Friday, 21 November 2014

21/11/14 - Oh Dapper, Where Art Thou?

You may or may not have heard of Dapper Laughs, depending on which social and digital circles you move in. For the uninitiated, you can picture him as a comedian’s character construct along the lines of Ali G, Lee Nelson, or Al Murray’s Pub Landlord, but totally devoid of any of the irony or self-awareness that make those characters work. Or, if you want it to put it another way, Dapper Laughs is just a bit of a prick who made himself famous by saying shocking things.
Well, no, he’s more than that: a dangerous, troublesome vocalisation of all of the awfulness of his fans, making light of such issues as rape, misogyny, xenophobia and bullying. One of the key problems that Al Murray’s found with his Pub Landlord character is that a huge number of his fans seem not to get the joke – they think he’s a real person with real (awful) opinions, and they laugh along because they genuinely agree with them. Dapper Laughs has no such qualms, as he and his fans are one and the same. The braying encouragement he receives eagerly fuels the terrible things he says and does. So where did he come from, why has he been all over the news, and where has he gone…?

The face behind the arse, as it were, is a self-proclaimed ‘comedian’ [this is entirely subjective, of course] by the name of Daniel O’Reilly. Much of his early work took place on cruise ships where he, in his own words, ‘perfected the art of presenting cheesy game shows’. He also did some warm-up slots for Paul Daniels. You can see the green shoots of this laddish character emerging in this presenter showreel he made in 2010:

There’s comedic promise in there, but unfortunately that’s where the humour ends; he then chose to focus his character development on the more ‘oi oi’ side of the ideas displayed there, creating six-second bursts of laddishness on the then-emerging Vine platform. And fair play to him, he cannily spied a very shareable niche there. He found enormous success on the platform, gaining over 575,000 followers, his later video clips featuring famous faces such as Noel Clarke, Ashley Cole and Danny Dyer, and he became the first British Vine star to get his own TV show. OK, it was on the famously-quite-shit ITV2, but it’s still a bona fide TV channel. His programme On the Pull showcased his, er, skills as a ‘pick-up artist’, leading on from the Wildean wit of his tweets and Vines with ‘Just show her your penis – if she cries, she’s playing hard to get’, ‘Get your arm swing just right when you’re walking and you occasionally touch a bit of minge by “mistake”, they love it’ and ‘If she’s looking at me and playing with her hair, by the end of the night she’ll need a wheelchair’; Chris Graves, exec producer at the show’s production company Big Minded, described O’Reilly as ‘a naughty little rascal with a bodacious approach to pulling’. Bodacious? Well, he was right in one sense. It boded something. (Incidentally, this Popbitch piece explains why ITV2 would commission such a clearly iffy show -
Laughs’ success thereafter was phenomenal and surprising; his UK tour totally sold out, he performed on the comedy stage at the V Festival, he released a novelty song, Proper Moist, that placed at no.15 in the UK Singles Chart.

But then it all started to unravel. Principally because, well, he’s a bit of a twat. And people started to notice.
In early November he released a charity Christmas album. It received a scathing review from the Mirror-owned web culture site Us vs Th3m (, to which Dapper Laughs angrily responded on Twitter, saying that they were directly stopping the flow of donations to his chosen charities (although which charities these were was something he hadn’t thought to mention at that point).
Us vs Th3m crunched the numbers [] and worked out that each Spotify streaming would net just £0.004, meaning that even if 10,000 people listened to it, he’d only raise £40. Also, all the money was going directly to him, he hadn’t stated what percentage he’d be donating. Us vs Th3m then encouraged their readers to donate £14 to Shelter or Refuge (a pound for each track on the album) so that a) some money would actually go to charity and b) no-one would have to listen to the bloody awful album. (It’s worth pointing out that as well as the awful misogyny that is his trademark, Dapper also branched out into abusing the homeless [who “smell like shit”] on his album.)
Dapper Laughs countered by saying that he would be donating actual money to Shelter. Brilliantly, Shelter publically made it known that they would refuse his money. Embarrassed and angered, Dapper (allegedly) took to Snapchat, a social platform in which posts have a limited lifespan and are thus sort of untraceable, and mobilised his Twitter followers to directly target the Us vs Th3m team with personal abuse and threats [].
Promoters and affiliates started leaving him in droves, appalled to be associated with an act that was receiving such unpleasant attention. The inevitable Christmas cash-in book, due to be published by Hodder, was cancelled; a spokesperson eagerly claimed that ‘we offered for it back in early September, but we didn’t ever reach agreement,’ while hastily trying to pull it from their website’s pre-order section.
A petition to have the ITV2 show cancelled received over 68,000 signatures and the channel, poking at their abacus with a worried pencil and deducing that this was probably more than the total number of viewers, decided to pull the plug.

There was, of course, something of a backlash, and not just from Dapper’s slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging acolytes. Some people saw the online pursuit of the eradication of Dapper Laughs from the public consciousness as a sort of witch-hunt, a demonisation of young working-class men, a form of oppressive gagging and censorship by a media controlled by an intellectual elite. You may agree with that. But perhaps the following video will help you to make up your mind…
You’ll notice that I began this thing by referring to Dapper Laughs in the present tense. That was merely a device to mask the ending for those not in the know - you see, Dapper Laughs is no more. O’Reilly appeared on Newsnight, of all places, to apologise; during the interview he announced that he was killing off the character. Watch this, and see whether you think this is the heartfelt regret of an intelligent and observant satirist, or the panicked backtracking of a cretin who’s been called out for going too far, squirming as he tries to talk like a grown-up:

You may have thought he was funny, and was unfairly hounded off the telly by the liberal media. You may have thought, as I did, that he was a fundamentally unlikeable arsehole, playing on the unpleasantness of the people who gave him money to voice their opinions for them. Whatever your view, I think the whole sorry situation is best summed up by this piece from the Daily Mash:

So, I wonder what culturally sensitive character O’Reilly will come up with next? An injured soldier? An unemployed single parent? An elderly paedophile? Whatever it is, it’s bound to be frightfully acerbic…

1 comment:

  1. What defines a witch hunt as a witch hunt is not whether or not you manage to burn a witch but the level of effort you put in to finding a witch. Let's see ... central issue a taboo (rape/lads check), muckraking (going over every tiny detail of his past to prove that there is no difference between the man and his character as that is the central plank of your argument - check), remorselessly criticising his every action (check), disproportionate level of threat to that actually in evidence (some bloke with shit show on ITV that probably would have died a death anyway - check), concsenus that what he's doing must be terrible and wrong (check), moral entrepreneurs (Lee Kern - check), rule creators (NUS - check), rule enforcers (Us vs Th3m - check), most likely target someone deemed socially inferior, culturally different and personally unknown (check), social challenge to the normal social order (someone moving from the internet directly to TV - check).

    Why does this happen? Because you only complain when you actually feel threatened instead of complaining all the time relentlessly. You are too afraid to challenge the social order. But in reality society isn't actually that well ordered. You are prisoners of your own fear.