I really enjoyed the BBC comedy Citizen Khan, which had its second episode on BBC1 earlier this week.
As might be expected, the programme has created some controversy, with complaints made to the BBC, and criticism by Muslim academic Leon Moosavi. Yesterday, Birmingham University academic Chris Allen wrote a discerning piece, arguing the programme was neither racist nor Islamophobic - it just wasn't, in his opinion, very funny.
I can't remember who said it (Jerry Sadowitz?) but all comedy is at the expense of someone. That bucket of water in Laurel and Hardy, or the rolling pin in a Carry On film, eventually has to hit someone. In Citizen Khan, the bulk of the jokes hit Mr Khan himself. His pomposity, obsessive social climbing, his inability to relate to any other member of his family, his ability to blunder into embarrassing sexual misunderstandings and the fact he is manipulated with ease by the female members of his household - all whilst resolutely acting as if he is the king of the castle. These staples of comedy should be familiar to anyone who has watched a British sit-com in the last forty years. Citizen Khan may be set in Sparkhill, but remove some of the religious content and it could just as easily be the Smith family in Stockport or the Jones family in Swansea.
One thing Jerry Sadowitz certainly did say was that it is dangerous to leave certain groups of people, be they a religious or racial group, out of comedy. What does it tell us about our society if a particular group is left out of a section of our social discourse, permanently? I would not want to live in such a society, and I suspect, deep down, neither would many others.
Over 20 years ago I saw Jerry Sadowitz play Wolverhampton Polytechnic. Part of his routine concerned the ever younger family members he had been served by in his local Asian corner shop - one day he was convinced he would go in and be sold a packet of cigarettes by an embryo. For a moment the crowd hesitated (Wolves Poly was a pretty left-liberal place from 1988-91) then the audience roared with laughter. They were mature enough to realise Sadowitz was not some Bernard Manning figure solely disparaging one section of the community he knew nothing about - he was observing, in a exaggerated way, a small part of all our lives.
And that is what Citizen Khan tries to do. Leon Moosavi argues the programme reinforces stereotypes about Asians and Muslims to an non Asian audience. That remains to be seen. But if British Asian comedy writers observe humour in the Muslim community (or any other community) who are we to say they cannot articulate that?
Ultimately - if it is funny, it works. And I suspect enough people, from a range of backgrounds, will find Citizen Khan works.