So the fat man is dead. Bernard Manning is no more. Thank God? I'm not sure. Looking over message boards and "tributes" it has been interesting to see a considerable amount of ugliness about the way Bernard Manning was viewed.
One thing you cannot take away from Bernard Manning was his ability - as a comedian - to delivery a joke. His timing was absolutely perfect. And for that he deserves credit.
Unfortunately it was the material that kept him off television and cast aside from the mainstream for the last twenty years of his life. His fans will blame the "PC Brigade", I believe they are creating excuses.
Manning's comedy was at its zeitgeist when Britain was still coming to terms with its rapidly changing cultural identity. After the Second World War and the collapse of the global empires of Western Europe there was a massive movement of human life across the globe. A lot of people came to Britain, helping to create the society we see around us today. Manning's comedy appealed to the national concern and interest at what was happening. I do not believe that his comedy is rendered any less incorrect based on the time frame, as I feel that laughing at someone based on their ethnicity is wrong. But the people of Britain were still a little less enlightened back then (for the most part) and Manning captured that feeling expertly.
Where he fell down was his refusal to move on. His refusal to change onto more relevant issues, and continue to make jokes about the differance between us (generally white, working class, Northern men) and them (everyone else).
People have been trying to defend Bernard by saying that he was one of the last advocates of free speech and resolutely fought the "PC Brigade". This is incorrect. "Political Correctness" has only really gone into its crazy overdrive in the last several years; Manning has been off television since the '80s. Because he was stuck in the humour of the '50s and the '60s; the lair of the Alf Garnetts and The Black and White Minstrel Show.
What has been more alarming to see, is how many fans of Manning's seem to be blaming politcal correctness for preventing them from spewing a kind of vitriolic hatred towards anything they don't consider "the norm". Political correctness had nothing to do with people being disgusted by Manning frequently calling Asians "Pakis" or "Gooks", or black people "Coonss", or gay people "Queers". Political correctness didn't reduce those words to the gutter, the general public did it because they are abhorrent terms. It is shocking to read how many people seem to be blaming their own closet racism on the "PC Brigade".
The other thing that his defenders have jumped up to point out is that "Bernard picked on everyone", which is another flase truth. Bernard picked on everyone except white, working class Northerners, who were apparently the salt of the earth and could do no wrong. Was it also a coincidence that the majority of these ignorant, uneducated people were the ones that kept his career afloat since he fell out of public interest? I think not.
Anyone that knows me knows that I am all for outrageous, offensive humour. I find it amusing. I find humour in painting images and using jokes that go so far beyond the realms of offensiveness that they become farcical. If it was said with seriousness and malice, the views and the jokes would be so morally offensive it would be untrue, but they are not. They are said with full knowledge that it goes so far past "the line" that it becomes humorous again. Bernard Manning's jokes were always just on the line. They were never outrageously offensive like a Jerry Sadowitz, they were just observations of how different other people were to him and his kind. And that - and only that - therefore made them the subject of his comedy. Manning and his audience in the vile little billiard hall; the "world famous" Embassy Club (a run down ex billiard hall somewhere in the middle of a parking lot in north), laughed at other people because they were different.
They were ignorant, intolerant and tremendously bigoted, whether they want to admit it or not. And trying to talk about Manning's "charity work" would be like trying to say that the KKK are alright because they give cash to animal shelters. It still doesn't change the message. It still doesn't change the fact that a fat, uncultured bigot, way past his heyday that appeals to a bunch of equally intolerant bigots were clinging to a decaying idea of what Britain once was (hint: WHITE). He were pointing and laughed at anyone different from him and his audience. At anyone that couldn't defend themself. At anyone that wanted to do more than drink beer and eat "pie and chips" and drone on about how wonderful Britain is.
Keep the north, keep Blackpool, keep you're "salt of the earth." I have a brain and an opinion and can change with the times and I'm proud of it.
Laugh at me all you want Bernard. I'll quite happily take what I've got over what and you're kind have you ended up as.