(This is part 2.1 of this project. For Introduction 1.1, please see post published below on 13th October)
The compare rattled my name, and gave the cue. The audience applause was half-hearted yet stank of expectation. Fair enough, why clap an unknown onto a stage? I didn’t have to wait long for the noise to die down, before firing up my opening gambit;
“Hello Comedy fans, I must confess I’m not actually a comedy fan. Well as much as I don’t watch much on TV or go to many gigs myself. So to avoid committing repetition or infringement, I’ll avoid jokes about Ryanair luggage charges, catholic church priests, the Daily Mail and the ginger one from Girls Aloud”
After making sure it’s okay with everybody else, they unleash their laughter with communal acknowledgement that I am the one they’d been waiting for. The person’s who’s not afraid to acknowledge we need more jokes about Daily Mail readership as much as we need another Q Magazine special edition on Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Of course, I did no such thing; don’t have the bottle to get onstage myself. So instead sat in silence but for my half-asked applause to the comedian ambling up on stage.
So for a bit of context, a few nights back I saw the self-deprecating virtual double act, Dan & Dan, at the Good Ship comedy club. With the physical Dan on stage with guitar, and the other (same guy) on a projector screen, they conducted a seamlessly flawless duet of song and gag, the material and timing impeccable.
The Dan’s rounded off their set with a montage of mockery at the Daily Mail; while physical Dan did the music, his onscreen presence held the headlines – photo shopped for maximum bigotry.
I automatically lost faith in the show’s content in the same way I do when a cockney accent discloses they support Manchester United in a football-centric conversation.
Very Similar to Russell Howard’s Daily Mail Cancer Song – though given the plumper and fresher faced Dan on screen in comparison to his real-time self, a Dan who perhaps had a steady consistent standard of living before a life of full-time comedy, clarifies the length of time he’s been rolling this act out. No lawsuits there.
It’s not that I disagree with the frequent artistic attacks on Britain’s biggest newspaper that I felt compelled to write this, but because it highlights the one dimensional lack of originality of an act, and pongs of desperation for a fist-pumping audience – it being the bell to Pavlov’s hungry students.
It’s contagious. In Tesco recently I was handed a coupon for the Daily Mail by a non-English speaking worker to which I automatically thought “and in the frozen aisle section, the turkeys are campaigning for Christmas”. If I could’ve been bothered I might have submitted that to Russell Howard’s Good News. It really is that easy. Whilst briefing an American colleague about my ideas for writing this, I was saved the effort of providing context as she was fully aware of the Daily Mail’s reputation. She’s only been here 2 months, still living in corporate accommodation and struggles to pronounce ‘Marylebone’ correctly, yet already has the zeitgeist covered. Though she’s not the only yank with one foot on the bandwagon as demonstrated by Amanda Palmer’s song to the Daily Mail about her tits
Just as the jokes are contagious, so is the disapproval. Returning from a recent jaunt to Amsterdam, I picked a copy up at the airport (they’re free if you sneak into the British Airways lounge). Passing a few copies round to my group, the aspiring comedian of our mates squirmed in avoidance as if I’d handed him an abandoned syringe from a Kings Cross public toilet. He couldn’t be seen with it. His stand-up used to focus on Eddie Stobart spotters, counterfeit photo-frames and his Grandad’s stag-do. Now he just sounds like every other “alternative” comedian who’s auditioning for a residency at the SOAS Student Union.
It’s arguably not a new phenomenon this (people have been attacking the paper for right-wing credential since its backing of Oswald Mosley’s 1950’s fascist ideals). But there is no doubt a renaissance of sorts. You only need to look at Vice Magazine’s All Grown Up: Sexing Up The Internet authored by “Jimmy Saville”, Youtube’s flurry of Daily Mail songs, The Guardian’s Daily Mail Website DIY Kit, Radiohead’s setlist and Poke’s Daily Mail Tube Map to see this movement have some of the best minds on the case.
The majority of the above are in fact pretty humorous – and considering they target the source responsible for such rotten reports concerning Lucy Meadows and Ed Milliband’s Dad, it’s very hard for me to abstain from pointing and laughing along with everybody else. And by absolutely no means is this a stand for the paper, it’s just I feel the same way about the majority of attacks as I do jokes about the Royal Family and Christian values; they’re ammo for stupid people to sound clever, by targeting stupid people. And quite frankly, I’m bored shitless by them.
