Satire was never so cruel, so spot on, brutal and beautifully so as with Brass Eye – a series (and a one-off special) created by Chris Morris. He’s quite possibly a genius – fittingly his real skill in this world is that he has no real comic training or background. He was a radio guy, some voices and pranks – but he’s not a joke-guy, he’s never trying to tell a funny story, instead he’ll just show you one – poke holes in an ugly truth, using absurdity to get to the heart and art of his brand of satire.
He’s possibly the world’s greatest troll. Although that undersells the magic he conjures.
Brass Eye was a British show from the late 1990s – a fake news/current events show. One that lampooned the media and in particular the 20/20, A Current Event and 60 Minutes-type shows…so it’s as much about the sense of moral panic that is so cruelly pervading and aiming to be persuasive in those shows.
Brass Eye was a huge inspiration/influence for New Zealand’s Eating Media Lunch. EML wasn’t ever a bad show but once you’ve seen Brass Eye you’ll know the real deal in fearlessness.
Morris is so wonderfully cruel, so stupidly funny, he’s got the spirit of Monty Python wrapped inside deep, dark, cutting satire. Charlie Brooker was among the writers that helped push Brass Eye into place.
I stumbled onto it via YouTube, the show long gone. But that sent me back to the DVD set to watch the shows in their entirety.
From silly to sick and back again – it’s too smart for its own good a lot of the time and just daft enough to get away with making jokes about paedophilia. You think that subject is never funny? You’re sure of that. Absolutely? Well give the paedophilia special from Brass Eye a go.
It’s wrong – so wrong. But so sharp – and funny – because its real subject of scorn is the delivery; Morris and Brooker and a talented team of writers and actors (you might spot Simon Pegg in an episode and one or two other names you now know – lesser known at the time of their appearance as part of this show) took aim at the platform as much as the content. The victims are not being laughed at – it’s the “scandal” nature of reportage, the moral outrage and the absurd sensationalism that is being viciously, skilfully mocked.
I’ve watched Brass Eye dozens of times now – every episode. There are wank-jokes and so many other types of dick-jokes, but the delivery, the po-faced ludicrousness, is what wins you over. There are times – even now, the show some 15+ years old and my viewings going up well past double-figures, when I’m almost afraid to laugh at it.
That’s how he found his way to so much ugly truth through a series which, on first viewing, might seem like sheer, mad folly.
It’s so much more than that. Deep in every way – including, of course, so deeply offensive.
Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker have gone on – separately – to create so many other great moments across page and stage. They had runs on the board before Brass Eye too of course. But this is something no one could ever beat. This was bold and bonkers. And breathtaking.
And I can still throw on an episode to introduce someone to this mad world and I’ll always get a genuine What-The-Fuck response. Every time. Any time.
Still potent. Still fucking funny. Still stick. Part of the profundity lies in how deeply twisted this show was. And is.
TV Shows That Meant The World To Me started life as a weekly series on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page