cultural numpties we leave in charge of the media. By default we get what we deserve. Anglicization gu leor!

  10. annie says:

    I know it’s been tweeted many times re ‘the stooshie’ but anyway…

    As the wonderfully funny Karen Dunbar’s ‘Olive Actory’ would say, “I think I smell shite…”

  11. The Giro Whisperer says:

    I think there’s a lot to be said for taking the piss out of people in the independence movement, which is piled high with fanny merchants, it would be a complete waste of Scotlands natural resources not to – that doesnt make me unionist – much like taking the piss out of Alan Rough didn’t mean you weren’t a Scotland supporter, you had the shared knowledge that he was a liability who should never have been put on the teamsheet.

    *watches free kick sail past heid*

  12. The thing is, the Unionists are so bad, so inept, so dishonest, that normal satirical ribbing would, I fear, just come over as cruelty. It would be like shooting pigs in a trough, to mix metaphors.

    Tina Fey managed a similarly delicate situation re Sarah Palin, by just repeating her words of wisdom virtually unchanged. That could be done with the ‘No normal levels of self-government here’ mob, but would it work when they are ALL Palin-esque?

  13. Semus says:

    I used to do really bitter caricatures, but gave up and used the skills for personal ones. Nobody seemed to want to know the edge or was it nesty angle in a drawing.I sent a folio to Channel 4 .no takers.Only the Cork Examiner as then published my stuff. So now I do caricature but more often cartoons for Czech magazines a real wee country. They are permitted to have blackhumour.
    Sorry my point was that there were two comedians one in South Africa and another in Israel.They both gave up. Saying you cannot do satire in SA/Israel when the government are so well ahead of the satire game as every day life.
    Christ Scotland must be the Alzheimer/alsberger country of satirism every day on union sites such as BBC and SMS.There are the true satirist.Black but no humour.

  14. chicmac says:

    I’ve done a few cartoons as well but also found that if you get anywhere near the black humour level of editorial cartoons in the MSM, you know the kind of thing, knives in the back, bodies, beheadings, poisonings all grist to the mill for MSM cartoonists, you run into objections from pc pro-indy supporters.

    One example was a cartoon of Jeremy Paxman introducing a new swing-o-meter graphic “just a bit of fun” following the Glasgow East by-election, where the swing was indicated by Gordon Brown swinging on a scaffold. Black, certainly, but well in keeping, indeed tame, with regard to MSM editorial norms (a recent example being the indy ‘lynch mob’ going after Susan Calman). But I felt had better withdraw it from the forums I posted it in due to objections from other PI supporters.

    You could say that is what makes the PI movement better than their opponents, but are we in danger of nicing ourselves to death?

    1. Semus says:

      Thanks for That Chicmac. I remember doing some on an abortion debate and Iain Lang was as ever Iain Lang,Also I had a simple wee drawing of Younger with well known Cuillins and Glencoe and Suilven behind him in outline with him singing “For These Are My Mountains An They are aw up fur sale”. My only success was the three Eire elections in 18 months of FF and FG.I had Haughey and Garret doing the Irish dance round one another with the caption from Lannigan’s Ball.” I stepped in Again.And I Stepped Out Again. . . .. ”
      well one Irish paper liked it, and ran it with a great Headline.

      “It is often said that a nation gets the government it deserves.Well Ireland doesn’t think it deserves either of them”.
      I just do cartoons in Czech online magazines. I have given up on Caledonia

  15. Hen Broon says:

    Very disappointing Ms Smith that you chose to malign those of us who post on the internet and ignore the fact that the lovely wee Susan appears to have invented her abuse and death threats. You are quite simply closing ranks with a fellow performer, to the detriment of your reputation. Mind you any one who plays the Character of Mary Doll in the Nesbit series so beloved of the BBC luvvies, as they hoot and slap their thighs at the sight of yet another Scottish stereotype confirmed, is hardly going to stand up for those maligned and racially abused Jocks. Ahh the London metropolitan mind. The daily abuse and lies we see poured out in The Telegraph and many more English publications when the subject of Scotland is headlined, would if used against the Pakistani community be debated in the house of Commons where they also tolerate this anti Scottish racist abuse. Just look at what the vile Davidson has been allowed to get away with by Mr Speaker.
    However you are simply following a well trodden time honoured path, pioneered by Harry Lauder, who caricatured the Scottish vision London loves. Billy Connelly also sold many seats using the same material. He has a particular fondness for sneering at the Highlanders and their country, yet ended up with a Highland Castle where he entertains his luvvy friends dressed as Harry Lauder. A total fraud.
    You cannot ride two horses Ms Smith, you have been found wanting, your hypocrisy will come back to haunt you. Scottish people can laugh at our selves with the best of them. When you tell lies to gain these laughs you are in dangerous territory.

  16. James Coleman says:

    With you there Hen!

  17. Gus says:

    I have met Elaine in Livingston a few years back where she introduced Alex Salmond who was doing a talk just before the 2010 westminster elections, and she is a nice person with great integrity and humour. Eliane has written a good article here and raises some valid points about the media lack of coverage of politicians at Holyrood (excerpt the usual few) and the other characters in politics that relate to Scotland whether football managers, millionaires or other potential characters we don’t know about-she is saying that the uk establishment set the agenda for political satire and that we let them, including herself.

    And yet, I read proper blogs like wingsoverscotland, Moridura, this news site the Caledonian Mercury Newsnet, and satirical sites like bbcscotlandshire and me and my pals crack jokes about the news we get in Scotland, the rather laughable state of it, quite often.

    “Footbaw Murder Footbaw…..the weather……” We need to have a television equivalent of the satire that is within the social media and as long as everyone gets the same treatment (unlike the partisan way our politics are reported in the MSM) than it would be a great thing.

  18. floakmusic says:

    “Susan was unjustly rounded on”…why am i suddenly singing “in my mind Im dying all the times” by Moby. The song is called Porcelain which seems very apt. To hear Elaine C Smith bravely defend Susan Salman, self proclaimed victim of an unsubstantiated crime by including debate about Comics and empty targets seems even more apt…oh wait…is she just being really clever here with the ‘Say it to my face, smartarse’ style and comment….i doubt it but I live in hope.

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