10/11/2013 18:20 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Comedians in Politics: An Open Letter

Dear Rupert

I've been a big fan over the years. I've enjoyed your witty asides, acerbic observations, and the time you got us all thrown out of a club for 'inappropriate dancing'. In fact, despite your ubiquity, you are consistently more funny than average (if your sample includes Sarah Teather, as she brings down the mean).

I never normally criticise fellow Political Takeout presenters, mainly because you are the only other one and do all the tech stuff that I can't, so it would kind of be shooting myself in the foot, but I also don't do so unless a) I respect them, b) you come out with superficial dross and c) I'm writing a fake letter to promote our new show. I'm afraid on this occasion you qualify.

Now I know we shouldn't expect forensic attention to detail from a conversation we had down the pub, as it is supposed to entertain as well as to inform. As someone fairly experienced in such conversations myself, I understand that you can make a few generalisations, exploiting the odd prejudice about Lib Dems or Chuka Umunna here and there for comic effect, but last week the comment you made that comedians shouldn't be involved in political commentary was not your most insightful analysis.

Rupert, you hobble yourself from the outset by challenging something which no one is proposing: giving Steve Coogan a job outside of the Alan Partridge series. No one is saying that, not me, not you, not David Mitchell, not Russell Brand, not Robert Webb.

"Steve Coogan has an overblown sense of his own self-importance," you say. Wow. You're really going out on a limb. No one disagrees: it's like saying you're anti-cancer. You seem to have bought into the reductive polarisation of a debate where comedians use as many long words as possible in the hope we'll get so bored that we'll just skip to the end and buy their latest DVD.

You fail to point to a single reason why we can't also seek extra traffic by putting funny people with something to say about politics and, crucially, huge twitter followings, on our show.

Rupert, if your comments were a schoolboy's essay, it would score highly for style. But it would be covered in red ink with frequent use of the comments 'trite', 'ham-fisted' and 'what a God-awful analogy to finish a turgid piece of prose'.

Yours in publicity,


Dear Bobby,

Why did you so specifically not refer to me as a genius?

I can only assume that the open letter - like the open sandwich - is a Scandanavian concept, and thus a socialist one.

Despite my disquietude (love the beard by the way, ignore the haters) that you are a stooge for the murky and mysterious panjandrums whose agenda is all about keeping comedians front and centre in our national debate because they'll come on political shows for free and are "box office," I will address the concerns you raise.

As an aside, of course they want you to believe that cancer is bad, Bobby. Open your eyes and make your own assessment. That's what I did.

What TV producers and news editors have been getting wrong is booking the same three people to do political panel discussions since 2001. Somewhere during the BBC move to Salford, the department for guest booking was simply lost in outer Manchester, and since then it's all just been the Hitchens who's still alive, Stephen Fry, and the one everyone pretends is a comedian - Shappi Khorsandi - in a collection of wigs, assumed voices and bad ties. Into this fetid atmosphere walked Russell Brand, and the viewers at home could see the dust falling off the TV. It could as easily have been a live hippo wearing a fez. Just good timing.

Where can you find more interesting, funnier, politically informed discussion? For that you'd have to listen to the show that we make, Bobby, the one you may remember is starting again on Monday. If you aren't already involved in the production, guest booking, writing, recording and editing of Political Takeout, you might want to subscribe to it on iTunes [] so that you don't miss Tuesday's show.

Yours in even more self-publicity,


p.s. we have a website? Oh yes. Just googled it. ooh, and a twitter @PolTakeout

Political Takeout returns for season 2 in association with Independent Voices on Tuesday the 12th November. It will be available on the Independent Voices website and via iTunes.