Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Gaunty, the Bard's No 1 shock jock
Monday 03 September 2007
It is with a sense of excitement not easily translated into words that we announce the imminent publication of the most eagerly awaited memoir of the year. The memoir of Jon Gaunt, my favourite columnist in The Sun ("the thinking man's Simon Heffer" is his new strapline) and a TalkSport presenter, is out on 4 October courtesy of Virgin Books.
At this stage the details are scant, but we do know that the title, which Michael Heseltine and other leading dyslexics will greet as an exquisite pun, is Undaunted (subtitled "The True Story Behind the Popular Shock-Jock"). The cover features Gaunty staring fixedly into the lens, lips firmly compressed to denote a summa cum laude graduate of Real Life University (formerly the Polytechnic of Hard Knocks) who, although well-meaning at heart, will give you a hell of a beating if you look at him the wrong way.
The hardback, meanwhile, runs to an impressive 256 pages. Security at Virgin Books has been so tight that all attempts to steal a copy have failed. However, one of those 256 pages has been sent to me anonymously, and I quote verbatim. "This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war, this happy breed of men..." I'm so sorry, it seems I've been had. That's John of Gaunt, as sampled by Shakespeare in Richard II. Still, we can anticipate much rousing jingoism on similarly lyrical lines – "this home of scumsucking hoodies; this repository for the filthy dregs of humanity; this puke-making hidey-hole for politically correct gone mad bleeding heart liberals like Shami Chakrabarti" – when Gaunty's magnum opus hits the bookshops next month.
Tremendous, meanwhile, to see Gaunty's TalkSport colleague James Whale crop up as a paper reviewer on Sky News, mildly displeased about the new statue in Parliament Square, and thoughtfully reminding us that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Now that the old girl's a little off the pace, it's vital that there are those selflessly prepared to remind us of the 1980 Margaret Thatcher and her more thoughtful reflections on world affairs.
It's long been rumoured that those in and around Premier League football tend towards the oversensitive, but with no direct experience of such effeteness I never believed it myself. Not until now. An unseemly spat has broken out in The Times's football supplement between the comic and actor Alan Davies and Martin Samuel, chief media supporter of Chelsea's Frank Lampard Jnr (Frank W Lampard, as he's known down the Bridge). Martin is such a brilliant writer on sport and other matters that we'll overlook this one lapse in taste and simply report the catalyst of the unpleasantness; an article in which he posited that Arsenal fan Alan once referred to Frank in that same supplement as a "fat cockney twat".
In responding with a tough, no-nonsense counterstrike, Alan excels himself. He never called Frank that, he writes, as he once tried to reassure the habitual badge-kisser in person, although Alan does admit to some harmless joshing. What is so entrancingly holistic here is that Alan is umbraged enough by the accusation to spend some thousand words teasing Frank for taking umbrage. Alan is as friendly, relaxed and charming a fellow as showbiz knows, with the one arguable exception of Christopher Ecclestone, and I invite the anecdotes and observations of anyone eager to bring his delights to a wider audience.
A rousing hats-off to BBC1 for its new habit of referring to itself, with a dignity befitting the state broadcaster, as "Channel of the Year". The relevant award, announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival, might more accurately be styled "Terrestrial Channel of the Year", BBC1 having defeated all four rivals, including Channel 4, which had such a splendid 12 months. It was decided a few weeks ago, on the very evening that details of the falsified trailer for the Queen documentary emerged, and the next morning controller Peter Fincham was grovelling for his life. Even so, when Her Maj realises she's dealing with the Terrestrial Channel of the Year, I suspect she'll back down sharply.
On current form, BBC1 looks a dead cert to defend that prestigious title in Edinburgh next year. The new comedy Outnumbered might even swing it on its own. What a joy this is, with Hugh Dennis as the history-teacher father of precocious children who offer unspeakably witty comments on current events. A particular gem was Mr Dennis referring to his advice to an overweight Turkish boy, eating crisps in class, that he could do with Ramadan every day purely to lose weight, and seeming startled that the child's father then accused him of racism. The ribcage repair kit, Matron, without a moment's delay. As for BBC2's comedic output, I'm much enjoying The Best of Tittybangbang, the most optimistically titled programme since 1994's Montreux winner Improve Your Mind the Martyn Lewis Way.
A rebuke, finally, to the idiot who has exposed former Daily Mirror deputy editor Des Kelly to undeserved scorn by giving him a Wikipedia entry about twice the length of Churchill's (turn to my colleague Stephen Glover for more on the subject of journalists and their Wikipedia entries). The malevolent prankster taunting Des has even included a section of quotes (including one abusing Frank Lampard; I begin to suspect Alan Davies) of the sort more commonly included in entries for statesmen and world-renowned playwrights than for Daily Mail sports columnists. It isn't clever, it isn't funny, and if it isn't removed within a fortnight a witch-hunt will ensue.
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