Brass Eye: Clarky Cats, Cake, and Satire

Brass Eye
Bloody… hell.

With British satirist Chris Morris’ latest film (The Day Shall Come) out and about, we thought we’d take a look back at where Morris really made a name for himself.

Jet black comedy he does rather well (check out Four Lions), thusly we’re all for that! Let’s have a gander at his work.

Brass Eye

In the early nineties, alongside emerging young talent such as Steve Coogan, Chris Morris honed his satirical skills on mock news show the Day Today.

After that, he landed a satirical behemoth: Brass Eye. There were six episodes in 1997, all of them utterly scathing.

A pisstake of politics and British journalism, the show has an overly dramatic and draconian sense to it. As if the holier than thou presenter is right. And you are wrong.

Morris focusses the episodes on sensationalism and hyperbole. The productions come across as serious news shows the likes of the BBC produce, but with a right-wing tabloid edge.

There’s a lot of hilarious establishmentarian theory that pretends to be fact.

This allowed Morris to invent all sorts of inane crap, present it in renounced pronunciation (RP) English and the complete stupidity often comes across as realistic.

This meant that, back in 1997, many people tuned into the show and believed it was about serious political debate.

Morris was also able to coerce celebrities and even MPs into supporting some of spurious campaigns.

One involved the made up drug Cake, which he actually got various people to announce on camera that it was indeed “made up”. Before launching into a length spiel about its various terrors. Behold Bernard Manning.

In July 2001 Brass Eye and Morris hit major heights of controversy with a one-off special on Channel 4. The topic? Paedogeddon!

It lampooned the British tabloids and their habit of making out there was a sexual deviancy crisis.

This press coverage was creating a genuine moral panic in the UK at the time (these days Brexit is far more important, of course).

Once again, Morris was able to get a bunch of big name (in England, anyway) celebrities to chip in with scripted comments. They were somehow able to get DJ Neil Fox to say this.

The episode hit a raw nerve and there were many complaints from outraged viewers. There were over 3,000 of them.

Naturally, the British tabloids (not exactly in on satire) also blew up into a frenzy and hailed Morris as an enemy of the people.

The likes of The Daily Mail and The Sun held a campaign against him, but Morris ignored all of it.

We must say, in their defence the episode isn’t particularly good. There are some occasionally witty moments, but most of it is a bit disturbing and just not very funny.

It was an odd way to bring Brass Eye to a close. There hasn’t been an episode since. But the six from the full series were genuinely terrific.

The whole Paedogeddon! thing has long since blown over, of course, and these days Brits concern themselves with the total implosion of the economy and social structures. Yay!

However, in 2017 Michael Cumming pieced together what’s apparently a thoughtful documentary featuring an hour of unreleased footage from the series: Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes.

It can’t be placed on the internet or shown in screenings as it breaks too many copyright laws. But it is, apparently, an interesting hark back to a different time in English history.

Before the digital revolution, before Brexit, and before the latest batch of Tories ran the country in the name of the elite.

And for that alone, we do wish Morris was still around taking the piss out of them.

Films

Morris’ latest film is The Day Shall Come. It launched this October, but we haven’t seen it yet.

The trailer is interesting, if a bit mediocre. Reviews are positive so far for Morris’ effort but some of the “gags” are a bit predictable looking.

It’s more than possible for a clueless marketing team to ruin a creative concept in a trailer (yeah, marketers – bastions of creative excellent… as in sales, oh, crap bags, we didn’t wr…)

But heck, we can’t judge too much into it yet. In comparison, here’s the Four Lions trailer for 2010.

With Morris’ high intelligence and total disappearance from the public brass eye since 2010, the concept he picked up seems fantastic. But we’ll wait on that. We haven’t seen it.

Meanwhile, check out fellow satirist Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin. Which is, comrade, most excellent.

Or just go and watch Four Lions. Because it’s brilliant. And Brass Eye seems readily available on YouTube. So you can get your fix of full episodes there it’s piqued your interest.

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