Roy Chubby Brown - love him or hate him?
When I was finishing school back in the late eighties, there was quite a buzz around some bootleg audio tapes of Britain's rudest comedian. Largely, it has to be said, among the more horrible children I was forced to get along with. From what they told me about his act, I thought it sounded unbelievably feeble and depressing - crap playground jokes delivered badly to an audience of morons. I was in no rush to hear the tapes, however often they insisted that he was "briwyunt" or "wicked".
The year I left school, 1990, I went on holiday with my parents to Blackpool. In one of those "you couldn't make it up" coincidences, I got chatting to a portly, middle-aged gent with an infectious laugh in a chip shop. He had a heavy North-East accent, but he was well spoken, witty and I liked him very much. When he got up to leave, he shook my hand and said "My name's Roy Brown - I'm playing at the South Pier, you should come and see me."
I took him at his word and went to see his show that night. Dear Lord, I could scarcely believe that the shockingly unfunny man on the stage in a court jester's outfit and World War One helmet was the same man I'd had a pleasant chat with that same afternoon. Fair enough, he was playing a character on stage, but it was the emptiness of the act that got to me. Offstage, he seemed to be a keen student of comedy with an encyclopedic knowledge of gags and one-liners, but 'in character' he was deeply, depressingly unpleasant. I know it's not really fair to attack a comedian through his audience, but that night I was surrounded by mooing tattooed mouth-breathers and brassy, stroppy, overweight women, most of whom were plastered. Needless to say, they lapped it up. It was a different world, one which I was in no hurry to revisit.
I've nothing against brainless or vulgar humour - I love Derek and Clive, and you can't get more vulgar than that - but Chubby Brown's idea was simply to be as crude and disgusting as possible for shock value, which was all well and good but it wore off after a couple of minutes - so all you're ultimately left with is a middle-aged fat bloke talking rubbish and swearing a lot.
I recently checked out some of his more recent material on YouTube, and much to my despair and surprise, he's actually got worse. He's started being 'political' - by which I mean reading the Daily Star and writing dire 'comedy' songs about asylum seekers and political correctness gone mad - and seems to be under the impression that he speaks for the silent majority. His shows are now little more than an excuse for the blinkered and ignorant to get together in a bout of mutual affirmation of the worst kind, indulging in deplorable abuse of other human beings (Little Britain was also guilty of this) under the guise of some kind of patriotic knees-up. The remainder of his act seems to consist of jokes that are at least fifty years old - maybe even older - spiced up with the usual gutter language.
So, as you've probably guessed, I'm in two minds about him. On the one hand, he's the friendly stranger I enjoyed a bag of chips, a chatter and a laugh with in a Blackpool takeaway when I was sixteen, and that's how I choose to remember him. On the other hand, he's absolutely one of the worst stand-up comedians I've ever had the misfortune of seeing.