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When Comedians Attack

Jonathan May-Bowles, a.k.a. Jonnie Marbles, is due for a recall to the comedy factory. After 17-and-a-half minutes of undeserved fame, he has conspicuously failed to use that time to tell a single funny joke. If you have forgotten who May-Bowles is, then I am sorry to remind you. Perhaps you should skip down to the funny videos at the end of this post. May-Bowles is the comedian/activist/pillock who thought that narrowly missing Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie equates to some kind of statement. In a sense, he was right. One message was spread right around the world: May-Bowles is a prat. Though May-Bowles insists his antics were not a miserable attempt at publicizing himself, he certainly did not achieve anything else. Murdoch’s business empire and political influence did not implode following the stunt. In contrast, physically accosting the old man actually generated a modicum of public sympathy for Murdoch.

On this showing, British crypto-comics would be better advised to follow the lead of Indian fasters and Tunisian self-immolators if they want to change the world. Better still, if May-Bowles is genuinely committed to regime change, he should wield an AK47 like the Libyan rebels. Whether by bullets, fire or starvation, I wholeheartedly encourage May-Bowles to risk his life as frequently and as long as necessary to either attain his goals or die trying, largely because I expect him to die trying. Clearly he would not survive in a genuinely hostile environment. This makes me wonder how he copes with the boos and jeers that must start the moment he steps on a stage. Perhaps he is deafened as well as blinded by ambition. The pathetic coward probably targeted Murdoch because he feared that anyone under 80 would knock him sensible. Imagine May-Bowles taking on John Prescott, or judo nut Vladimir Putin. “I’m making a stand for freedom of the press in Russia” shouts May-Bowles, as Putin pins him face down to the ground and breaks his arm in three places… somehow I cannot see May-Bowles taking that risk. The 26 year old not only managed to miss with his surprise attack on decrepit octogenarian Murdoch, but he also got his ass kicked by Murdoch’s 42 year old wife, Wendi Deng. Proving himself to be funny peculiar, though not funny ha-ha, this is how he described the Marbles-Deng bout:

At the time I thought she’d missed, but the next day I looked in the mirror and realised there was a scratch right across my face. It was probably the adrenaline, and the sheer weirdness of the situation. Time slowed down, as it does at those moments.

He got a scratch and time slowed down because of all the adrenaline. It was fortunate that he was safely locked in prison during the recent riots, or he would have doubtless experienced time going backwards. Imagine the adrenalin rush you would give May-Bowles if you lobbed some rotten vegetables at him. I like to imagine it, and I suspect imagination is better than reality. In reality you would have to be within throwing range of Britain’s leading plonker. At that distance, you would be taking the chance that May-Bowles might say something so unfunny that you instantaneously fall into a coma. When I imagine throwing vegetables at May-Bowles, I like to think that time would stand still at the moment of impact, which is also how I imagine time tends to behave whilst waiting for the next laugh at a May-Bowles gig. Saying that, I do not advocate throwing rotten vegetables at May-Bowles. This would leave the stage in an unhygienic condition for the comedians following this bottom-of-the-bill loser. A better approach would be to throw tinned vegetables. They will cause more pain and the food could still be donated to the needy. However, an even safer approach would be to emulate London’s rioters and lob a couple of petrol bombs into any venue hosting a Jonnie Marbles gig. There is no need to worry about collateral damage. Anyone worth saving would be somewhere else, like listening to a genuine comedian, or doing some real protesting.

