Comedian Ben Elton praised for speaking truth about so-called cancel culture and anti-trans hate
Ben Elton has been applauded for saying that cancel culture isn’t “remotely real” and coming out swinging against anti-trans hate in comedy.
Elton spoke to BBC Radio 4 before a one-off revival of Friday Night Live on Channel 4 on Friday (21 October) about how a comedian’s job is to speak truth to power and point out those who “purport to represent traditional values are actually the ones who represent most deeply undermining our safeties”.
BBC Radio 4 host Justin Webb questioned if “another job of the satirist” was to “find people that are in charge even though they say they’re not”. Webb then appeared to try to bait Elton into commenting on the lives of trans people, mentioning the anti-trans dog whistle ‘what is a woman’ question and misgendering.
Elton said his programme would touch on all aspects of society as life is changing “so quickly” in terms of technology, societal attitudes or “what is sex and gender”.
Webb butted in: “They’re now in charge, the people who say we need to think…”
But Elton was having none of it and immediately shut down Webb’s train of thought.
“Are you trying to say that woke millennials are cancelling grey haired voices like yours sir?” Elton said.
Webb said he thought he was being “subtle” with his line of questioning about the lives of trans people and so-called ‘cancel culture’ in the UK. Elton emphatically told him that the “agenda is clear here”.
“I don’t believe cancel culture is remotely real,” Elton said. “Of course, there are language rules. There always have been.”
He continued: “They change. It is the job of the comedian to circumnavigate that.
“I have always had in mind my language in various ways, and I hope that I have found clever and interesting ways to do that.”
Ben Elton’s comments denying that so-called cancel culture exists and steering the conversation away from another toxic debate on trans rights in the UK were greeted with immense support on social media.
Astonishing moment on #r4today when Justin Webb tries to bait Ben Elton into lazily attacking trans people. To Elton’s credit he’s having absolutely none of it.
— Geek Boy (@GeekBoyMusic) October 21, 2022
Bloody @BBC ideologues are trying to shoe-horn in their transphobia into every discussion now. When will the BBC do something about it? @BBCr4today are propagandists. Elton nicely skewers him. https://t.co/RncIbz7DV1— James Billingham (@oolon) October 21, 2022
Brilliant response from Ben Elton to the suggestion that trans people somehow control the political and social agenda. #bbctransphobia https://t.co/K7LjsanEBp— Rupert Higham (@rupert_higham) October 21, 2022
Love the way Ben Elton handles this. The BBC have turned on the after burners too with their transphobia though.
Good on Ben Elton – quite right! Anything can be funny but if it’s people with privilege kicking down, is that funny? @Talldarkfriend is on Elton’s Friday Night Live tonight @Channel4 at 9pm & does comedy about being Trans. Saw her show. Few weeks ago – recommended watching! https://t.co/XTUGpUwkPK
— Ashleigh Loeb????️? (@MxAshleighLoeb) October 21, 2022
Good on Ben Elton this morning for puncturing Radio 4 Today's obsession with trying to attack trans rights at every opportunity. Ludicrous to suggest, as presenter did this morning, that those defending trans rights are somehow 'in charge' in a way comparable to the government…— Dr William Tullett (@WillTullett) October 21, 2022
Love Ben Elton's comments here
I've been surprised, & rather disappointed that some comics who used comedy as an excellent vehicle for speaking out against prejudices in the past, have chosen not to when it comes to trans issues
Crikey, wouldn't have had Ben Elton down as someone who was going to make this point, but fair play to him.
Insane, tho, that a journalist on BBC Radio can claim that trans people are now "in charge" of society. By what conceivable, tangible measure is that even remotely true?! https://t.co/QIqofKWC9S— Michael (@WriterMichael_) October 21, 2022
Kudos to Ben Elton for not being a prick on this.
The suggestion from @JustinOnWeb that somehow trans people are in charge of everything (in the midst of 13 years of Tory rule and promised reforms that never came) is a worrying conspiracy theory. https://t.co/c6uAXZJ1T8— ? Maleficent Moan ? (@Chican3ry) October 21, 2022
Comedians have been debating as to whether ‘punching down’ to minorities is acceptable
Various comedians including Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais have been accused of stoking hate by making crude jokes about trans people and the LGBTQ+ community in their specials. Chappelle even claimed he had been ‘cancelled’ despite performing before a sold out show.
But Ben Elton said that the current debate about ‘wokeness’ is about accepting the “world is in flux” and “perhaps it doesn’t look exactly like we thought it looked” while “negotiating” that with “good will and respect for all”.
Elton said he’s not felt like he’s been “cancelled” during his career. He described performing more than 150 gigs where he “spoke [his] mind” about “trans and race and identity” without punching down at the community.
He added that he’s always tried “very hard not to punch down” as a comedian as he believed such digs are actually just “rabble rousing”, not comedy.
“Comedy isn’t funny when it merely massages a prejudice,” he added.
Ben Elton also garnered praise on social media for kicking off his Friday Night Live Channel 4 special by warmly welcoming audience members of all genders before sharing his pronouns.
Elton then flawlessly transitioned to a savage dig at Liz Truss, who resigned as prime minister Thursday (20 October). The comedian described Truss’s short time in office as the “most pointlessly destructive, eye-wateringly expensive, ego-driven, car crash of delusional vanity project since Simon Cowell had his face lift”.
The BBC faced immense backlash in 2021 for an article that claimed trans women were pressuring cisgender lesbians into sex. The article included an interview with Lily Cade, an openly anti-trans former adult entertainer who had been accused by multiple women of sexual assault.
It did not include a single interview with anyone who disagreed that trans women are a threat to lesbians. Yet, the BBC has tirelessly insisted the article was impartial and was subject to a “rigorous editorial process”.
The anti-trans article resulted in protests outside BBC offices in several cities.
The BBC has also been criticised for uncritically platforming anti-trans lobby groups LGB Alliance and Get The L Out UK, leading to the broadcaster being labelled a “mouthpiece for the right-wing and the gender critical”.
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