As a working class, Tory-voting, pro-Brexit comedian, Geoff Norcott is rarer than a hen’s tooth in the liberal, left-leaning, middle-class world of stand-up comedy. So much so, that as soon as the refined folk at the top of the BBC got a sniff of his existence, they threw out a net to catch him and promptly appointed him to a "diversity panel" of people whose existence must be acknowledged in the eternal quest for balance.
Norcott immediately set about biting the hand that feeds with How the Middle Classes Ruined Britain (BBC Two), identifying the BBC and we who watch it – “you lot” – and especially anyone who regularly eats avocado, as the enemy. “The thing about the middle classes is they talk out both sides of their mouth,” he said at the outset. “They’re hypocrites because they claim to be virtuous and caring, yet simultaneously they’re doing things that serve their self-interest.”
Whether you agree with Norcott or not, he hit the nail on the head sometimes: “You know the type, usually called Oliver or Jemima – they like a protest march so long as it’s followed by a spot of light brunch.”
To begin with, his targets to illustrate middle-class hypocrisy seemed well chosen. Like those who “game the system” to get their little darlings onto the best state schools. He travelled to Manchester to rail at luxury developments with no affordable housing quotas, and to Deptford to join protesters against council flats being redeveloped by a housing charity.
Too often though, Norcott’s his views on class seemed to run contrary to his own free-thinking, small state, right-wing views. Especially when he started banging on about the middle classes trying to “keep people like [him] at arms’ length”, using heinous methods like a dating app that only paired up people who’d been to public school. His attempts to game this circle, by consulting a posh dating counsellor and crashing a toffs-only dating event backfired – leaving him looking cowed, obsessed with his own sense of difference, and patronised by everyone he met.
Similarly, his decision to try out his schtick on university students’ union officers was a car crash waiting to happen. When his feeble jokes about disability fell on deaf ears and stony faces, the students’ response – that they were unmoved not out of humourlessness but because they had “heard it all before” – left Norcott with nowhere to go and looking weak.
In the end, despite successfully skewering some examples of middle-class hypocrisy, his approach was just too scattergun and politically inconsistent. I have seen Norcott shine on The Mash Report and his Right Leaning But Well Meaning stand-up show for Radio 4 was very, very funny. His is a voice that deserves to be heard. But he needs to be sharper if he’s to adopt the role of social commentator and take on something as nebulous as the class system. Otherwise this most relevant-seeming of comedians will quickly end up looking out of touch.