Love Thy Comedy, Hate Thy Politics!

There’s politics, drama and BS in everything – even comedy! Behind the magic you see on stage us comics are working on other projects; podcasts, radio, writing scripts, all of which can be very long and tedious, even more so when you chuck in a bit of BS to the mix!

Where’s all this coming from? Well, I’ve been developing a sitcom for YEARS now (cos that’s how long it takes many sitcoms to get off the ground. By the time my sitcom gets made I may be too old to play my own damn character! Smh!); it’s based loosely on my life, a semi-autobiographical project that centers around a black guy in his 30s from West London (like me in real life), who’s a struggling junior architect (my degree in real life), who meets the girl of his dreams, an Asian woman (my girlfriend in real life), but he’s struggling to get his adult life together and still lives with his larger-than-life, overbearing West Indian grandmother (yes… my grandma in real life).

As with all sitcoms, when pitching it you get all sorts of feedback. Most of it useful and constructive, but then some just utter ridiculous! Let’s just say my project has had a lot of the latter over the years…

I’ve had one producer say “Instead of an architect, why doesn’t he be a police officer, because black people hate the police, right?” Yep… someone actually said that to me. A producer for a major TV channel looked me in the eye and said that to me with a straight face, while I looked at them thinking “What year is it in your head?” and also wishing that while they were going through the script they’d get the world’s most painful paper cut!

I’ve had one person bring up a ‘red flag’… “I couldn’t help but notice that there’s no white people in the main characters”… And? Your point is? It’s about me, my family and my Indian girlfriend, what were you expecting? Emmerdale!!! Also, where was this same energy for the countless sitcoms that have been made over the years that haven’t had any ethnic representation? But hey, if it’s all white then it’s alright eh?

I’ve had one commissioner say that the characters aren’t believable… “Why would a grandmother be so harsh towards her own grandson? Isn’t that mean?” It’s called tough-love mate! Something a lot of people, particularly 1st/2nd generation immigrants experience. It’s designed to equip them for the harsh realities of the world; for those who DON’T have things served to them on a plate. I tried to explain it but I don’t think my voice was heard through their privilege bubble.

I’ve had TV people show real interest, crying for diversity and “something different” and then suddenly disappear, only to realise that they were showing interest because it was the month of October (Black History Month) and the calendar had now ticked over into November aka back to reality/no more virtue signalling.

So yes, I’ve seen it all. The most recent feedback though, was probably the most frustrating, the most eye-opening… The feedback was “I like it, but it’s a tricky sell.”… I’m sorry, what? A “tricky sell?” What is so tricky to sell about the idea of someone in an interracial relationship IN LONDON, who can’t afford his own place so has to live with family IN LONDON??? That’s a tricky sell? This is coming from the same channel that still gives us Songs Of Praise?!!??!? (As someone who believes in God even I don’t get who still watches that!)… Don’t give me “it’s a tricky sell.” I’d rather you’d just tell me the script is shit! In reality, you think it’s a tricky sell because it doesn’t conform to the stereotypes and caricatures of black people that are so often perpetuated on TV. If this was about a black guy on a gritty council estate, trying to escape a life of gangs and knife crime the interest around it would be overloading. Everyone would be sniffing around it like a line of coke in the House of Commons! But instead you have a different black-British experience (Yes, cos not all black people are about that Top Boy life); an educated black guy living in a normal house in a peaceful West London suburb (without a white person) and it’s a “tricky sell.”

I love comedy, but sometimes the politics of the game really does test my patience!

2 Responses

  1. Keira says:

    I cannot tell you how much I identify with this!! People want ‘diversity’ that they imagine exists, not to reflect the experience that so many of us have had.
    You should make this more known!! Such an important message!

  2. Neil says:

    Dude, I’m white and I’ve come up against this BS myself! Often thinly veiled as “realism”, when pitching mine I got questions like “how likely is it that the white guy would have kids with a black lesbian couple?”. Erm, I did? “Yes, but how often does that happen?” Maybe not enough? It’s racism hidden behind something else, and this was from a producer at one of our big broadcasters.

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