Intent over Content: Dapper Laughs and playing the bigot

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Header Image copyright to Mark Robert Milan/ GC Images - link below.

Having been real-world fuming about the Dapper Laughs debacle a lot recently, (I was aware of him, or rather his ‘character’, on the Vine app before he oi-oi’d his way into our living rooms), I thought it was about time for me to chuck my two penneth into the blogosphere.

As a vocal feminist and all-round pro-equality type person I was obviously annoyed by Dapper Laughs’ Vine account where cheeky-chappy ‘geezerism’ was used as a construct to disguise and promote flagrant sexism, misogyny and harassment. Consequently I was even more appalled when this moist-forehead-sporting div got his own TV series where he “dishes out fake dating advice to young men under the guise of his alter ego Dapper Laughs,”(1) (desperately backtracking words ‘fake’ and ‘guise’ from ITV news there making him sound like some sort of illusory lad-banter Derren Brown figure).

So, having signed an online petition to #canceldapper, I was relieved this week to find that not only had the show been axed but his tour had been cancelled and his Christmas album, panned. Dapper Laughs had gagged his way into his own sorry oblivion. But last night the greasy-haired cretin appeared on my TV screen again, this time looking a little less dapper and a little more sixth-form-drama-exam (see very serious tail-between-legs black polo neck top and puppy-dog eyes for full pathos effect). He was apparently apologising. Kind of.

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In this post I’m not going to focus on the sexist nature of Dapper Laughs’ comedy as it’s blatant for all to see so I’ve included a timeline of his latest foibles at the close of this post for any one who wants to get fully up to speed.

Daniel O’Reilly, whose name I didn’t know before his character started to go downhill, has sort of launched his own smear campaign with this Dapper Laughs shtick. But on Newsnight on 11th November 2014 he seemed massively self-pitying and unsure of why so much attention and blame was being directed towards him saying, “At the moment I am trying to hold back the emotion that is attached to what it has done to my life and what the media has done to my life in the last four days.”

It didn’t happen to you mate. You happened to you. Or rather, you happened. End of.

What stood out to me most in the Newsnight interview was Daniel O’Reilly’s reasoning behind his ‘character’ and how, according to him, the general populace basically just didn’t understand his method of comedy.

His defence in the interview is:

“I look at that [some of his sexist vines/material] and think ‘that’s not real, come on’, obviously I don’t think that.”

“I’m taking the mick out of what I thought men think.”

“I didn’t see it as me saying it, I was creating this character and I was really pushing the boundaries with this character because it was so popular.”

According to these statements, in Dapper Laughs, Daniel O’Reilly is playing the bigot, a motif most masterfully deployed in the past by the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Borat’ or ‘Ali G’, or Ricky Gervais’ bigoted version of himself in the 11 O’clock Show.

Playing the bigot, when done well, is a tool that allows comedians to ‘push the boundaries’, to invite the audience to mock the views of the bigot, to laugh at him not with him. The character must ultimately be the victim of the routine in order for it to not just be racist or sexist or whatever type of ist in question. Of course this invites difficulty as, yes, sometimes audiences laugh at the ‘wrong’ bits, (the ist bits…), laughing with the character rather than at them. But this can be excused when the intent of the comedian is clear, as it always was with Borat or Ricky.

So this is where Daniel O’Reilly gets it wrong both comically and in his excusing himself. It doesn’t matter what your content is in comedy, I personally believe that almostnothing is off limits, as long as you’re clear on your intent. When playing the bigot the intent must always be to victimise the character, rather than the character’s victims. But Dapper Laughs is not playing the bigot, he simply is the bigot. For him to be ‘taking the mick’ out of the character or ‘what men think’, the character needs to lose out and be made a fool, not get his own TV show about ‘pulling’ where he can further endorse his sexist ‘she knows’ routine to the audience that laughs with and not at Dapper Laughs.

 

For example: Can Daniel O’Reilly honestly say that this Vine is ‘taking the mick’ out of Dapper Laughs’ base-level sexist humour?

