tue 25/06/2024

Roy Chubby Brown, Fairfield Halls | reviews, news & interviews

Roy Chubby Brown, Fairfield Halls

Roy Chubby Brown, Fairfield Halls

Irony-free zone for offensive comedy pleases a certain type

Roy Chubby Brown: Dr Freud would have a field day with his material

Chances are that you have never heard of Roy “Chubby” Brown. He never performs on television, or is invited to be a guest on chat-shows or panel games, and hell would freeze over before Comic Relief would invite him to be one of their ambassadors in the developing world. And yet he constantly tours, sells DVDs by the bucketload and is one of the UK’s most successful comics.

Comedy nerds, however, know that his stage costume is a striking ensemble of an ill-fitting patchwork suit, flying helmet and goggles, and that the Middlesbrough-born comic’s birth name, Royston Vasey, was used as the fictional village in BBC2’s The League of Gentlemen (in which he also made several cameo appearances as the foul-mouthed mayor).

So why isn’t he on most comedy fans’ radar? Well, let’s just say that his fans are of a type. Many of the audience at the Fairfields Halls in Croydon, south London, were tattooed and shaven-headed - and that was just the women. Only joking! But a large number, male and female, looked as if they had been sucking air from car tyres; Jamie Oliver fans they ain’t. There were police officers in attendance outside, security men in front of the stage, and an alcohol ban in the auditorium - all firsts for me at a comedy gig.

Brown, you see, has made a name for himself as “the rudest and crudest comic in Britain” and tickets warn “adults only”, so one might expect a few hard men to attend. And they did - it was a lads’ night out all right, but with impeccable manners as they held doors open for “the ladies” present, enquired if I could see over their large forms - “You all right there, love?” - and gestured me to the bar before them. I think I can safely assume they love their mothers, too.

This was the first time I had seen Brown live, although I am familiar with his work on DVD and if I had been expecting to be really, really, really outraged, I was to be disappointed. In many ways Brown, now 64, has been usurped in the offensive and tasteless stakes by a younger generation of comics including Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, only they deliver their more out-there stuff within clever conceits and constructs.

Which is not to say Brown doesn’t offend. His material makes derogatory references to women, Muslims, the disabled, mothers-in-law, immigrants - “It’s full of fucking foreigners around here” - black people (“Osama spelt backwards is sambo”), all to great appreciation by the crowd. He also appears to have an obsession with what he thinks is the unattractiveness of women’s genitals, menstruation, anal sex "back scuttling" and homosexual men (his latest DVD is titled Too Fat to be Gay). Dr Freud would have a field day.

Equal-opportunity offender he may be, but Brown is no Lenny Bruce, because the American’s material was designed to challenge his audience's self-congratulatory set of comfortable, middle-class assumptions about the world. Brown, however, is merely a crowd-pleaser for the unthinking. The audience was overwhelmingly white - or “indigenous British” as the BNP care to call them - and they lapped up his deeply misogynistic and racist material.

In a 2007 Channel 4 documentary, Brown declared himself to be “not a racist” but he used the words Paki, Chink, niggy-nog and wog to loud approval of the crowd last night. He referred to “that white actor with the black man’s name - George Cooney”. He even pulled out a golly doll (although of course he called it a golliwog) and said of those who think such terms are offensive in the modern age as “those fucking fuckers who get offended by nothing... can fuck off.” There’s me told.

There were one or two jokes that were genuinely funny, although preciously little up-to-date political and current affairs material, which Brown once prided himself on; the nearest he came was, “Haiti. Too soon, or shall I wait until the dust has settled?” And some of the jokes had whiskers on, despite the comic’s claim never to do the same ones twice. Perhaps I had heard someone else tell them.

“Thank you for treating me like a superstar,” Brown said at the end of the gig. He isn’t a superstar, of course, rather an end-of-the-pier comic who has found an audience who feel he voices their views on a diverse, multicultural and broadly liberal UK that the majority of Britons are happy to be part of, but his fans clearly aren’t. Sadly, though, I couldn’t help thinking that Brown, delivering his set without a trace of irony - the cover-all excuse for incredibly offensive material from younger comics popular with liberal audiences - is at least being honest.

Roy "Chubby" Brown is touring all year until 20 December, according to his website

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In the lions' den indeed, Veronica - or the asylum. Thanks for reporting: we BoBos (bohemian bourgeois) need to know what's going on in a parallel universe...

I don't know if this story is apocryphal, but Brown apparently once did a gig at a Catholic old people's home in Liverpool. The first thing he did on coming on stage was to point to the life-size crucifixion on the far wall and say "I see you got the fucker that nicked your video then". Like Bernard Manning, he might be deeply repulsive, but he does know how to craft a gag.

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