Sunday, 6 March 2011

“Why did they hire Lenny Henry?” and other questions that drive me mad

Whenever I see or hear Lenny Henry on TV or radio I find myself wondering who thought it would be a good idea to hire him. (To be honest, this question quite often pops into my head unbidden in quiet moments). He was vaguely amusing for a while in the mid-Eighties when he appeared in a mildly comic sketch programme with Tracy Ulman and least famous person ever called David Copperfield, but he’s been going downhill quicker than Franz Klammer ever since.

Whenever I see Lenny Henry, I can’t help thinking of Jimmy Saville (though to be fair, I haven’t seen that truly awful man for several years – is he dead, or is that just wishful thinking?)

“Why did they hire Lenny Henry?” is just one of many such pointless questions that I spend far too much pondering. I’ve decided to put the most persistent ones down on paper to see if that’ll help me exorcise them. If this doesn’t work, I might have to call in the the local priest to intone “the Power of Christ compels thee” over my writhing body.
As “TV Critic” commented on an earlier post, is it kind to keep on allowing the thing that used to be Kirk Douglas to appear in public?  His appearance at the Oscars was genuinely shocking.What is the point? To prove it’s possible to look like you’ve been dead twenty years, yet still move? To make up for never giving him a proper Oscar? Or did the entertainment industry always secretly loathe him, and this is their way of gaining revenge? Whatever, just stop it – he was a handsome, gifted screen actor, and he doesn’t deserve this humiliation.  

Talking of humiliation, the thought of Ed Milliband possibly appearing on the world stage as Britain’s Prime Minister is starting to panic me. God knows, Gordon Brown was bad enough – but this inept supply teacher? Should this happen, will we all simply stop going abroad to avoid ridicule?

Why is it that whenever you see a film with a great-sounding title that you’ve ever heard of on the Sky EPG, it turns out to be a vehicle for Steven Seagal? You select Shadow Man, Attack Force, Flight of Fury, Urban Justice, Kill Switch, Against the Dark, The Keeper orMachete and you get some fat bloke with a ponytail, all the acting ability of a corpse, the voice of a eunuch, and whose facial expression suggests he hasn’t “been” for several weeks. This is always disappointing. 

Why does the FCUK brand still exist? Why are their goods on display in our local Boots, with a big sign above them? What are parents meant to say to their children if asked what it means? “It’s an ironic play on the word ‘Fuck’, darling”? Is there any civilised person who doesn’t think the people who brought this level of vulgarity to our High Streets are a bunch of “cnuts”?

Does the Beat Generation represent the most over-rated collection of “writers” and “poets” since the Bloomsbury Group? Has anyone ever got to the end of On the Road without the aid of drugs? If so, why?

Why does Bill Gates have an honorary knighthood while Steve Jobs – who created both Apple and Pixar – doesn’t?

Why do French footballers sound so much more civilised and articulate when they speak English than the home-grown variety?

Am I alone in despising the long-running Radio 4 borathon, Just a Minute? I literally cannot listen to a minute of it. (Geddit?

Could we make it a criminal offence to quote Robert Kennedy’s “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”, unless they’re doing it so to explain why liberalism has done so much damage to western society in the last fifty years? (The correct response, by the way, is “Because it might be a really bad idea, Bobby – I’ll explain when we get to the hotel.”)

Could we make it a capital offence to use the phrase “to die for”?

Would any jury in the country convict someone who strangled a receptionist for brusquely interrupting a face-to-face conversation to answer the telephone?

Does any Labour supporter feel embarrassed by what their party did to this country? If not, why not?

If anyone can explain why the BBC One controller, Danny Cohen has decided not to commission a second series of the immensely classy and successful detective series, Zen – one of the best things the corporation had done in the past five years – please let me know. (The answer, “because Danny Cohen is a fool” won’t do – I already know that.)

Why does the Met Office persist in believing that everyone thinks hot weather is “lovely”? And can they be made to understand that, given that many of us were educated before Shirley Williams got her claws into the education system, we don’t need to be told to “wrap up warm” when it’s snowing. We really don’t.

In the 1960s Richie Benaud puzzled the nation by pronouncing “assume” as “ashoom”. In the 1970s, Michael Parkinson offered “abzurd” for “absurd”.  Many people subsequently followed both their leads. From now on, they should assume they’re being absurd - and desist.  

