I’m honoured to share this excellent reasoning from @YassinMy (originally posted here) on the powerful legacy of the classic British TV comedy show – The Real McCoy. Follow YassinMy on Twitter
IT TOOK FELIX DEXTERS DEATH FOR ME TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE REAL MCCOY
How did the BBC brush this under the carpet?
It was the early 90s. As Felix’s stock continued to rise, he found his home amongst fellow ethnic minority origin performers making a name for themselves in the Hackney Empire. Soon enough they were snapped up by the BBC for ‘The Real McCoy’ in 1991. The first comedy sketch show exclusively written and performed by an ethnic-minority cast. Angie Le Mar, amongst the stars, states that it was a “turning point for black comedy…the audience found a show that told their story and told their story funny. You know, it wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t about issues or difficult, it was just…funny”. Of course, this naturally made it an uphill struggle to get the show on TV – producer Charlie Hanson admitting “[there was] nobody at the BBC championing the show”.
Personally, I missed out on The Real McCoy, as did the majority of my generation who can barely remember the late 90s let alone the early 90s. My generation is the smartphone generation. The social networking generation, where communication and self-expression is much more instantaneous. Vanity and narcissism are simply part of our fabric; which we continue to embrace as part of this (artificially?) bold demeanour… or ‘swag’ or woteva u wna call it. We are the riot generation – social angst continues to exist alongside the scarcity of outlets for expression. But most importantly, those of us brought up in 21st century England will have witnessed unprecedented multiculturalism. Our generation continues to witness a convergence of this unbelievably diverse range of cultures within the densest of urban landscapes. The ethnic make-up is no longer as clear cut as asian/black/white british- now you have to throw Eastern Europeans into the mix, Turks, Afghans, Kurds, Iranians, Albanians, Arabs, Somalis, Tamils and many other diaspora. Indeed, as of 2013 40% of London is ethnic minority background.
Instead, we caught shit like Catherine Tate and Little Britain. The closest we came to regular urban entertainment was the ‘Am I Bovvered’ girl and Vicky Pollard. Ridiculously unrealistic caricatures of the working-class concieved by privately-educated, silver spoon goons. As kids we could never grasp why the BBC would ever cancel something as insanely popular in the playground as Little Miss Jocelyn. In fact, the real tragedy is that it took Felix Dexter’s death last month for me to even find out about The Real McCoy. It has never been repeated on TV (not even after Felix’ tribute show), nor has it been released on DVD. When I finally watched the Real McCoy, 17 long years after it was cancelled – the first thing to strike me was how timeless it is. Not only to ethnic-minority audiences, but to non-ethnic minority audiences who by virtue of growing up in a multi-cultural society, feel they can relate. From sketches like the Yardie ATM machine to the ‘I’ve Got Black Mates’ guy .
Felix Dexter contributed with the most popular characters. From characters such as the lecherous, morally-perverted ‘Mash Up Luficer’ pastor, to Douglas the roots and culture lawyer (self-deprecating, loosely based on Felix’ own identity crises as a middle-class black man). To Nathaniel, the accountant-cum-cab-driver from Lagos, played by the West Indian Dexter, who then proceeds to rip the piss out of West Indian speech patterns.
This was the kind-of ethnic banter that in the post-PC age, the liberal establishment easily mistakes for outright racism, when that is CLEARLY not the case. Jack Dee (Live at The Apollo, Lead Ballon etc.), TV’s ultimate ‘Waitrose’ comedian, said of TRM “its not done in spite or ridicule, but with love”. Comedy writer Paul Whitehouse, who would work with Dexter after TRM admits “we live in a multicultural society now, instead of just acknowledging it we should be able to laugh about it”. That’s what TRM was – a celebration of our multi-cultural society in the form of the humour we can all relate to. Certainly for any of us who went to a comprehensive in a big city, we understand the role ethnic banter played, and continues to play, in quelling any potential racial tensions in our ethnically diverse surroundings.
