This week Danny Cohen, the new controller of BBC 1, has called for more sitcoms to feature blue-collar characters. Naturally this has sparked debate about whether class matters in comedy. Someone on a Guardian blog posted this comment:
Middle Class, Working Class, does it really matter as long as it’s funny?
Well, yes and no. A working class comedy is not necessarily better than a middle class sitcom by itself, that comes down to factors such as writing and casting. However I would say that a working class comedy has the potential to be a better sitcom. What really makes a great sitcom is the idea that the characters are trapped within their situation. This idea lends itself far better to sitcoms with working class characters than middle class ones. Aspirational working class characters are well-worn in sitcoms. One only has to look at Harry in Steptoe and Son, always trying to escape his circumstances, or Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, trying to get rich quick. Their comedy lies within their attempts to leave their impoverished circumstances, and can be repeated week after week by returning to the status quo. It cannot be as easily done is shows as say, My Family. There are exceptions of course, but I would say working class characters have the potential for better comedy. I would also suggest, if I may, that Blackadder became funnier as his class standing diminished. As for the changes, well if it means more shows like Only Fools and Horses and less like Miranda, it can only be a good thing.