The next child who, when asked what they want to do with their lives, answers “help save the planet” should be given a thorough thrashing to prevent them from growing up to be an urban liberal. Cruel to be kind – that’s my motto.

Let’s make it legal to confiscate mobile phones from anyone who startles other pedestrians or bus or tube-users by suddenly talking out loud while holding a conversation using one of those hands-free Bluetooth devices. Those of us who can last five minutes without talking to someone else assume that we’re being addressed by a deluded stranger. It’s inconsiderate.

Am I the only educated, middle class person who - guiltily and furtively - shares the “love that dares not speak its name”? I’m talking about  adoring Kentucky Fried Chicken, especially when served with fries and chili beans. There – out of the closet at last!


  1. If ever you think you are alone, try William Shatner's "I Can't Get Behind That", which is in effect his version of your list.

    To add to yours, why do my children watch on X-Factor exactly the same Woolworth Embassy Label meets Workers Playtime dross that I spent much of youth twiddling the dial on the radiogram to avoid?

    And who is the half-wit on the BBC who thought the death of some old chap who once went on a bike ride with Che Guevara was a news item? Next item: Clement Attlee's Former Dentist in Overdue Library Book Shock.
    Monday, March 7, 2011 - 12:15 PM

  2. For anyone who hasn’t heard William Shatner’s “I Can’t Get That” (which included me until Ex-KCS’s comment) here’s the link:

    Couldn’t agree more re TV talent shows and the proliferation of appallingly crappy cover versions – I thought this sort of thing died out with Light Ent programmes in the early 1970s. Besides, I’ve never heard of most of the songs the talentless contestants are murdering – but when they get round to butchering something I do know, I realise ignorance is probably a blessing. And who bought those Embassy label cover-version compilations in the first place?

    The Che Guevara one is simple to answer – for the average left-wing BBC news producer/editor, Guevara is a mythical hero, what with his beret and his cool beard – anyone who touched the hem of his garment, let alone rode with him, was sanctified. The fact that the doctor was a farcically incompetent butcher peddling a poisonous philosophy is neither here nor there.
    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 12:04 AM

  3. In addition to Lenny Henry, you may also wish to consider Hardeep Singh E-Coli and the unspeakable Toby Young and Vanessa Feltz. E-Coli wears a turban, has a refined Glasgow accent, claims to be a comedian and thinks he is an intellectual. Naturally, the BBC has embraced him [ethnic, regional, not funny, talks nonsense.] I do not know if the laws of libel extend to the blogosphere so I better not comment on the other two. For some reason, extremely irritating people seem to develop a sort of media ubiquity.

    Talking of which, last night I had time to spare before a TV programme so I ended up with the last 5-minutes of Carolyn Quentin's trawl through India [what is it with India?]. The final shot was of her standing in Mumbai with tears streaming down her cheeks. This was followed by a trailer for Comic Relief which had your friend Lenny Henry sitting in a hovel weeping uncontrollably. Where is all this leading to? I suspect that we are all about to be encouraged to adopt the American habit of saying "I love you" when finishing a telephone call to a nearest and dearest.

    More seriously. I take exception to your remarks about the great Steven Segal. This man is a saint and a veteran of Vietnam. Whilst serving with Special Forces he was much decorated apparantly [this cannot be verified because he was in covert operations] and he also received the The Royal Order of the Golden Chopsticks with Bamboo Shoot Cluster from Thailand. Apart from setting up a network of martial arts dojos [where everyone is addressed as "grasshopper"] he has made some excellent action films. Bearing names such Casey Ryback, Cock Puncher and Mason Storm his preferred method of despatch is the billiard balls in a sack or the twirling billiard cues which he invariably imbeds into his victim's forehead [much of the action has to take place in the vicinity of a billiard table]. He has also invented automatic guns whose magazines contain unlimited supplies of bullets.Through the power of Oriental [whoops!] thought he has stopped his hair-line from receding and now has a strong widow's peak and has magnified the size of his facial cheeks. He cleverly camouflages his expanding body by wearing bigger and bigger jackets [military expertise] and has bought the suits of Orson Welles and Marlon Brando as "an hommage" to his fellow actor/directors. He is also an accomplished C/W singer and musician.

    Apart from Segal [and KFC] I agree with everything on your list.
    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 10:08 AM