I couldn’t really say why Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross both get on my nerves, so I kept my trap shut about Manuelgate. No need to capitulate to Daily Mail readers, but I reckon some kind of discipline was reasonable.
But I got into a brief argument with Matt this morning over the Sunday paper / Web. He’d been reading BBC Have Your Say (the real one, not Speak Your Branes) and winding himself up. He thinks (like David Mitchell) that the 30,000 Little Britons who complained are savages (my words). I’d just read that pointless never-was Noel Gallagher (can’t stand him) talking about “them and us”. Wrong.
Ross has had next to no support for the flak he copped for leaving obscene messages on the answerphone of Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs. As Matt says, a lot of people were angry with Ross because they won’t be able to listen to Brand on Radio 2 any more. But it was Brand who took his ball and resigned – he could have done his time like Ross. As well as walking out on his audience without a backward glance and hurting Radio 2’s listening figures he also exposed Radio 2 Controller Lesley Douglas who seems to have been genuinely forced out – his weak press release shows he realises this. Matt knows I dislike Brand and he thinks I’m being Daily Mail about this. He said:
“Flesh, if you looked at the stuff people are coming out with you’d realise that you need to really think carefully about whose side you’re on in this. “
Hrrrrmph. I’m not on anybody’s side but if anything I reckon the people who are using Manuelgate to get at the 30,000 people who complained about it need to be more careful about whose side they’re on. At the BBC, Brand and Ross have always depended on public goodwill. Positioning them as martyrs to edgy age-defined comedy or victims of some kind of witch hunt is spurious. Don’t let David Mitchell, David T, Matt tell you that this is a matter of standing up to people who have posters of Melanie Philips on their wall. When entertainment becomes gladiatorial there’s every reason to write in.
So I’m finding the main thrust of this solidarity of comics slightly revolting – see David Mitchell boo-hooing about the detrimental effects of self-censorship on comedians.
Barbara Ellen takes a better swipe at all this than I can:
“Why then do I keep reading that this was a mere ‘age-defined’ rumpus (as in: the young and groovy got the joke, the old and out of touch didn’t)? By the end of the week, Brand’s friend Noel Gallagher opined that it was ‘them and us’. Meanwhile, Little Britain’s David Walliams was photographed visiting Brand’s home ‘in support’, as though Brand had suddenly morphed into British comedy’s Aung San Suu Kyi”
Yuck (David Walliams gets on my nerves).
“It’s as if the British public were being invited to consider that the legacy of Manuelgate would be a muzzle on comedy per se and to view Ross and Brand as the aforementioned ‘martyrs’, whose only real ‘crime’ was to push the boundaries of edgy comedy.
It’s a compelling thought, until you think – this is Jonathan Ross we’re talking about. The last time I saw him, he was trying to look up Kelly Brook’s skirt.”
“Ross and Brand were totally in the wrong about those calls. Not only was it ‘cultural bullying’ in its most pathetic form (if you don’t find this funny, you’re a fogey!), it was a gross abuse of power, the pair of them seemingly coming to the conclusion that they could do as they liked because an elderly, reclusive actor such as Sachs could not possibly compete against their combined star-power. Grim.
Brand is also a hypocrite. When I interviewed him, he was reticent and gentlemanly when I asked him about his fling with Kate Moss. His subsequent exposure of Baillie proved what I’ve long suspected – that elitism breeds a peculiar form of sexism and even the most ‘anarchic’ of performers observes the celebrity food chain, protecting the famous even as they trash the unknown.”
“To my mind, this is what Ross should be mulling over right now – not the big mistake he has just made (the supposed pushing of comic boundaries), but all the previous ones – where he did anything but push comic boundaries, instead pushing his luck to the point where he lost that most priceless entertainment commodity of all – public goodwill.”
Channel 5 will be broadcasting a documentary on Manuelgate on November 5th which I won’t be watching.