Research query: Did the UK left wing press cover ‘alternative comedy’?

TYO series 1

I am currently turning my series of blog posts on The Young Ones and Thatcherism into a journal article and am trying to find an answer to the following question – did the left wing press in the UK (especially the CPGB’s Morning Star and Comment or the SWP’s Socialist Worker) feature any articles/reviews of ‘alternative comedy’ in the early-to-mid-1980s? While the British left did get enthusiastic about certain forms of popular youth culture during this period, I’m curious whether this extended to comedy. I’m particularly interested in finding out whether there were any reviews of The Young Ones when it was first aired.

If anyone has access to left wing publications from this period and can check for me, or if you have memories of the left covering the alternative comedy scene, please let me know. I will be eternally grateful.


  1. I have a file of SW. but at the moment I have several deadlines to meet and no time to search. How quickly do you need an answer? If it’s not urgent remind me again in 4-5 weeks time and I’ll get back to you. In the meantime have you checked Mark Steel’s autobiography – the title escapes me. That would tell you something of the milieu – attitudes. Why not contact mark himself through his website.

  2. • Title: It’s not a runner bean : dispatches from a slightly successful comedian / Mark Steel.
    • Author: Mark Steel, 1960-
    • Subjects: Steel, Mark, 1960- — Anecdotes ; Comedians — England — Anecdotes ;
    Dewey: 828.914
    • Publication Details: London : Do-Not Press, 2004.
    • Language: English
    • Edition: 3rd ed..
    • Identifier: ISBN 1904316433 (pbk.) : £7.99; BNB GBA453449; System number 012955591
    • Notes: Previous ed.: 1996.
    Formerly CIP.
    • Physical Description: 302 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
    • Shelfmark(s): General Reference Collection YK.2005.a.9302
    • UIN: BLL01012955591
    • Title: Reasons to be cheerful : from punk to new labour through the eyes of a dedicated troublemaker / Mark Steel.
    • Author: Mark Steel, 1960-
    • Subjects: Steel, Mark, 1960- ; Political activists — Great Britain — Biography ; Riots — England — History ;
    Dewey: 322.4092
    • Publication Details: London : Scribner, 2001.
    • Language: English
    • Identifier: ISBN 074320803X (pbk.) : £10.00; BNB GBA1Z4544; System number 009439301

  3. Thanks Ian for the reply. I’ve read Mark Steel’s stuff, but he doesn’t really talk about how the left felt about comedy (besides saying that at every benefit gig there would be a comedian). But I will try to contact him.

    I’m working on this article slowly, so there’s no rush on checking SW. Thanks for the offer too. I will remind you in a month or so.

  4. There is an interview with Ben Elton in the November 1981 issue of “International”. I have emailed you a scan of the article.

  5. In case it helps there is an old issue of the London Review of Books that carries a review of Alexei Sayle (about the time of the Young Ones). In case you need the reference let me know, I will be happy to dig it out.

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