Nic Wright

DVD review: Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown – Who Ate All The Pies?

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Some people can’t take a joke. Some people can’t even take a joke they haven’t even heard. Between haunted pussies, ex-army Paralympians and racial censorship, recently comedy has had more than its fair share of controversy.

Half the problem is people getting their knickers in a bunch over something taken out of context, or a complete malfunction of their frontal irony cortex.

Oddly, when you consider his back-catalog, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown hasn’t been one of comics crucified by the press lately. And that’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that he doesn’t pop up on television much anymore.

Not a name that generally springs to mind when you think of alternative comedy, but when you look at the vastly varied comedy now featured on television, radio, and clubs around the country, these days Chubby is the alternative.

A dinosaur of a bygone era, cast from the airwaves like Robbie Williams, or a lurid, boorish version of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

Entering, as he has done for decades, to riotous chants of “you fat bastard”, Chubby cracks straight into his punch-lines at a scattergun rate. He sets out to repulse, and if nothing else, he achieves that.

People who go to see him want to be disgusted by his base humor, references to bodily functions, and crude sexual imagery.

Intermingled with his tales of sexual dysfunction are his trademark potshots at women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals and the disabled.

Dated and awkward, even the stuff that doesn’t take aim at specific groups, while often cleverly constructed, is archaic; a mixture of Les Dawson-esque, ‘her indoors’-bashing and working men’s club banter.

Maybe the reason that Brown has failed to court much controversy in the past few years, is that to most, he’s simply irrelevant. Like the old, rambling uncle in the corner, no revolution is needed here; Chubby Brown is simply the face of an outlook that is fading away in the rear view mirror of society.

He’s well aware of his position in modern comedy. “People accuse me of being a racist,” he says, early on in the show. “Fuck off, I’ve got a coloured telly.” He also, apparently, has a “half-caste” brother; a statement which makes the age-old “some of my best friends are black” line look positively progressive.

This bridge-mending statement is immediately followed by a joke about Asian corner shop owners, an assertion that the most popular name at Christenings – CHRISTENINGS, Chubby? Think it through – in Britain now is Mohammad, and a groveling apology to any Muslim audience members, spoken in fluent gibberish.

His assertion that Muslim fundamentalists are like wanks – in that, every now and again, you need to knock one out – invokes a rapturous cheer; “just a joke” or not, there’s a sinking feeling here that this audience might be taking his schtick at face value.

What’s most troubling about this set is that there’s clearly still an audience for it. After all, this is his 30th DVD release. Perhaps the timing was just right for Chubby, and you can only hope that time is naturally coming to an end.

On the plus side, if you can call it that, this is not hateful, venomous stuff. There’s hardly a call to arms buried in Who Ate All the Pies?; it’s not shocking, as much as tiresome. We’ve all heard this sort of dim, ill-bred banter being dribbled out in pubs and bus stops. Tedious, garden variety ignorance.

Whether he’s defending Jim Davidson’s right to berate gay men because no remark can hurt “more than a big fat cock up your arse”, or conveying the advantages of sexually assaulting “a thalidomide”, Chubby leave no non-straight-white-Christian-British-male issue unmolested. “It’s a different world now, I know that,” he sighs, jadedly.

When the set concludes, we’re treated to a short message from Chubby, direct to camera, shirtless for no reason whatsoever. In it, he states he has no political or religious views, that he’s not racist or homophobic, but that political correctness has “fucked all acts”.

Well, that’s not really true, is it? Stand-up comedy is bigger than ever, and most comedians have found working without lampooning those of societal minorities, without relying on the perpetuation of stereotypes, fairly easy.

Surely the need to qualify the nature of the material means that somewhere along the line, you’ve crossed some wires.

Long live controversy, viva freedom of speech, so long Chubby Brown.