It’s not just those with a bit of wit, as even Joe Public has got on the bandwagon of making jokes about a paper for notoriously jumping on a bandwagon. Think you’ve got an amazingly disparaging tweet to make about the DM readership that will break ground? Get the constant retweets that can both improve your social reach and follower list? Don’t bother unless you can’t think for yourself, for it’s quite a saturated market. In the past year, over 38,871 tweets have taken aim at the Daily Mail reader and in many cases from people much wittier and original than you or I. But invariably they’re all as one-dimensional as each other.
With Facebook everybody can now have a Hello-wedding. With Wikipedia everybody can be a genius. With Skype anybody can call Australia. With Twitter everybody can be a journalist. With the Daily Mail everybody can be a comedian.
Almost non-surprisingly, this corner of the market isn’t just corned by has-been and would-be comedians, but also taken residency with commercial house music, a crowd-pleaser with Calvin Harris, Fake Blood, James Hadouken and Example.
It’s not just the tedious repetition that irks me so, but the affect it’s having on other arenas of creative output. It may go someway of explaining why the UK is arguably at it’s most innovative yet why my social media feed is dominated by pictures of burgers and #selfie.
It’s quite hard to accurately pinpoint the progenitor of this movement. On one episode of Russell Howard’s Good News the protagonist addressed some story from that week’s current affairs, before turning to the camera and sardonically announcing “and news just in, the Daily Mail have secured a big enough bandwagon for everybody to jump on”. Ironically enough, hoarding his student-laced audience onto the biggest bandwagon of them all; Daily Mail bashing – still, a bandwagon is better than a high horse I suppose.
However, forgetting about the recent fury over the DM’s criticism of Ralph Milliband, and Alastair Campbell and Mehdi Hasan going head-to-head for the DM-bashing soundbite and the subsequent Youtube views, you’d have to cast your mind back to Question Time (9/2/2012) for the seminal moment of Daily Mail bashing, the movement’s Spike Island. Fittingly this was during the peak of the Leversen enquiry.
Not only did this provide fertile ground for DM-bashing, but also highlighted that even comedic heavyweights feel the need to toe the knackered party line of the arts and intellectuals.
But Steve Coogan, one of Britain’s greatest comedy actors? I was surprised. His hate of the paper, that’s quite understandable (they exposed him of getting Owen Wilson addicted to smack and banging prostitutes in LA), but his readiness to oblige to the script of denouncing it publicly wasn’t so.
On the subject of Abu Qatada’s impending extradition, Coogan acknowledged he may be “full of vitriol and hateful odious views, in which case he could go and write for the Daily Mail”.
Of course he got the laughs and while I agreed with the majority of Coogan’s stance (we’re better monitoring Qatada here at the Daily Mail’s reported cost of £10,000-a-week), I still felt let down he exploited his comedic superiority to manipulate the sound effects of the crowd with evidently pre-drafted material. Steve, I love you man, but please leave the easy stuff to the other lads.
When fellow guest, former Daily Mail contributor and Saxondale fanatic, Ann Leslie reminded Coogan and Alistair Campbell of the damaging effects of encouraging heavier regulation on press freedoms, it was the latter’s chance to go for glory with “40 years on the Daily Mail and you talk about damaging the country”. Campbell went on further to lambast media’s “Big Three”. Now I quite like Campbell, mainly as the only other Burnley fan I know aside from my Dad, but was skeptical of his position to ridicule the press he so heavily relied on in during his career. Leslie’s retort she’d “object to taking moral lessons from Alistair Campbell; the author of the dodgy dossier” was sufficient.
The audience even got stuck in, with one chap suggesting “it would be wrong to restrict freedom of the press in a free society, but surely the best way to control it, is for ordinary people like us to stop buying rubbish like the Daily Mail” – arguably the most sensible bashing I’ve ever heard, but that’s the problem, people do buy it and considering the vast majority of the newspaper purchasing public do, surely the content is a largely shared view of the nation. But that’s a separate democratic issue. And besides the point, the Daily Mail wasn’t even a paper accused of phone hacking but why reinvent the wheel, eh?
Also present was Baroness Williams, a Liberal Democrat representative in the House of Lords, who was in my mind the most impressive amongst the guests (though I’m a believer comedians don’t belong on Question Time) who stood close to her principles, but not too close as to be childishly stubborn. Yet when the ball was played in she didn’t mess about, dismissing Leslie’s view as being “expectant of somebody who works at the Daily Mail”. Either nobody heard it, or the audience was spent for the evening, but she didn’t get the laughs society and the BBC owed her.
Great minds think alike, but fools never differ.
NEXT….2.2 The SNOBBERY of it all