Chris Morris first came to my attention when I was at university. I switched on Radio 4, and heard an authoritative voice declaring “Ireland has burst!”. I was distraught to discover that I had tuned into the last episode of On the Hour. Later on, I saw The Day Today on BBC2, and seemed to be the only one amongst my friends who wasn’t upset or distressed at the scenes of exploding dogs, bullying clergy and clamped homeless people.
A few years later on, Brass Eye was shown and my boyfriend at the time started asking drug dealers for “yellow bentines”. Unlike him, I knew that there was more to Morris than clever catchphrases. This wasn’t The Fast Show or Blackadder: this was something darker, cleverer and altogether different. There was something in Morris’s comedy that was able to not only entertain, but stimulate and, hopefully, offend. It wasn’t just his ability to fool the famous into doing and saying stupid things in exchange for publicity, but also his deadly accuracy at spoofing the media. It’s hard to believe now that The Day Today was produced in 1994, before the advent of readily available 24 hour news channels. Even now, I sometimes watch MSNBC, News 24 or Fox and am struck by the way these channels resemble The Day Today more and more.
Morris is able to take something that is ostensibly taboo and make it amusing, in a way piloted by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in Derek and Clive. Whether viewers have the ability to separate humour from endorsement is, essentially, their problem. Morris also worked with Peter Cook, in a series of audio tapes called Why Bother. These are well worth a listen and the sound files are there for those who know how to find them.
Fast forward another few years, and I read that Morris had been doing a series of spoof columns in the Observer, as suicidal Richard Geefe. In tracking the Geefe columns down on the Internet, I found not only those, and the Heathrow airport announcements, but also Glebe’s Thrift Funnel (www.koekie.org.uk/funnel) and, by association, Bemli (http://brass.cream.org).
It was on Bemli, a mailing list populated by underemployed malcontents, that I met Nick, first online and then in real life. Nick, with his friend Johnw, wrote Glebe’s Thrift Funnel and has had the privilege to interview both Morris and Peter Baynham, one of Morris’s associates. Nick and Johnw also have the dubious honour of having had most of the Funnel thoroughly ripped off by lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to do their own research. Ho hum.
Through a bizarre series of random coincidences, I ended up living with Nick. So you could say that Chris Morris got us together.
While there are probably lots of couples who met at Star Trek conferences and Dr Who conventions, I would argue that there are probably very few, if any, other couples who met through a shared enjoyment of satire of the darkest sort – the sort that upsets Daily Mail readers to the point of reaching for their green pen.
And for that, if nothing else, I’m rather grateful.