QI regular Alan Davies praised Dexter’s comedic technique commenting on the usage of “nuances and little phrases that leave a white audience wondering… why’s that funny?”. And that’s exactly what it came to. What did the white audience wonder? What if the white audience didn’t get it?
t is like The Real McCoy is the dead-body the BBC wants to sweep under the carpet. God forbid any memory of BBC executives ever stepping outside the bubble/paedo rings they’re stuck in and actually try to gain some understanding of pop culture and the society they are paid to adequately represent and entertain. God forbid TV executives understanding the changing demographics in this rapidly modernising society. God forbid TV executives understand the distinction between white/mainstream and urban isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. Quite simply, multiculturalism has merged social factions that would have been otherwise segregated. Social mobility means more ‘urban’ people have access to cultural capital. We live in a 21st century England where white people say ‘wagwan’ without a hint of irony. But what the misinformed used to call ‘Jafaican’ has now evolved. You don’t need to be Arab nor Muslim to say ‘wallahi’ or ‘staghfirullah’. You don’t need to be a genius to know that if a group of drunk Polish guys call you ‘kurwa’, you just keep your head down and pretend you never heard it. You don’t need to be Indian to know that bossman is parring your life when he calls you a ‘benchod’. That’s the microcosmic world we’re living in. That is part of the melting-pot conditioning. When you grow up in a multi-cultural society you accept facets of other people’s culture. The slang, the music tastes, the fashion senses, the moral codes, the in-jokes – all of these things merge to create one huge demographic that isn’t exclusive to any race, ethnicity or even social class. Perhaps the TV executives and commissioners need to talk to their children more.
Speaking in 2012 at a TRM reunion Meera Syal (a legend in her own right, who brought the wonderful Goodness Gracious Me to the screen) believes “we’ve gone backwards” in terms of progression, as her co-star Judith Jacob expressed sadness “that we’ve not got anything else that we’re talking about in the same way we talk about The Real McCoy.” We very nearly did. A 2006 Radio 4 spoof phone-in Down The Line proved immensely popular and was adapted for TV as Bellamy’s People – a character comedy sketch show. Felix Dexter contributed with his various characters, as did Adil Ray (future Citizen Khan). Despite rave reviews, it was cancelled. “Why we didn’t do it again, it’s a mystery to us.” said Felix. “Part of it, a possible explanation is the viewing figures. But that again was down to the fact that it was new and also I don’t think the marketing of it was very good.” This whilst dross like Miranda is being rammed down or up every one of our collective orifices.
And what is going on over at BBC3? Tax-payer funded programming for the current demographic of 16-24s. You aren’t going to hear any jokes about the peng ting in the DMs, or lying about Instagram filters or ducking TfL inspectors. Rubbish like Badults is horrific viewing. To compound matters, we are more likely to find Jack Whitehall’s 65 year old dad on our screens. No word of a lie. And as Jack Whitehall lingers around TV like a bad fart, now it seems his TV executive dad is getting in on the glory too. If you ever needed a summary of everything wrong with British television…
Whilst the executives and people in-charge are unwilling to scout urban comedy from the Hackney Empire, to the nationwide shows done by Harmony Productions and Upfront Comedy, to the riches online in the social networking era. Right now, it doesn’t seem at all likely that The Real McCoy will be repeated or that a 21st century reincarnation may be commissioned. However, what we can do now, is watch and support our current crop or urban comic talent who represent our multi-cultural society. People like Kojo, A Squeezy, David Vujanic, Jazzy, Hamza, Poet, DJM, Eddie Kadi…who continue to keep the fire burning with consistent comedy that an entire generation can relate to, Some videos below of some work they’ve done already. Make sure you follow them all on Twitter and support their work. This is the future of British comedy, everyone. Hopefully this generation isn’t as neglected as The Real McCoy generation.
BEST OF UK URBAN COMEDY:
KOJO SET ON MTV BASE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg7WyE4NxpI
KEVIN J NIGERIAN POLICE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU3vl61Drgs
DONT JELOUS ME & BRICKA BRICKA – IMMIGRATION: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JOwIs9CWYg
A SQUEEZY & J WEEZY – INSTAGRAM YOU KNOW I GOT IT:
FLOPBOY (TOPBOY PARODY): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78eXZAzhwFE
TEA TOWEL GANG POOR 2011: THE WASTEMAN REMIX: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn_yEjmg3Jw
JAZZY ON MANDEM ON THE WALL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwtud17jfi4
DIARY OF A BADMAN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCccFbFWv7w
POET – 5 THINGS I HATE (UNIVERSITY STUDENTS): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8a8ikviWas @PoetsCornerUK