TV comedian outrages celebrities with brass neck

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The Independent Online
Chris Morris - accused of pushing comedy too far in his spoof current affairs show Brass Eye - tried to enlist the help of President Nelson Mandela, rock star Paul Simon and Colonel Oliver North to get the series on air after it was banned, it emerged yesterday.

Morris, 34, is at the centre of controversy after being lambasted by his celebrity guests for fooling them into criticising non-existent events and substances - such as the fictitious drug "cake".

Yesterday the Daily Mail weighed into the row with a full-page article about his "tasteless publicity-seeking stunts" after the celebrities voiced their anger at being taken in by the show, initially banned by Channel 4's chief executive, Michael Grade.

Brass Eye, which goes out on Wednesday nights and has four more programmes in the present series, merges fact and fiction in a way that exposes both the media's obsession with itself and celebrities' obsession with the media.

The first programme showed Carla Lane, who wrote the television series Butterflies and The Liver Birds, denouncing people who mistreated animals to her supposed chat show host David Jatt - Morris wearing a false moustache and square glasses. When Ms Lane opined that prison was "not good enough for them, it's bed and breakfast and telly", Morris instantly agreed. "Prison's too good. What about jail?" Later, when she again condemned those who mistreated animals, Morris agreed, citing the example of people who went "weasel fighting in the East End". "Everything", Ms Lane agreed in a heartfelt tone.

Furious to learn of the deception, she has since lamented that her work on behalf of animals "has all been undone".

The second programme showed the Tory MP David Amess condemning the drug "cake", about which he put down a question in the House. When he discovered he had been set up, he said the incident was "beneath contempt".

Noel Edmonds was also a victim when he made a televised appeal on the subject of "cake" and he calls the deception "straightforward fraud".

But a Brass Eye source retorted that it was ridiculous for them take the programme so seriously. "It's just a joke, it's funny. The only question is why we didn't kill Noel Edmonds when we had him in front of us, because he's the Anti-Christ."

It emerged yesterday that it is not just been celebrities who have fallen victim to Morris's pranks - he even targeted his boss, Michael Grade.

When Mr Grade stopped the transmission of Brass Eye in November due to concerns about its approach, Morris sought help from the rich and famous in getting it reinstated.

A programme source revealed: "He wrote to Nelson Mandela saying: 'As you may have heard, my series Brass Eye has been pulled from the schedule by Channel 4. You may not be aware that during your time in prison Michael Grade led the campaign to keep you inside. So if you would like to write to him urging him to right this wrong, here is his personal fax number."

Similar letters were also sent to Paul Simon, advising him that Mr Grade considered that his former singing partner, Art Garfunkel, had all the talent and that he had banned clips of Simon being shown on Channel 4 because he was so ugly.

Oliver North, the former Pentagon official at the centre of the Iran- Contra scandal, was also urged to intervene on Morris's behalf on the basis that Mr Grade had used his position in the British media to smear him.