Chris Morris: Camera-shy media terrorist

22 February 2012 by FEATURE: Chris Morris: Camera-shy media terrorist

Chris-Morris"I’ve always liked stupid things said in a sensible voice.”

Scourge of Britain's self-appointed moral guardians, arch-controversialist Chris Morris is set to raise the hackles with his first feature Four Lions. We take a look back at the career of a comedy guerrilla...

To his cult audience of keen admirers, he is a refreshingly intelligent thorn in the side of an establishment content to rest on laurels and maintain a morally suspect status quo.

To readers of the Daily Mail he was responsible for "the sickest TV show ever" when his Brass Eye spoof documentary ridiculed media hysteria over paedophilia.

Chris-Morris-at-SundanceChris SundanceOne of the main reasons for the spittlle-drenched fury of the tabloids is Morris's reclusivity - he has seldom given a proper press interview in his career.

But most of all he's "the most hated man in Britain" because he's more than happy to tackle issues most satirists - even the most political - would give a wide berth.

His latest insult to the well-being of Britain's moral guardians is Four Lions, a comedy ridiculing an incompetent group of Yorkshire jihadist suicide bombers and their mission to blow up the London Marathon.

Morris has provocatively described it as "the comedy version of United 93" - the Paul Greengrass film about the airliner destined for the White House of September 11.

The son of two GPs, Morris was born in Cambridgeshire and educated at Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boys's boarding school in Lancashire before studying zoology at Bristol University.

On graduating, Morris took up a traineeship with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, where he took advantage of Chris-MorrisThis is the news...The Day Todayaccess to editing and recording equipment to create elaborate spoofs and parodies.

In 1987, he moved on to BBC Radio Bristol where his anarchic tendencies got him sacked when he reportedly filled the newsroom with helium before a news broadcast ensuring the presenter's voice sounded like one of Alvin's chipmunks.

He then took up a job with Greater London Radio - but this didn’t last long when he was fired for broadcasting a segment on his show entitled “Kiddies’ Outing” in which he would ask a child to ‘out’ a celebrity as a homosexual.

The remainder of his career in radio saw him getting into more scrapes: whilst working for Radio 1 he was suspended for announcing the deaths of irritating former DJ Jimmy Savile and pompous Tory grandee Michael Heseltine.
The-Day-TodayHappy now? The Day Today
In 1991, Morris concentrated on satirical comedy when he began work on the Radio 4 comedy project On The Hour, a spoof news show that launched Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge and also featured Armando Iannucci and soon-to-be playwright Patrick Marber.

Morris also began a weekly evening show focussing on fabricated interviews on Radio 1 alongside Peter Baynham and 'man with a mobile phone' aka comedian Paul Garner.

The show left his BBC bosses non-plussed and it was pulled after a profanity-laden episode on Boxing Day only for Morris to return with the surreally provocative Blue Jam, a late-night ambient music and sketch show on Radio 1.

In 1994, the TV version of On The Hour - The Day Today - rendered genuine TV news programmes practically unwatchable so accurately were they nailed by Morris & Co lampooning their portentuous, graphic-obsessed news coverage.

The black humour of The Day Today was subsequently distilled into the spoof documentary Brass Eye, a mischievous platform for Morris to humilate celebrities including Phil Collins and Bernard Manning by inviting them to spuriously comment on subjects as diverse as drugs and crime.

Alan-Partridge---Day-TodayAlan Partridge on The Day TodayIncredibly, he managed to persuade minor TV stars and politicians into throwing support behind public awareness campaigns for made-up issues that were often absurd or surreal (such as a drug called cake and an elephant with its trunk stuck up its anus).

In 2001, a reprise of Brass Eye on the moral panic that surrounds paedophilia led to a record-breaking number of complaints – it still remains the third highest on UK television after Celebrity Big Brother 2007 and Jerry Springer: The Opera – as well as heated discussion in the red-top press.

Many complainants, many of whom lg seen the programme (notably Beverley Hughes, a government minister),[7] felt the satire was directed at the victims of paedophilia, which Morris denied (almost too ironically, the Daily Mail ran an article decrying Morris' Paedogeddon Special as "unspeakably sick" next to a picture spread featuring Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who were 13 and 11,  in their bikinis).
Brass-EyeBrass Eye

Channel 4 defended the show, insisting the target was the media and its hysterical treatment of paedophilia, and not victims of crime.

Morris also wrote and directed Jam, a television reworking of his radio show Blue Jam. Darker and more unsettling than his previous work, the show explored such taboos as infant mortality, incest,  rape, suicide and sado-masochism through a series of unsettling, dreamlike sketches with a soundtrack of ambient music.

Changing direction to a more traditional sitcom, Morris worked with humourist Charlie Brooker on the underrated comedy series Nathan Barley, which followed an insufferable "self-facilitating media node" around his Notting Hill habitat.

Four-Lions-PosterFour LionsIn 2002, Morris made his first foray into film with the BAFTA-winning My Wrongs #8245–8249 & 117, adapted from a Blue Jam monologue about a man led astray by a sinister talking dog.

His latest work is his feature debut, Four Lions, the audacious comedy which pokes fun at a group of incompentent jihadists in a manner that " will seek to do for Islamic terrorism what Dad's Army did for the Nazis" by showing them as "scary but also ridiculous".