In November 2014, approximately 13 minutes and 26 seconds into his 15 minutes of fame, after what, depending on whether you have a soul or not, was a public protest campaign or an anti-working class witch hunt Daniel O’Reilly announced that he was retiring his internet sensation turned TV star Dapper Laughs.
To his credit Dan was pretty contrite and apologetic about the offence he had caused with his character’s misogyny and references to rape.
“It was a type of comedy that I should not have been doing. I do not agree with it. It was a shame that it went so far.”
But as early as December that same year Dan released another video showing Dapper Laughs returning from the dead to do God’s work on earth. Well I suppose that figures really. I’m sure there’s a certain New Testament carpenter who’d probably take a quick look at his wife and conclude that God’s views on consensual sex weren’t too far away from those of Dapper Laughs.
At the time Dan maintained that he brought his sexist alter-ego back by public demand, that he’d always believed in his act and that he’d only quit in the first place because he’d buckled under the pressure of a media campaign led by radical feminists and snobs who hated the fact that working class people were getting comedy that they could relate to.
He said he felt bullied.
A man who told a female heckler that he’d rape her and she’d love it felt victimised.
The thing is, none of that is truly why Dapper Laughs rose from the grave. During the few weeks that sanity reigned and we lived in a Dapperless world, Dan O’Reilly was a very busy man. He tore round the country performing in small clubs, at new material and new act nights, under a series of names and tried new things. He did straight stand up and tested a series of new characters. He prepared for the post Dapper stage of his career in comedy.
He died on his arse.
Everything he did failed miserably.
In his apologetic interview on Newsnight Dan had said “I am not going to do what maybe other comedians would do and stand behind it and say ‘If you do not like it then switch off.’ Dapper Laughs is gone”
It makes sense that Daniel O’Reilly wouldn’t do what other comedians would do because Daniel O’Reilly isn’t a comedian; never has been, never will be. I think he might be quite a talented actor, he’s certainly got a gift for physical performance and an ear for dialogue, but he can’t write comedy. All he can do is give a voice to things that should remain unsaid.
Daniel O’Reilly, like Jeremy Clarkson, Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage, is an enabler. People who like his routine don’t do so because they recognise great comedy, they do so because they see the very worst traits of themselves given a platform and therefore a justification.
The reason this is relevant is that so much of the debate about dapper laughs comes from whether it’s okay to for a comedian to joke about rape. People talk about Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr and many other comics having “rape jokes” in their sets and argue that it’s no different to what Dapper does but it is.
In my time on the circuit I saw a few very gifted comics who could tell well crafted jokes which only worked if the audience bought into the notion that rape was the most utterly awful act imaginable, I saw a tiny number of very daring comics challenge the audience to think about their own perceptions of rape through humour and I saw fucking hundreds of shit awful open mic acts talk about rape in a terrible attempt to come across as edgy and dark.
You see there’s a big difference between something being explored in a joke and something being exploited by joke.
It’s the skilled comedians job to be able to talk about anything, to challenge assumptions and to confront taboos; not to get cheap laughs at the expense of victims. The target for comedy should be the strong not the weak, the powerful not the powerless, the abuser not the abused.
Every comic has done jokes they regret. Jokes that didn’t sound out loud like they sounded in your head, jokes that didn’t work how you hoped, jokes in which nobody saw the irony and jokes that were just plain wrong. You try them, you realise what you’ve done and move on. You don’t bring them back for a triumphant return six weeks after publicly admitting that they were not fit for human consumption.
I never once saw anybody who I could describe as a comedian, in anything I could describe as a comedy club, in front of anyone I could describe as a comedy fans tell a joke which treated the act of rape as funny.
Which is what Dapper Laughs does.
People who buy tickets to see Dapper Laughs aren’t comedy fans, they don’t go to comedy clubs; never have done, never will do.
People who buy tickets to see Dapper Laughs generally fall into two categories: at the least offensive end you’ve got teenage boys who think The Inbetweeners is a documentary, spend too much time on Youtube and are permanently in danger of fatally overdosing on a cocktail of Relentless & Lynx Africa, whilst at the all together more sinister end of the spectrum are a collection of adult men who should know better; men who from the safety of a scaffold platform, a moving vehicle or a group of 15 friends, think nothing of loudly and aggressively sexually harassing women; screaming “fancy a fuck” or “get your tits out” to a woman who will almost certainly be on her own and who could very possibly be your mum, sister, girlfriend, daughter, wife or, if she’s worn particularly well, your Grandma.
To them Dapper isn’t just an act, he’s an ambassador. He dresses like them, he sounds like them and he thinks like them. He is them; he’s an embodiment of their right to abuse women.
Earlier today I read and participated in a fairly heated social media debate amongst patrons, fans, staff and management of legendary Southampton music venue The Joiners which kicked off when a friend of mine used his Facebook page to question whether it was appropriate for Dapper Laughs to play there.
I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if Dapper had been booked by Leisure World or Yates Wine Lodge or whatever monument to rolled up tenners and date rape is now what used to be The Square Balloon but The Joiners?
Not The Joiners.
Please God not The fucking Joiners.
People who buy tickets to see Dapper Laughs are generally the people that the people who go to The Joiners go to The Joiners to avoid.
I don’t go out much any more. I’m settled down with a family, a playstation and a frighteningly small disposable income. I still make it to 2 or 3 shows a year at The Joiners, partly because it’s one of the few venues that book bands I like and partly because it’s The fucking Joiners.
That place was an important part of my cultural and political upbringing. It was a refuge for Southampton’s punks, crusties, grebos, hunt sabs, folkies, poets and protesters. It welcomed artists young and old. It was one of the few places in town where you could be pretty sure that you’d be surrounded, almost entirely, almost every night, almost irrespective of what show you were at, by people who didn’t think rape was very funny.
Apparently not any more.
Apparently when I go to see the Restorations grace that hallowed stage in July, I’ll be doing so knowing that, just a few weeks earlier it hosted an act that perpetuates a culture that devalues, degrades and endangers women.
Women like the wife I kissed goodbye before I left for the gig. Women like the one my tiny little daughter will grow up to be one day. Women like the ones you love and cherish.
I can’t help but think that might take the shine off the evening a bit for me.
Maybe it will for you too.
Depending on whether you have a soul or not