The malevolent domination of Simon Hoggart

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Reading this sketch (ho, and indeed, hum) on the BBC website by Susan Hulme, I was struck by this thought: “why do so many bad sketch writers think that the way to do it is to impersonate Simon Hoggart’s personal writing style?”

It’s all there: the short sentences, the lame gags about individual’s physical characteristics, the “dear reader” asides. Is this what passes for a genre?

If I’m honest, I don’t even know if it stems from Hoggart himself originally – it’s just that I read his sketches more than anyone else’s. Certainly Simon Carrs are different. But then, Simon Carrs’ are rarely funny. Or about anything other than Simon Carr.

We should be asking this question: does the smug, self-satisfied political sketch still have a place in modern political discourse, or should it go the same way as those rude poems you read in old issues of punch?

What do you think dear reader?

4 thoughts on “The malevolent domination of Simon Hoggart

  1. Good question, James. Personally I’m quite a fan of Simon Carr: perceptive, acute, with a cutting turn of phrase. The one I think demeans the sketch-writing ‘art’ is Ann Trenaman for The Times – sad that the first woman to break into this male caucus is the one who seems most keen to ape the worst macho traits of her colleagues.

  2. Well, Dear James, I think it does have a place (especially considering that most days it’s the only report from the House in a paper!), but you’re right in pointing out that the writers need to find an individual voice.

  3. You’re certainly right that they are pretty much all we get in terms of parliamentary reporting these days, I just think there must be some kind of happy medium between reverential West Wing style breathless report and Mike (or Michaela) Giggler.

  4. Quite right. Sketch writing is the refuge of people apparently so hopelessly out of touch that you’d imagine they would be welcome in the Brown Cabinet.

    Simon Carr is useless and seems stuck in the 1960s with his observations. As with most other such scribes he seems almost shocked that there is a third party and he still has not found a way to address the LDs.

    Perhaps a useful pointer to a better future might be Andrew Grice in the Independent, whose pieces tend to be longer and far more considered. They may not make you laugh – but then, which sketch writer does that – but they are incisive and relevant, which Simon Carr never could be in a month of Sundays.

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