Some may think that I go too far in demonizing May-Bowles. I agree that May-Bowles is not the Antichrist. He is just a very naughty boy. However, ninnies who hijack important causes for personal gain are deserving of retribution, not recognition. Let May-Bowles’ real punishment fit his crime. He wants popularity, so give him antipathy. Rupert Murdoch is one of the most abhorrent men alive; he repeatedly undermines democracy and liberal rights by mercilessly exploiting both. At 80 years of age, his motives – greed and vanity – are no longer rational. Whilst other billionaires discover charity as they near death’s door, Murdoch keeps on trying to screw us all, with the sole aim of bettering the life chances of his equally vile offspring. Throwing a pie at Murdoch is like standing in front of Hitler, holding a comb to your nose and giving a comedy “Hiel Myself” salute. We get the point, but we got the point already, without the superfluous jesting that can only detract and distract. May-Bowles is no revolutionary with a red nose, and clearly he is no match for those who really do have the iron will of a revolutionary. Rupert Murdoch has revolutionized business, journalism and entertainment more than once, and not necessarily for the better. He broke the unions through Wapping, and he was ahead of the game on satellite television and sporting rights. His son James has carried on the baton by repeatedly bashing the BBC and public service broadcasting. Even Rupert Murdoch’s protective wife is more of a revolutionary than May-Bowles. Wendi Deng heads up Murdoch’s investment in Chinese media, where they are only too willing to kowtow to the censorious interests of China’s oligarchs (in sharp contrast to the partisan behaviour of the Fox Network in the US). But she knows how to go with the ebb and flow of revolutionary forces; Wendi Deng was originally called Deng Wenge, which means “Cultural Revolution Deng”. The master plan of the would-be Murdoch master race is painfully clear: pursue competition and editorial freedom only so long as you are the competition and you control the editors; otherwise oppose it. Murdoch is a bona fide force for evil, who shows little interest in dressing up his naked selfishness. He is powerful enough not to need to pretend. Murdoch is no pantomime villain, and cannot be brought low by theatrical japes. Only the collective anger of the great mass of the people can stand effectively opposed to Murdoch; we have seen that governments are too weak. To prompt that anger, people need accurate and useful information about why Murdoch is a threat to their interests. May-Bowles’ pie told us nothing of that nature. It only revealed that May-Bowles is a simpleton. By tackling Murdoch one-on-one, May-Bowles showed himself to be a microscopic nonentity, clueless about how to confront a genuine monster.

There is one aspect of life where May-Bowles becomes genuinely hilarious. That is when he tries to justify his stupidity. The Guardian wasted some space on him, and May-Bowles wasted it in turn, providing this outlandish rationalization of his actions:

…once inside the committee room, I was helped along by some unwelcome luck. I had always intended to wait until the end of the hearings anyway before I launched my circus crusade, and as the penultimate speaker finished several people made their way out, leaving me a clear path to Murdoch. It was a horrible feeling: I had a plan, a pie and no excuses left.

Hmmm. So he successfully smuggled a pie past parliamentary security but was unlucky to find himself in a position to use it. I wonder if that argument might work if someone decided to hit May-Bowles over the head with an iron bar…

Prosecution: So you broke into the victim’s house in the middle of the night?

Accused: That is right.

Prosecution: And you were carrying this iron bar, were you not? (He picks up a long iron rod that was sitting on the evidence table.)

Accused: Yes, I was.

Prosecution: And you did so with the full intention of executing a plan to cause injury to the victim?

Accused: I did, I fully admit it. I felt he deserved it and I had gone there with that intention, yes.

Prosecution: Can you describe the scene when you broke in?

Accused: I made a point of being very quiet. First I jimmied open the lock. It was quite a secure lock, so it was hard work, but I got through in the end. There was nobody in the living room so I crept up to the bedroom, where I found him fast asleep and snoring, which was unlucky.

Prosecution: Unlucky?

Accused: Yes, because he was fast asleep, he had no chance to defend himself, and there was nothing to stop me whacking him. I fully intended to break in and attack him, also I fully intended that some household security alarm or some other hiccup would intervene and prevent me from doing so. That way I could go down the pub and honestly brag to my activist friends that I would have beaten him up except for the obstacles that got in my way. So I was very unlucky that there was no bad luck that stopped me from beating him up just as I planned.

Prosecution: And what possessed you to come up with such a ludicrous plan?

Accused: Well, that should be obvious.

Prosecution: Please elaborate.

Accused: Well, he’s Jonnie Marbles, isn’t he? Everybody hates him. I wanted to beat him up so I’d be a lot more popular, or at least to pretend I would beat him up to make myself popular. It’s just unfortunate that I actually got the chance to smack him over the head with an iron bar in exactly the way I planned.

Prosecution: Sorry, did you say the victim was Jonnie Marbles?

Accused: Yes, that’s right.

Prosecution: Jonathan May-Bowles, the victim, is also Jonnie Marbles, the remarkably unfunny comedian-slash-activist-slash-horse’s penis?

Accused: Yes.

Prosecution: Please forgive me. (Turns to the judge.) I apologize for wasting the court’s time m’laud. The identity of the victim was not adequately explained to me. Clearly the accused was provoked. He did what any other right-thinking individual would have done in the circumstances. In fact, I would argue he showed an astonishing degree of restraint in only hospitalizing May-Bowles for six weeks. I only wish May-Bowles was in court so I could give him a robust clip around the ear myself. We move to dismiss.

