Jeremy Clarkson is not funny

Yesterday, millions of public sector workers went on strike. There was remarkable support for the industrial action–even the Daily Mail was polling 84% support. Most people, it would seem, are behind the idea that we should treat our public sector workers as human beings.

Enter Jeremy Clarkson, professional troll who is largely famous for driving cars and being a dripping fuckstain. Clarkson is not one of the vast majority who support the strikes. Quite the opposite, in fact. On never-watched light entertainment The One Show, he declared that strikers should be shot. He clarified with “they should be executed in front of their families.”

Naturally, the tosser brigade have leapt to Clarkson’s defence, declaring that it must be a joke, that he was being somehow “funny”, and the outcry was down to pearl-clutching from humourless hummus-munchers. It’s the last resort of the dribbling wanker, declaring that anyone who is not amused by a brazen display of utter dickery must be boring.

Rest assured, any hummus munchers who are not tickled by Clarkson’s “joke”. You are neither boring, nor humourless. The fact is, what Clarkson proposed flies in the face of what is actually counted as humour.

The truth is, we’re not entirely sure why (most) humans have a sense of humour and laugh at jokes. Evolutionary psychology suggests it’s because it gets us laid. Others suggest it’s a natural reaction to fear being relieved. Perhaps the theory with most research associated, though, is Incongruity Theory.

Incongruity Theory started with philosophy superhero Immanuel Kant, though has since continued into a rich body of research with many offshoots. It proposes that humour is the state of realising incongruity between a concept in a certain situation and the real objects which are thought to be related to the concept. To demonstrate, here are two potentially funny scenarios:

1. Jeremy Clarkson dies in a horrible car crash

2. Jeremy Clarkson is found dead following a tragic wanking accident with three quarters of a bicycle lodged into his rectum.

Chances are, you found the bicycle-bumming scenario far funnier than the car crash scenario. This is because the likelihood of Clarkson going near a bike, let alone incorporating it into an experimental wank, is highly improbable. It is incongruous, and the theory proposes that this is where humour comes from. Humour, according to this theory, can only happen when there is something unexpected, something surreal, something bizarre, something different from reality.

Clarkson’s declaration that strikers should be shot is not particularly incongruous with reality. History and the present are riddled with stories of people taking industrial action and ending up murdered by the forces in power, in precisely the way Clarkson lays out in his “joke”. In the present day UK, the likelihood of shooting strikers is becoming frighteningly more plausible. The police are already being authorised to use weapons of greater lethality in public order situations. Following the riots, a third of British people were baying for the use of live ammunition. Last winter, the police smugly backpatted themselves for not shooting student protesters. Shooting strikers is worryingly congruous with reality, and therefore thoroughly unfunny.

Of course, the joke may still amuse some. It will amuse those whose schema of reality cannot possibly perceive use of violence by the state to attack dissenters as a remotely plausible threat. It will amuse those whose minds are anaesthetised by endless rolling Sky News, growing fat on the lies fed to them by a dangerous system. It will amuse those with a vested interest in maintaining a system from which they benefit, counting wealth gained from forcing workers into ever worse conditions. It will amuse Clarkson himself, paid millions of public pounds, who will never have to face the terrifying possibility of ageing in poverty.

To most of us, though, this joke is not funny. It is a bleak vision of our future.


19 responses to “Jeremy Clarkson is not funny

  • Alex Newbury (@AlexNewbury)

    My main issue is with where/when he said it. If he said it on Top Gear, or wrote it in a book/column, no one would care. It just happened to be on The One Show, which is the most inoffensive, cautious and bland program ever to be called ‘A flagship show’. (Remember when Gene Simmons was on? The once-a-minute cautious glances toward camera whenever he opened his mouth? It was hilarious.)

    Yes, he can be a dick. Yes, his views appear to have gotten more extreme, but in my mind, it’s because the general reaction to his rants and ravings are what has made him both famous and well-off – so it’s only natural that he would, eventually, take it too far.

    If he is trolling, (which I suspect he is) I’d imagine he’s laughing his arse off right now, and toasting his most successful operation so far.

  • Alex

    Did you ever read the thing I wrote ages ago about offensive humour?

    One of the kinds of incongruity I talked about there was incongruity between what you can think and what you can say. Idiots like Clarkson because he says their opinions for them. They laugh because they understand that their opinions are too fascist for polite society. I’d call this Unspeakable humour, and it’s the shittest sort.

    This is why people who aren’t idiots don’t like Clarkson. His brand of biting, incisive satire doesn’t undermine opinions like “shoot anyone that doesn’t go to work when told”, it tells you “you’re not alone in being a stupid, bigoted little authoritarian, just be discrete about it in public”.

