Not so long ago, satire was the preserve of about half a dozen men with a First in Greats from Caius College, Cambridge. Now, thanks to the internet, radio phone-ins and The Economist's Joke of the Week spot, everyone's a satirist. Which would be great, if the level of humour got significantly better as a result. Sadly, the BBC's Have Your Say pages are only 2% funnier than the whole of That Was The Week That Was, and that's not good enough.
Things looked so much more promising a year ago. Gordon Brown was a gift - a politician who acts a bit like a clown, and whose name rhymes with 'clown'! The headlines wrote, typeset and distributed themselves. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief after long, drab years of the hopeless 'Blair'/'liar' construction, which wasn't even a proper pun, and never funny in the first place. ('It's not meant to be funny. I'm really angry, actually.')
Then things got better and better. There was the Credit Crunch, which was kind of serious but didn't involve anyone actually dying, and to cap it all had a silly name. No decent gags. Then Swine Flu, which kind of involved people dying but wasn't actually serious, and to cap it all had a silly name. Still nothing. And now we've got a continuous stream of comedy expenses, each one sillier than the last, which should provide ideal conditions for a fertile coupling of indignation and comedy.
Nothing, though. Zilch. Perhaps the MPs overdid it, with their moats and dog food and whatnot. The joke's almost already done for us, but not quite. (What brand of dog food? Does the moat have a drawbridge? Carp? We don't know, and these things are vital for comic detail.) Unable to work with the prime material they're given, the public overdo the indignation to compensate, as if diddling the electorate out of a couple of Habitat bread bins is the most grievous thing ever to happen in the name of Parliament. That sort of approach worked for Alexei Sayle, but not the population of Luton, who haven't got enough pork pie hats to go round as it is. Can we have an election for a new Great British Public? This one's rubbish.
But perhaps it was never meant to be, and now it looks like the material's running out. "Reporters in Buckingham Palace (Slight Return)" isn't going to get anyone choking over their morning raft of viral emails. The 24th satire boom since records began is bursting. Soon everyone'll be safely back to chuckling at TV's talent trousers man and the happy-go-lucky wit of Eamonn Holmes. Still, maybe in another ten years we'll have found a funny rhyme for 'Cameron', and the cosmic ballet can continue.