Friday, 27 September 2013

London 0 - Irish 0.

I love television. I think it's wonderful that there is a place that nutures talent and let's imaginations flow, creating brand new landscapes for intelligent minds to wander in wonder. But I also like that there's television; a dumping ground for half-formed fuckwits to writhe around in their own shit, using their constant stream of tears as lubricant so they can freely go and fuck themselves. 

If that sounds negative then let me reassure you that I don't mean to be. Television has suffered for years and only now is it beginning to throw off the chains of oppression. OPPRESSION.

We supposedly live in a free country but television has always been the victim of people who would rather silence than listen to the freedom of the people, if only the people really had that freedom. For the past few decades television has been on trial and has always been found guilty. YOU CAN'T SAY THAT ABOUT THAT MINORITY! the "man" would say and poor, tiny, frightened telly would shed a tear and comply. AND YOU CAN'T SAY THAT ABOUT THAT MINORITY EITHER! demanded Herr Commandant Man again and, like a child that only wanted to be loved, television did as it was ordered. Soon, practically all groups that form our society were treated with cold, clinical, almost Nazi-esque respect. Irrational mockery of minorities (ie, our culture) was being "cleansed" and there wasn't a single faction of society that wasn't horribly protected. Not a single one. Not a heterosexual male one anyway. It seemed that television was being forced to include absolutely everyone. Everyone except one final osctracised cluster of everyday folk: the prejudiced.

It hasn't been easy to be prejudiced and then relax with a bit of telly at the end of the day since hate had it's 70's heyday. Television has been manipulated into opening it's arms to everyone for years but in doing so it has naturally closed a door on those that hate fucking every fucking one. Well, television has fought back. If everyone MUST be included, then everyone WILL be included. Finally, those people with a chip on their shoulder and hate in their hearts have the medium they loved returned to them after 30 years of banishment. Finally, the apartheid is over.

Yes, the left are well catered for with an array of culturally significant programmes (X-Factor, Celebrity Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing are all programmes that our liberal, intelligent friends constantly post tweets about) but isn't it wonderful that in 2013 television has decided to turn the clock back and welcome the return of hate into our living rooms? Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (stupid Irish cunts), Embarrassing Bodies (stupid fat cunts) and The Only Way Is Essex (stupid fucking stupid cunts from Essex, fucking typical of fucking Essex they is, fucking stupid Essex home of fucking Billy Bragg, Ian Holm, Darren Hayman, Luke Wright, Phill Jupitus (sort of) and, of course, Charlotte fucking Rampling. They're SCUUUUUM.). Those are just three of the many shows that television has bravely gifted to the prejudiced so they can look down their noses at other people who, no matter how awful, will still be better than anyone who watches these programmes. But it's not just reality TV that caters so well for people with kindness difficulties. Sit-coms are in on the action too. Take London Irish for example.

Where to fucking begin? Well, it's a comedy about Northern Irish people living in London and as a Northern Irish person living in London and vaguely working in comedy, I thought this would be right up my street. But, no. Television did not make this programme for me. It already makes more than enough TV programmes for me, thank you very much. Doctor Who, It's Always Sunny In's it. Clearly television wanted this show to get the approval of anyone who thinks all stinking paddys are thick, so no stereotype was left out at all. London Irish follows four completely unlikeable cunts who say "retard" in an accent that isn't from Earth. It's utterly amazing to me to watch Northern Irish people putting on a Northern Irish accent. I mean, they've already got one.

Not all of the main cast are actually from Northern Ireland, of course. Some are from Ireland but, sure, that's near enough. We can't expect television executives to research things AND feed their coke habit. The opening scene, JUST IN CASE YOU WEREN'T SURE IF THIS WAS A PROGRAMME ABOUT PADDYS OR NOT, features all four members of the main cast saying stupid things while drinking heavily. This was a chance to show how funny, inventive, charismatic and individual the people of Northern Ireland can be...but, wait...then we're being prejudiced towards prejudiced people again. Let's just make them thick and wankered, eh? Oh, and just to make sure, have one of them piss themselves.

So. That's the first 30 seconds taken care of. What about the rest? Well, they're Northern Irish so they're constantly hating one another. And there's women in it. Good to see in the year that Bridget Christie wins the Edinburgh Award for a very funny show about feminism that television is bravely bucking the trend and making the female leads slags. And if none of that appeals to you then don't worry because London Irish also stars Ardal O'Hanlon as a man who has a car.

