Blue Jam

Morris, though, gives you things you don't even joke about about in the comfort of your own psyche.

Illiterate vigilantes drive paediatricians out of their homes. A shadow minister suggests we fight drugs by locking up half the population. Doctors are transformed from angels of mercy into scaly winged emissaries of Satan. Only a fool would pretend to understand Chris Morris completely, but you don’t have to squint too hard at the world to see his parallel universe poking through at the weakest points. ‘Blue Jam’, a collection of ‘sketches’ from the only Radio 1 show ever designed to sound like influenza, is about the things that happen when sentimentality and ‘feeling’ obliterates reality and thinking, when hypocrisy reigns and the taboo is just another lifestyle choice for the toxically jaded. It’s also about somebody shouting “whack my bonobo” over the sound of orgasmic panting. And all to an ambient beat.

Even people who loved [I]The Day Today [/I]and [I]Brass Eye [/I]backed away from [I]Blue Jam[/I], unable to see any comedy in dead children or sexually exploitative doctors. There’s little doubt this is the work of a man fascinated by the perverse in a distinctly under-the-counter way, who takes an almost sexual pleasure in appalling the moral majority (the Broadcasting Standards Authority have just found the TV [I]Jam[/I] “unacceptable”), yet the overwhelming sense is of misanthropy borne from righteous disgust. At a time when referring to the under-tens in anything but a sentimental context has become unthinkable, to hear a self-obsessed couple wonder about the whereabouts of their missing six-year-old son – “Maybe he decided to stay overnight at the school” – or listen to the four-year-old girl turned Harvey Keitel “fixer” demanding ropes, an axe and “some juice” is oddly exhilarating, picking at mental scabs and prodding the tender flesh beneath.

Similarly, the superb ‘Suicide Journalist’ piece – the prototype for Morris’ notorious [I]Time To Go[/I] column in [I]The Observer[/I] – attacks the notion pain is a commodity while lovingly describing regurgitated oysters and brutal decapitation. Compared with the sledgehammer blows that pass elsewhere as satire, this is invasive keyhole surgery. In the dark. In a roomful of strangers.

It’s Morris’ extraordinarily viral linguistics – spoken with alarming empathy by an excellent cast – that carry the full horror. Porn-star disease “The Gush” – the “drab-clothed men” who “van you to the fens” to wrestle pigs; the woman squealing “cackle my Gladys” on ‘Bad Sex 2’: language hosts him like a parasite. No wonder Aphex Twin, Funki Porcini and Nik Kershaw merge so easily with the queasy verbal flux.

“I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room,” shrugs Eminem. Morris, though, gives you things you don’t even joke about about in the comfort of your own psyche. Be appalled if you must. But more than that, be grateful.

Victoria Segal