New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Culture
21 July 2021

Alun Cochrane asks: since when was “centrist dad” an insult?

The comedian’s new BBC show is part foray into modern politics, part midlife identity crisis. 

By Rachel Cunliffe

“I’m not a baddie, I’m a centrist dad – I’ve got a gluten-free dog!” comedian Alun Cochrane exclaims in mock-frustration. His new show (imaginatively titled Alun Cochrane: Centrist Dad? – the question mark is very important, we are told) is part foray into modern politics, part midlife identity crisis. It’s not the “dad” part that bothers him, uncool though that may be – it’s the “centrist”, which he is bemused to find has somehow become an insult. Cochrane, who has always considered himself vaguely on the left, has noticed something: the Overton window is shifting, name-calling has replaced debate and colleagues on the comedy circuit “seem to see anyone to the right of Chairman Mao as an enemy of progress”. 

That we live in an era of intensifying polarisation – in politics and in real life – is hardly a new observation. Nor is the lament on which this show is based: that those looking for things to be offended by have made it very hard to do comedy. Some of Cochrane’s jokes are decidedly tired (“People recently have told me I’m a contrarian – I disagree”), while others aren’t really comedy at all (“If you don’t have books on your shelves that you disagree with, you either need bigger shelves, bigger brains or bigger curiosity”). 

That’s not to say there’s nothing interesting or entertaining about this show. Cochrane notes that while calls to censor offensive content used to come from the old, the religious and the right-wing, now the most devout puritans seem to be young and on the left. In today’s politically fuelled culture wars, sometimes it’s useful to wonder when it became progressive to attack people for asking questions. And some of the jokes do succeed in both eliciting a chuckle and making a serious point – on eco-activists disrupting the production of newspapers whose climate coverage they consider negligent, Cochrane muses: “I think Extinction Rebellion may be the sort of people who look at the Nazi book burnings, and the thing that worries them about it is the emissions.”

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with pontificating about cancel culture. But I can’t help but feel Cochrane has fallen into the trap that ensnares so many comedians when they try to talk about politics: aiming for claps rather than laughs.

Alun Cochrane: Centrist Dad?
BBC Sounds

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[see also: Why the right loves ancient Rome]

Content from our partners
The power of place in tackling climate change
Tackling the UK's biggest health challenges
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty – with British Gas Energy Trust

This article appears in the 21 Jul 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Chinese century