Mr Smiley and the Crisp trick

Share
Related Topics
I have been thinking about the problem of John Major, and I wonder if the answer lies somewhere in the direction of Quentin Crisp.

The problem of John Major can be stated briefly as follows: how can someone who consistently turns up in opinion polls as the most uninspiring Prime Minister of all time possibly remain so cheerful and unaffected by it? How, indeed, can he seem to thrive on it? How can someone come up looking like a smiling daisy where you and I would add to the suicide figures after being criticised the way he has been criticised?

So much for the John Major problem.

Now for the Quentin Crisp solution.

Mr Crisp used to stage a one-man show during which he would solve people's problems. The main message he preached was that we each of us have the power to become exceptional in some direction as long as we spot the direction in time which is right for us.

"Don't fight the flow," was his message. "If you are going bald, don't spread the remaining hair across your scalp. Cut it all off now!"

During the second half of each show he would invite questions from the audience, and I remember at one show at the Mayfair Theatre a man near me got up and said: "Mr Crisp, it's all very well telling us to develop our own special attributes, but I am beyond help. I have realised in my life that my most notable attribute is being boring. I just bore people. How can you help someone like me?"

Crisp got up and said: "Don't rest on your laurels! Don't be content with being mildly boring! Go into training and become stupefyingly boring! Become the most boring person, or pair of persons, that anyone knows, so that when guests lists are being written out, people say, 'We must have the so-and-sos, there's nobody quite as genuinely boring as them!' "

One of the odd things about that show is that at the end, when everyone was milling about ready to go home, I found myself standing next to Kenny Everett, the late regretted Kenny Everett, who was standing there in a daze saying over and over again, "He's wonderful! He's just wonderful!"

You can see why Kenny Everett would like Crisp. But suppose, just suppose, it had not been Kenny Everett but John Major standing there. Suppose John Major were setting off on his career, and had been told by advisers that if he wanted to get anywhere he would have to be more dynamic and charismatic. Suppose that, on the verge of going to charisma classes, John Major had gone to the Quentin Crisp show and had seen the light.

"I must be more buttoned up. not less," he would have said. "I must develop my own potential. I must be the greyest, most uninspiring, blandest, most honest and trustworthy politician yet seen! Not only will it make me different from all the other Flash Harrys, but it will annoy the media like mad. I will never let anything get under my skin. I will become Mr Smiley and get under their skin."

And it worked!

And now Mr Major is poised for the next turn in his career. He is ready to become one of those smiling, oh-so-trustworthy middle-aged men who walk through open-plan offices in television ads to advertise direct insurance or mortgages, talking to the camera as they go.

"Do you really honestly and sincerely want to cut down all your insurance premiums and get the best service?" he says, looking at you honestly and sincerely. "Just gives us a phone call here at Ring Direct. We'll do the rest."

The reason all these men are always walking through offices, of course, is to reassure those of us who think that at the other end of these firms called Ring Direct there is only one man and a phone. But when you see him on television, you can see he has a big back-up system.

So why not John Major?

"Hello," he says, walking through a big open-plan office full of actors working on screens pretending John Major isn't there. "I'm here to tell you how Government Direct can work for you.

"Do you sincerely want lower taxes? Do you feel you are paying too much to the state each week? There is a very simple set of policies which can stop you doing that. They're called Tory policies. All you have to do is ring us here at Government Direct and register your vote. Alternatively, if you don't feel like it, don't. Just let us get on with it.

"Government Direct. People you can trust. I'd better stop now, because I've walked to the end of the office and there's nowhere else to go. Bye."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week