The party line with Alf Garnett specifically was always that Alf was the butt of the joke, and we're meant to be laughing at him, not with him. Warren Mitchell used to tell an anecdote on talking head shows and the like, about the time a fan came up to him in the street and said how much he loved Till Death... because "you're really having a go at all those [racial slur]," to which Mitchell would reply "actually mate, we're having a go at idiots like you." But watching Curry and Chips, which was also written by Johnny Speight, and features Spike Milligan in brownface playing a Pakistani, I just don't buy that was the (sole) intention any more; not when the racist lines are structured like well-crafted jokes and signalled by the 'laugh' sign being held up. The shield of irony allows comedians to play both sides. The actual racists get a laugh out of it, while those who don't consider themselves racist get to do the laughter of shock, but with the get out of jail free card of Ricky Gervais' character leaning into frame with a "ooh, bit racist!" and pulling a face.
I wrote a long thing about it here which goes into much more detail if people are interested.
There's always an uncomfortable relationship between material which purports to be ironic in its racism or sexism or whatever and the audience that latches onto it, where the intent is often lost. I always think about the Pub Landlord character, where Al Murray was portraying an over the top jingoistic gammon, but as the character got bigger and went mainstream, half the audience laughing along at his digs at the French were pumping their fists in the air, all "you tell 'em!"
There's really no way to do a character like that and not have it inadvertantly be embraced by the sort of people it's mocking, especially now, where anything that is called out as offensive is immediately lionised by people wanting to "own the libs" by suddenly loving it. Little Britain was topping the Amazon DVD charts yesterday, and I guarantee none of those people buying it had thought about the show in years. My Patreon involves a lot of hunting around Youtube for terrible old stuff off the telly, from the decades where it's nigh on impossible to get through a 20 minute episode without either blackface or a Savile reference, or both, and absolutely without fail, the comment sections are filled with people bemoaning the loss of such great British culture. "Bring back telly like it used to be. I'm crying over my lost past here "
How can anyone possibly use 'ironic' or 'satirical' racism without knowingly appealing to thickos like this; thickos which seemingly make up 50% of the country? Keep your dirty money, I'd rather be broke.