The funny business

Was Bob Hope actually funny? Christopher Hitchens doesn’t think so: “Hope was a fool, and nearly a clown, but he was never even remotely a comedian.”

I belong to what I suspect is a large slice of Britons aged under 40 who have never actually seen a Bob Hope routine so I really can’t comment.

It is interesting though to read someone divert from the expected script in the wake of Hope’s death – our culture seems to insist on turning deceased performers into ‘legends’ when in reality there is rarely a consensus about their merits.

Comedy has always been a source of great arguments – I’ve spent the past few days locked in debate with my Dad about current British comedy. For years we have shared the same tastes but recently have developed divergent opinions. I am getting close to obsessed with Phoenix Nights and Peter Kay’s stand-up routine while my dad prefers Red Dwarf. I like The Office while he prefers Men Behaving Badly.

Still at least a brief viewing of Jim Davidson last night confirmed he is as unfunny as ever and the chances of a heated argument with anyone over Bernard Manning’s merits has been ended by his signing up as a supporter for the British National Party.

I tend towards the view that every comic has his moment. A decade or so ago Ben Elton was the funniest man in Britain. Perhaps the problem with Bob Hope was that his moment went on far too long?