They used to say that nothing lasts forever, but that was before the 21st Century, when things curl up and die like they used to, but then just rise up and stagger on in zombie form. Formerly huge popular successes get by, somehow, on their name and their past – what creatives call ‘brand recognition’ – and the ‘just enough’ thin trickle of interest that never totally dries up. The list goes on – The Simpsons, Star Trek, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And now, most regrettably, we can add Private Eye.
I have in my hand the latest issue at the time of writing. The glorious Craig Brown diary page, brilliant as ever, aside, it is desperately thin, tame stuff.
Obviously, no one has ever read the pages between the opening gossip and the skits – the tedious investigations, the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ bits, etc. Whenever Private Eye has gone anywhere near something I knew about or was involved in, its coverage has always been laughably wide of the mark, so I never trusted a word it said about anything else. These pages are as dull as ever, still presented in the cribbed unreadable small print, typeset in boxing gloves, which seemed ancient in 1981.
But the juicy centre comedy pages, which were hilarious not so very long ago? Gags that everybody heard on Twitter two weeks before, and a general tone of weak snark and of treating the world of 2023 through the eyes of 1993.
Private Eye was very funny in 1993 and its staff and readers were so happy then they haven’t moved on. Look, I also wish it was 1993. I had hair. I believed the Labour Party were going to be great for the country. My best friend was alive.