RIP: Simon Hoggart. The finest and funniest sketch writer to date

7 January 2014

11:54 AM

7 January 2014

11:54 AM

Terribly saddened to hear of the death of Simon Hoggart, a lovely writer and to my mind the finest and funniest purveyor of the House of Commons sketch that we have seen. I saw Simon, surprisingly, in concert in Canterbury, around about this time last year, delighting the audience with anecdotes from his many years watching politicians talk rubbish. We went for a curry afterwards and he seemed on good form, if frail from the punishing bouts of chemotherapy.

He was a hugely gifted writer; certainly, the only writer in the English language who could tempt me to read anything about wine, other than the words ‘half price £4.99’. His column in Punch remained the only readable item in the magazine and his weekly diary in The Guardian was, you would have to say, similarly unique. Whenever I met him he would gripe about some PC edict foisted upon him by the mentalist harridans down the Farringdon Road*. But it was as a sketch writer that he truly excelled; he found the politicians, pretty much all of them, absurd, and made them absurdly entertaining. Bernard Levin may have got there first, but Simon was the better writer. We’ll miss him badly.


*Where the Guardian was based before moving to King’s Place.

You can read a selection of Simon’s work for The Spectator here.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • K BB

    RIP Simon Hoggart – he helped make British politics bearable with his wit and wisdom.

  • John Border

    I can’t understand all the bleating here.

    Today I heard that our local plumber passed away. Isn’t that more important? Yet none of you shed a tear.

  • John Border

    Hoggart of course was an elitist snob, sneering at Speaker Martin for his accent, sneering at Birmingham accents as an ‘impediment’ and so on. Nothing said about his own thick and impenetrable mumble. I expect his father was deeply ashamed of him.

    • K BB

      Keep it to yourself and see your doctor citing ‘anti-social personality disorder’.

      • John Border

        Are you disputing the facts? If so keep it to yourself.

  • John Border

    So sez the nasty Boris. Boris is of course the man who blamed the Hillsborough dead for the tragedy.

  • Peter Crawford

    RIP, Simon Hoggart, Always liked his stuff. Cheers Rod.

    @Baron- You are clinically fuc**** insane aren’t you?

    • Baron

      What? Explain, young Peter, is it Baron’s liking of Letts that perturbs your nervous system, or what?

  • hampsteadowl

    Interesting to see the descent of Hoggart in this tribute from “the finest and funniest sketchwriter to date” (headline) to “one of the finest and funniest writers in Britain” (caption) to better than Bernard Levin (final para).

    I’d go with the middle one, even if he went off somewhat in the last few years (then again wouldn’t we all, with pancreatic cancer) and became very predictable in his Tory bashing (though perhaps that was an harridanic edict from Farringdon Road). But the finest and funniest sketchwriter? For my money Frank Johnson, no question.

    • commenteer

      Yes, Frank’s brilliance was that he could be funny without being nasty. Definitely the best ever.

      • Hoot_Gibson

        Simon Carr is also up there in the Premier League.
        Does the DT even have a sketch writer?

  • Baron

    His House sketches were fine, on balance Baron prefers those of Quentin Letts, more blood letting there, but his presiding over the News Quiz couldn’t have been bettered. And it always felt he also was a good man.

    Why is it we lose the better ones, someone should have a word with Him up there.

    May he rest in peace.

  • Rainsboro

    There used to be a number of funny writers at the Guardian but humour requires irreverence and a willingness to offend, so those days are gone. Sad news, a very funny writer who had the rare ability to make you laugh out loud.

  • Terry Field

    So few comments to mourn the passing of such a nice, funny, humane man.
    A sign of the times.
    Rest in Peace, and for those of us of a Christian persuasion (stuff Dawkins), pray for his soul.

    • John Border

      Stuff religion (how it poisons everything)> Hoggins liked to mock people he thought were easy targets.

  • MikeF

    It can’t be much fun having a sense of humour at The Guardian – no wonder he liked a drink.

  • ablanche

    He was the epitome of a kind of decent sensible left conservatism that like it or not you also exemplify (except for the sensible bit of course).
    I loved the contrast in the tributes on the Eddie “nasty piece of work” Mair show yesterday. All the tories lampooned: Tapsell, Fabricant etc were nicely self deprecatory; the only labour politician who deigned to appear was the ghastly Bryant who read out from a piece essentially praising his mastery of his brief(s) – yuk.

  • artemis in france

    The News Quiz was never the same once hé stopped being Chairman. To think that now all they have is that awful lesbian who is so unfunny.

    • RobertC

      She knocks Britain so often, one wonders why she stays here?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        .because she makes a fine living off the public teat….

        • RobertC

          Ah yes, the BBC Licence Fee! 🙂

        • John Border

          Ah Yes, politicians and big business!

      • John Border

        Well everyone has the right to speak. If you dont like that why dont you go and live in N.Korea?

        • RobertC

          It’s safer just to turn off the wireless.

          • John Border

            Why don’t you reach for your off switch? Go on, make our day!

  • ADW

    He was a fine writer, no question. For what it’s worth I wouldn’t rate him above Levin (and if you want to know how dismal politics in this country was in the 1970s, Levin’s works are the place to start – he mercilessly lampooned left and right without discrimination) but it’s an arid and irrelevant point. RIP Simon, and thanks for leaving so many entertaining pieces behind.

    • Daniel Maris

      For Levin, his invective-laden prose was stuff to send him into orbit and from that distance look down disdainfully on politics. I was never really convinced by his tirades.

      Michael White was a very good sketch writer. He’s still around I think though not doing the sketches I believe.

      Can we also mourn the departure of some first rate political cartoonists like Garland. The current lot aren’t much cop.