    Clarkson’s only saving grace is he’s deadpan enough to only think “amirite? amirite? amirite?” in his head instead of saying it out loud after every sentence.

  • Ellie

    Who would be friends with anyone who thinks the idea of shooting protesters is funny?

    Tells you something about the kinds of people who friends with Clarkson, doesn’t it. Our future laid before us as Clarkson tells us about his social circle. Terrifying. Egypt isn’t exactly a million miles away, and yes, in the years before the revolution, Egyptian strikers did face the barrel of a gun, just like in so many other places throughout history.

  • mhairi

    A few places where Clarkson may feel at home

    In the Philipines
    http://www.kilusangmayouno.org/campaign/stop-trade-union-repression

    In Columbia
    http://www.justiceforcolombia.org/news/article/978/trade-unionist-shot-dead-at-work

    In Guatemala
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR34/013/2011/en/22191c06-e01e-4566-bc59-b1a25f31327e/amr340132011en.html

    In Venezuela
    http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/3995

    In the French Carribean
    http://happydaggers.blogspot.com/2009/02/trade-unionist-shot-dead-in-french.html

    There will be some members of the trade unions in the UK that will hear Clarkson’s comments and feel a chill go through them as they recollect the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and comrades that they have lost because someone thought that taking trade unionists outside and shooting them was a good idea.

  • BobbyFlint (@BBFlint)

    Although I understand where you’re coming from, don’t you think that the reaction to Clarkson’s comments simply drew attention away from the protests?

    After Unison announced they would be considering legal action, it seemed like the debate moved from the protests to Clarkson’s comments. As a result, I don’t think N30 was as powerful as it could have been.

    • stavvers

      It was a very peculiar instance: for once we weren’t infighting over “who hijacked the day”, we just let Clarkson do it for us.

      For what it’s worth, I think Unison are being VERY silly indeed and undid a lot of good work. On the other hand, there may now be less tolerance for “increased policing” considering Clarkson’s given us an “anchor”…

  • Tony

    Did you read the entirity of what he said? Because if you do then you’ll see he originally said the strikes were a good thing and then made a joke about the BBC being indifferent about these things; which led to him making the said statement.

  • Edmund

    Speaking of trolls, using a poll commissioned and taken by The Sun to suggest that one third of us would like the police to use live ammunition?

    Please.

    Using false statistics such as this is nothing more than lying to further your own agenda.

    • stavvers

      There are various different types of poll a newspaper can conduct:
      1. A phone vote advertised in the newspaper–where the Daily Star can trumpet than 99% of people support killing Muslims, when actually all they have done is polled Star readers who give enough of a fuck to vote.
      2. An internet vote, which typically only polls readers of the newspaper, occasionally getting “polljacked” via Twitter.
      3. Outsourcing a poll to a professional polling agency, who will pose the questions to a cross-section of the public.

      Now, your points were very good, and I bet you feel very clever, but they only apply to poll types 1 and 2. Sadly for you, the poll in question was of type 3.

      A fairly representative sample of the British population filled in a survey. The survey asked an array of questions about the riots, including use of various measures (such as live ammunition), faith in the police and how long they expected the riots to last for. The full results of the survey are here.

      Now, there are legitimate criticisms of these data, but none that you’ve found, and the “false statistics” line is adorable: it sounds like you’re cargo-culting sceptics and missing the point. It’s quite cute really.

      • Edmund

        Haha, good response! Thanks for the data, I would hazard a guess that the legitimate problems with the date include only asking people from within the areas affected by riots and furthermore asking them generally if firearms may be used, at which point they can choose to envision some apocalyptic riot in which the use of guns may be necessary!

        Cargo-culting? That term led me on a little wikipedia adventure. With regard your use of the sentence “baying for the use of…”, I certainly think I’ve proven my point about the trolling; but then I would, since I sure think I’m clever!

  • Jamie

    You really shouldn’t write articles like this. You are adding value to Clarkson’s ‘brand’ by being outraged. This is exactly the result he wants.

    And no, I don’t find anyone’s death funny. Even if I disagree with their views.

  • How to banter (without being a nasty little prick) « Another angry woman

    […] has also been used as an excuse to cover for unacceptable language from pointless oxygen-bogarts Jeremy Clarkson and Ricky Gervase, to name but a […]

  • Why rape jokes aren’t funny: the science « Another angry woman

    […] One of the major veins in this research is Incongruity Theory, which I touched on in explaining why Jeremy Clarkson isn’t funny. Essentially, Incongruity Theory posits that humour is the state of realising  incongruity […]

  • bob

    Jeremy a fuckstain .. Iiove it him and simon cowell

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