No reverential nudge-wink-“THE LADS”-pulling-banter at play here? Really?

Perhaps this reaction, at a gig in October, to his show being called a ‘rapist’s almanac’ will show him setting his audience straight on his intent…No, no, I don’t think telling a female audience member that she is ‘gagging for a rape’ quite says ‘I don’t advocate sexual harrassment or violence’ quite enough for me either. #sarcasticunderstatement…

Despite his denying the possibility that he is only apologising since his show has been cancelled, he showed none of this repentance on-stage in October in front of what he now calls the wrong audience that he showed on Newsnight, when the claims were the same but the consequences weren’t.

Rather than his show getting axed due to a misunderstanding of his routine by not only the public but also by forty four comedians (so far) who have signed an open letter condemning his sexist routines, (comedians being sort of experts in comedy, like, at least a bit), perhaps O’Reilly could admit that there’s the slightest possibility that he is in fact to blame for getting his character comedy so definitely wrong.

Daniel O’Reilly doesn’t expressly mention what boundaries he set out to push with Dapper Laughs but I suspect they were those of social acceptability and decency rather than of comedy. The ‘character’ backfired once he was seen by a wider viewership which is reassuring. It shows us that while there may be a fusey-barnetted box-of-toys army of laaaads jumping to his defense on Twitter, there is an equally strong throng of jobsworth-petition-signers (myself included) ready to silence people like Dapper Laughs who try to normalise sexism, sexual violence and harrassment.

Despite what he said on Newsnight, I don’t believe that Daniel O’Reilly ever intended to take the mick out his own walking hard-on of a persona. Not for one inch (or 8, OI-OI GEEZA…). He may be backtracking now, but after all’s said and done, he knows.

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Here’s a quick overview of events in case you’re not quite up to speed:

  • ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’ first airs on ITV2 in September.
  • 5th November 2014: Nathaniel Tapley reviews Dapper’s Christmas album in a piece on online news outlet Us Vs Them entitled, “We listened to all 25 painful minutes of Dapper Laughs’ Christmas album so you don’t have to” found here.

After Abi Wilks described Dapper Laughs’ Christmas album as a “really sad… cry for help” Dapper Laughs accused the home of Wilks’ article Us Vs Them of trying to stop him from raising money for charity tweeting:

“Wow! @UsVsTh3m thanks for listening to it! As stupid as it is I made this to raise money for the homeless let’s hope u haven’t stopped that.— Dapper Laughs” (@dapperlaughs) November 5, 2014 (I had to nick this quote from Huffpost’s website as the original tweet has no surprise mysteriously disappeared from Dapper’s twitter, link below (2)).

Dapper encourages a torrent of abuse to be directed towards Wilks for her comments, a sample of the most inane can be found here.

Us Vs Them highlighted that if you play the album on Spotify, each stream earns about $0.007 per play – less than half a penny, or £0.004.

Next, homeless charity ‘Shelter’ responded with this embarrassing custard pie for the struggling philanthropist:

  • A few days later a petition to #canceldapper is created by Tom Zephyr on change.org and within four days over 68,000 people sign it.
  • 10th November 2014: Footage emerges on The Mirror Online of a Dapper Laughs gig in October earlier this year where: 

  • 10th November 2014: ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’ cancelled for a second series as well as it appearing to have been removed from ITV2’s show roster on their website due to pressure from the online petition.
  • 11th November 2014: Swiftly after having his ITV2 show ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’ axed Daniel O’Reilly appears on Newsnight looking stern, serious and sad as “Dapper Laughs has ruined my life”…

To be fair to him, he has had a bit of a mare of late. But it is completely all his fault too so…

Watch the full Newsnight interview from 11th November 2014 here.

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(1) – http://www.itv.com/news/2014-11-10/petition-calls-for-itv-to-axe-dapper-laughs-show/

(2) – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/06/dapper-laughs-us-vs-them_n_6114300.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Header image URL here.

Dapper Laughs Newsnight image URL here.