Why is this OK now? How come we've gone back to pointing and mocking "Irish" people for being stupid? It seems to have started with Mrs. Brown's Boys and even Jason Byrne's new sitcom Father Figure, although nowhere near as bad, is basically a stupid paddy with a stupid paddy family. And now London Irish. How can television get away with making this sort of dated bullshit aimed only at encouraging people's prejudices? Easy. GET THE STUPID PADDYS TO DO IT THEMSELVES! As long as they're the ones being stupid then we can laugh at them all. Brilliant!

Not brilliant. It is actually possible to do Irish/Northern Irish comedy without lowering anyone's intelligence. Dave Allen is a pretty good example. Flann O'Brien is another. While reading his book, The Third Policeman, this week I couldn't help but think of London Irish. Yes, there are fools in Flann's book. And, yes, these fools are Irish. There are numerous mentions of places in Ulster anyway, but the difference is clear. Flann didn't hate the people he wrote about. He clearly loved them. He gave them the same charm, wit and originality that he saw in the people in his life. "Would it astonish you to hear that he is nearly half a bicycle?" is not a line that you're likely to hear in London Irish. I wonder why you don't see less stupid paddys on TV? Are people really that horrible? Well, yeah. They are.

My point is, there are good and great funny things from Ireland and Northern Ireland if you fancied taking a look. You don't need to be reminded about how much some people clearly hate themselves. Instead, give your attention to Flann, Dave, Colin Murphy, Seamus Heaney, Gráinne Maguire, RuaidhrĂ­ Ward, any film with Michael Smiley in it (none of them are stereotypical), Dylan Moran, THE FUCKING UNDERTONES, Christian Talbot, Alan Irwin (there's a whole brilliant Northern Irish comedy scene on the rise), Maeve Higgins...look, there's loads. All funny people who don't hate themselves or other people from their country.

Imagine if they were all on telly though? I think the prejudiced might just change their minds and soon we'd have wiped them all out. A whole minority cleansed. 

And just in case you weren't that offended by the sound of London Irish then know this: the male lead is called Packey.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Mr. Cellophane.

Hello. My name is Michael. You don't know me because I've very cleverly gone under the radar. No TV station, production company, casting agent or publisher has ever noticed that I exist. It's so difficult to work in comedy and have absolutely no one notice you but to me it's been effortless. It's easy because I'm invisible.

I can go to parties and not be noticed, go to a bar and never get served because I'm not there. I've had friends tell me about what a good night they had the night before, I should have been there. I was there. When I walk towards automatic doors, they never open. I'm thinking of writing a book about what it's like to be the invisible man. I'm going to call it See-Through Guy. 

But there are a few, just a few, people who have noticed that I exist. And I hate one of them.

A few times a week I go to my local greasy spoon in Lewisham and have a hangover breakfast. I work so hard to get a hangover so I deserve a lovely, disgusting meal to treat myself. Then one day I noticed that the cafe had all completely new staff. It was still the same level of care and service (grunts, plate thrown at you) but the faces were new. Still desperately sad looking, but new. Well, not all of the faces were sad. One was joyous. One was a face belonging to the friendliest man in the world. A warm, welcoming smile that said how pleased it was to see you. He was a man who didn't just take your order and serve your food. He cared about you. He cared about how you were, how your day was, how life was treating you. Basically, he was a very good person.

And I hate him.

Every fucking time I go in there he fucking smiles and says hello like a total cunt. "How are you? What have you been up to? How's work?" JUST FUCK OFF. I come into a miserable greasy spoon cafe to be treated like the dying animal I am. If I wanted to hang around someone who actually cared about me I'd....well, I don't know what I'd do but I wouldn't come here. It got to the point where I was scared to go into the cafe. I was actually terrified of kindness. He's going to speak to me and, because I am still vaguely human, I'm going to have to talk back to him. I don't want a conversation. I don't want a friend. I just want to sit in a corner with grease and feel grey. WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?

But that's the thing about me. I can only take so much. I can only take so much and then I snap. Every single time I went in there he welcomed me, asked about how I was and then hoped I had a good day. Well, he pushed and he pushed and I just couldn't take it any more. I decided that if he was too friendly again that I would NEVER go back. It's harsh, I know, but if he wants me to stay he can wind his smile in and shut the fuck up. Just like everyone else. This is it. I'm going in. But if he so much as asks how I am then my decision is final: I AM NOT COMING BACK.

He took my order and my money and that was it.

No smile. No "How are you?". Nothing.

FUCKING BRILLIANT. Oh, joy. I have my old cafe back. Look, everyone is miserable. EVERYONE! Everyone including him. Oh, I'm so glad he's decided to assimilate. I should have told him resistance is futile in Lewisham. Even the food he threw down in front of me tasted better. I'm going to enjoy coming back here. It's a nice, quiet, dank place for me to go to and be ignored again. I love being The See-Through Guy.