Yes, I know that blogging about May-Bowles only undermines the media blackout from which he came and to which he will return. The problem is that I blogged about him once before, back in the days when he was climbing the comedy-activist ladder by hinting he was one of the pseudo-leaders of the pseudo-leaderless UK Uncut. I despised him them, when he was a little-known idiot, so I feel compelled to state that I despise him now that he is a slightly-better-known idiot. In fact, I am very proud of being in the vanguard of despising May-Bowles. The response to his puerile pie protest has fallen into two categories: “who is that imbecile?” and “I don’t care who he is, that guy is an imbecile”. It gives me a warm feeling inside to know that I was part of a select group who already knew who that imbecile is. After the PR disaster of May-Bowles vs. Murdoch, even UK Uncut were keen to disassociate themselves with their activist alumnus, emphasizing his pie toss was not a UK Uncut action (but as they do not have leaders, and their actions do not need official sanction, how can they tell?) Yes, I am proud to despise May-Bowles, but let me reiterate that it has nothing to do with his political beliefs. There are some excellent comedy-activists with similar political beliefs to May-Bowles. Mark Thomas is hilarious, passionate, inventive and insightful. Mark Steel has a mind like a steel trap. And there are probably many other guys called Mark who are funnier and more inspiring that May-Bowles. No, the reason to condemn May-Bowles to public indifference is that he suffers a chronic combination of that most modern social sickness: he lacks talent but craves attention. The only treatment for such a case is a prolonged dose of solitary confinement, or at least to keep him out of the public eye. Which is why I hope to never write nor read about him again.

Now that that silliness is behind us, let us instantly forget May-Bowles by remembering five other moments when comedians turned nasty, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

1. Bill Hicks loses it

Comic genius Bill Hicks was not afraid to say things the way he saw them. However, even he must have wondered if he went too far after responding to a heckler with a hysterical tirade that was 100% abuse, 0% quips. But being a genius, he took a breath and then masterfully turned the joke around on himself.

2. Michael Richards shreds his career with racist outburst

Michael Richards was famous and popular after playing Kramer in Seinfeld. He was loved for his goofy and often physical style of humour. The difference between Richards and comedians like Hicks or Lenny Bruce, is that he lacked the wit for really cutting-edge comedy. It is hard to understand what was going through Richards’ mind when he started throwing n-word daggers at some inattentive attendees of this 2006 stand-up show. The best guess is that it was an ill-fated attempted at the kind of outrageous humour pioneered by Lenny Bruce. The difference, however, is that Bruce would end up by making a point, but there was no intelligence behind Richards’ racist rant.

3. Tom Cruise sinks squirter’s tomfoolery

The comedian in this last clip is not, in fact, a comedian. I can say this because of two things: he is a television producer, and because he was not funny. Tom Cruise may be as a mad as a hatter, or even as mad as somebody who believes in Scientology, but he comes across as the more mentally competent party to this face-off. Cruise was innocently and diligently going about his job, shaking hands and working the crowds at a premiere, whilst his assailant posed as a serious interviewer. However, the microphone was a water gun, used to spray the unsuspecting Cruise. Not only was the joke childishly feeble, but it prompted a damningly controlled response from Cruise, who begins by being politely bewildered, asking why he was squirted. The man behind the mic is unable to offer any kind of justification or response (witty or otherwise). Is it possible that he was too embarrassed to admit a grown man might make a living from gags that would prompt ennui in an eight year old? Cruise ends up frustrated and angry with the ‘jerk’, but never entirely loses his cool.

4. Tom Arnold gets tongue-tied

It is debatable whether Roseanne Barr’s ex-husband actually belongs in a list of comedians, though that was nominally how he earned his money. His dull-witted anxiety was beautifully exploded when he insulted his co-presenter at the 1996 Golden Globes, Teri Hatcher. Hatcher paid him back double with a sassy and spontaneous put down of her own.

5. Ricky Gervais does the usual

Flash forward, and we find the Golden Globes keeps on encouraging ‘edgy’ comedy that… well… falls over the edge. I admit that I never did understand the global conspiracy to laugh at Ricky Gervais. The Office was fairly funny, though its popularity was bolstered because the BBC had such a poor run of comedy output around that time. Otherwise, Gervais’ career seems to rehash the same comedy elements over and over and over, mostly relying on a stream of sneery semi-insults to raise a titter or two. But a crack finally emerged in the unanimity about Gervais’ comic status, when he did his usual shtick at the 2011 Golden Globes. The introduction of Messrs Hanks and Allen, and their keen response, suggested that even Hollywood had started to see through Gervais’ cheeky chappy ‘only-a-joke’ persona. Then came Robert Downey Jnr., and the iron man punched a hole straight through Gervais’ malign exterior.

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