Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who is Chris Morris?

I recently updated my old Sarah Suicide post with the news that the magician in question is a young U.K. artist and filmmaker named Sarah Sumeray. In a bio I found online, Sumeray cited caustic British comedian Chris Morris as a major inspiration, so I decided to go searching a bit to see what I could dig up on this virtually unknown (in the U.S.) performer.

What I found was a gonzo, take-no-prisoners satirist with one of the sharpest comic minds anywhere. Morris seems to have created a scathingly surreal Daily Show type fake news show called "Brass Eye" back in 1997. He also had a sketch comedy show called "Jam" which ran in 2000 (and is the show cited by Sarah Sumeray). His style has been referred to as "radical subversion." Like Sacha Baron Cohen of the brilliant Da Ali G Show, Morris often traps famous people into endorsing or condemning fake products or causes, but where he differs from Cohen is in style. Where Cohen tends to be a bit over-the-top, Morris skirts a very fine line between absurdist truth and satire.

Here's a terrific clip about Morris, with bits and talking heads from famous (in England, I gather) public figures caught in Morris' web. There's some apallingly funny footage here, like Morris as TV host arm-wrestling a guy with AIDS ("Who says AIDS guys are puny? This guy has AIDS and he's about to beat me in arm wrestling. Ooo, well done!"). In another bit Morris, dressed in a huge red ball hat and a diaper, double-talks some drug dealers trying to ply their wares.

Here's another good profile, with discussion of Morris' radio shows (including one called Blue Jam, which the writer thinks is his best work) and links to download the shows. This site has a wealth of audio and video clips, enough to keep you well entertained for a few hours. And here's a hilarious overview from a 1997 Melody Maker profile on Morris:

"Brass Eye", the awesomely sacriligeous, fearlessly iconoclastic mock-ummentary series he made for Channel Four earlier this year, caused headlines before, during and after its six week run, and it wasn't difficult to see why. In one episode a scientist claimed that the disabled weren't really disabled at all but simply lazy. Another began with explicit footage of Morris shafting a woman from behind. In another a Kilroy-style debate show host drew a distinction between people suffering from "Good AIDS" (haemophiliacs, blood transplant patients) and "Bad AIDS" (homosexuals, drug users)....

Most spectacularly he subverted our implicit trust in "experts" by fooling a host of celebrities and politicians to denounce a made up drug called Cake and campaigned on behalf of Carla, an East German elephant with her head jammed up her anus ("She's got eyes... but she hasn't got any ears") And these were just the bits that got shown. Among excerpts considered too much for British audiences were: A children's board game based on the Holocaust, an American pro guns advert featuring Christ shooting Judas, and famously, a musical based on the life of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe....

Can anybody say BitTorrent?

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