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Bad business

AL Kennedy's take on British humour

By AL Kennedy   December 2011

It’s tricky to assess a sense of humour’s historical progress. Audiences viewing competent productions still laugh where Shakespeare, or Sheridan, or Plautus intended. Reading The Wipers Times (the magazine produced in the trenches) reveals battle-sharpened satire and fantasy that wouldn’t shame Private Eye. Any interested listener can access archive radio and stand-up with material and delivery that would work today. This isn’t surprising. Human beings are still scared of pain, bewildered by sex, amused by others’ misfortunes, outraged by authority and fond of nonsense.

What has changed is the pressure on those who make comedy their business in Britain. In…

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