Then another customer walked in and went up to the counter to give his order. "HELLO!", I heard. "How are you? Good to see you, my friend. You look great today. Let me get you something nice. What would you like?"

Aw, no! It was a one-off. I clearly got the cheery cafe worker at a good moment when he couldn't be bothered to be cheery and now he's back to his former upsettingly happy self. Shit. I wanted a Diet Coke to take away with me and now I'm going to have to get it with him being all fucking happy again. I'll go up there and it'll be all "HEY! My friend! Good to see you! How are you today?". Crap. Still, best get it all over with. 

I went up to the counter and asked for a Diet Coke. He gave it to me and said "£1.20".

That was it.

No smile. No "How are you?". No nothing.

What have I done? He...he used to love me. He asked about me nearly every day. He kept saying how good it was to see me. He used to tell me how beautiful I looked. Well, not beautiful... but good. But now it felt like he had told me I was felt like he had feels like he was the only one who did care. He saw me. He saw The See-Through Guy. I just didn't know what I had and's gone.

I've been back to the cafe almost every day since and every day is the same. I walk in, he says nothing, he welcomes everyone but me and then I leave. Why can't he see me? 

I decided to walk in with a huge smile on my face. "HELLO!", I'd say. He would turn and look straight through me, sighing and rattling phlegm as he jotted down my order. I'd ask him how he was. He just turned his back and repeated the order to the cook.

The other day, I noticed he had a football calendar. It featured various sport players from the Red Team. I decided to find out the real name of the Red Team and chat to him about them. That's right, I was willing to actually have a conversation about football with this guy. I know it seems extreme but sometimes you just have to really compromise for love. And I was willing to do that. The Red Team's name was Arsenal and even though that name made me giggle, I was going to take this very seriously. For him. I did some research and rehearsed it in my head all the way to the cafe. "So, you like Arsenal, eh? Me too. I think it's brilliant that they're an English Premier League football club based in Holloway. Founded in 1886, eh, mate? Brilliant. And what about that Tottenham Hotspur? That's a rivalry that's long-standing".

I'd definitely done all the work but just as I said "So, you like Arsenal, eh?", he said "Not my calendar" and walked away. HOW CAN I GET HIM TO LOVE ME? Then another customer appeared and the cafe man beamed a huge smile and shook his hand. Sigh...

Just a few days ago, it was sunny. A really hot sunny beautiful day. Not that I enjoyed it. I couldn't because I still couldn't get the cafe man to notice me again. I went to the cafe, as usual, determined for him to see me. I hate being The See-Through Guy.

Nothing. I was ignored completely so I just sat down and ate. Then the Cafe Man walked over to the doorway and just stood in it, soaking up the sun. I ate my food quickly then ran up to buy my takeaway Diet Coke just so I could pass Cafe Man in the doorway and talk to him. HE'S IN A DOORWAY! THERE'S NOWHERE ELSE TO GO! He HAS to talk to me...

I stood right beside him in the doorway and realised that it was now or never. This was my moment. "Lovely day", I said.

"Uuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmm.....", he replied. "I suppose".

WHAT THE FUCK WAS IT WITH THE LONG UUUUUUUMMMMMMM? Did he actually want time to find fault in this sunny day so he could disagree with me? I've got him trapped in a doorway. He has NO CHOICE but to see me but he would actually rather deny that it was a nice day than speak to me? I stormed off, hurt, as I heard him welcome another customer to the cafe. Why does my heart feel so bad?

Just two days ago I went back to the cafe. He was there. His huge smile wasn't. I'm not sure I cared.

I ordered my breakfast and sat in my usual grey corner. The radio was playing something awful from the 80's. I half listened as I ate my breakfast. I started thinking back to when I first saw the Cafe Man. "I'm not denying, we're flying above it all", went the song as I thought about all the times we talked to each other. His huge smile. "Hold my hand, don't let me fall". We used to actually laugh about other customers, together. "You've such amazing grace". And he'd say it was good to see me. "I've never felt this way".

I finished my breakfast but before I could get up to get my usual takeway Diet Coke, one appeared in front of me. The Cafe Man patted me on the back and said "On the house" and then walked away.

I sat there for a moment looking at the drink. I smiled and listened to the bad 80's music.

"oh, ooh, oh, show me heaven...cover me, leave me breathless".

I left the cafe, walking taller. Hey, we're not where we once were but it's a start at a time when all I could see was the end. As I crossed the road a car drove past and skidded. The driver was completely out of control of the car. It then reversed towards me at speed and I thought this is it. I'm actually going to die. The car missed me by a few feet and crashed into a wall. I don't think the driver meant to speed towards me while trying to get control of his car. I just think he didn't see me.

I don't care. It's still great to be The See-Through Guy.