These days for anyone interested in being on telly it would appear that overnight fame is what it’s all about – and at all and any costs. If that is the case, then how fantastically over the moon must comic Daniel O’Reilly aka Dapper Laughs and his employers at ITV have been?
Who’d heard of him and his self-proclaimed “lads’ banter” - including tips on “pussy repellent” and “what makes them moist” – until a few days ago? But right now, with Dapper’s show axed amid a storm of protests, how much must they also be wishing they’d thought it all through just a wee bit more.
I admit I’d never heard of O’Reilly until I read about Shelter refusing his “donations”, so I looked him up on YouTube. To ensure I wasn’t judging him from the perspective of a crusty, old, embittered hasbeen, I asked my not-at-all-well-disposed-towards-me 16-year-old daughter to watch it with me.
Two minutes in, she rolled her eyes and drawled condescendingly, “It’s so obvious he’s joking, Mum”, and I couldn’t help thinking she was right. But seconds later she gasped at a “joke” about “fat girls being easier to pull” - on account, presumably, of the generally accepted fact that bigger girls are less attractive and therefore more desperate. And from then on in it was the same depressingly old sexist hat historically trotted out by the likes of Jim Davidson and Roy Chubby Brown - except, would you believe, much, much more unpleasant.
As it goes, I happen to think that O’Reilly comes across as having the essential requisites for a good comic – he’s relaxed, confident and reassuringly at ease with himself. So what’s with the material? It’s not just incredibly simplistic and misogynistic, it’s embarrassingly dated - that is, unless he spends all his time with footballers convicted of rape. It’s genuinely hard to fathom why anyone thought this kind of antiquated, reductive stuff would find an audience without also attracting a deserved backlash.
Another unforgivable crime of O’Reilly’s is that the character of Dapper Laughs is so derivative. It’s almost a complete echo of Simon Day’s brilliant, south London plonker Billy Bleach – a mid-30s, know-it-all who lived with his mum and gave out unsolicited advice in a pub, often on the subject of “what birds want”.
With Day’s character the joke was always on him and the material made it crystal-clear that his advice was that of a half-wit. With Dapper Laughs it is the opposite. There is no hint that he or his “tips” on such things as “birds ain’t your friends” and “what they like” aren’t anything other than jokes that rely on his audience signing up with him to the idea that all women are brain dead.
O’Reilly doesn’t even have the guts to defend himself – he’s issued a half-baked apology in which he bunches himself in with other unnamed comics explaining that “we” push boundaries in pursuit of entertainment. But there is no “we”. It’s just him, on his own, reinforcing stereotypes and denigrating women for cheap laughs - got, presumably, from the sort of people who also think Ched Evans’s victim was to blame for having had “too much to drink”.
If you’re going to be the one-trick-Nigel-Farage of comedy then at least don’t apologise for it. When trying to explain things that I regard as sexist to my kids - a boy and a girl - my rule of thumb is, “Could a woman do/say/act/behave in the same way as that man and would it be ok?” In this case the answer is emphatically No. Can you imagine a major channel employing a female comic whose entire act used derogatory, belittling and sexist language about men? Or another comic whose material was exclusively racist? It is literally impossible to picture, and if some ill-advised comic were to make that kind of material the basis for their act you can rest assured they’d never get a show commissioned.
I feel sure O’Reilly has real talent. He just needs to realise what century he’s in and that some of “us” might be in the audience. Or, hey, even on the bill with him…..
Arabella Weir is an actress and author. Her novel The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird has just been published by Piccadilly Press
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