Anyone who saw comedian Daniel O’Reilly’s pitiful and apologetic appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight last night witnessed how a man’s fortunes can change within days.
The comic – better known by his stage name of Dapper Laughs – has been on the crest of a wave for most of this year, with rising numbers of Twitter followers, a national tour, a television series and seemingly a bright future.
While his fans would say the content of his act was bright and breezy, laddish and knowing, many others drew back from its thinly-disguised sexism and an attitude to women that was only a couple of degrees removed from endorsing if not rape, then sexual assault. It certainly objectified women to a disrespectful, and frankly disgusting, degree.
So when footage emerged of Dapper Laughs suggesting at one of his gigs that a woman in the audience was ‘gagging for a rape’, it did not take long for everything to come crumbling down. Television series canned; tour cancelled; appearance in Portsmouth binned; and, if what he said on television last night is to be believed, character axed.
There will be many who say it is comedy and that anything goes, and that under the convention of free speech he should continue.
They’re wrong, and the decision to withdraw Dapper Laughs’ invitation to Portsmouth – made before the Newsnight appearance and the seeming retirement of the character – was right.
This isn’t about banning anyone, or anything. This isn’t even about whether he is a funny man. This is about standing up for values that organisations can either choose to endorse or not. It’s about the kind of behaviour we want to see in our society. Quite rightly, Tiger Tiger and promoters Eskimo11 saw that Dapper Laughs was a pernicious influence: sexual intimidation simply isn’t funny. Not now, not ever. The attitude that Dapper Laughs struck – suggestive to the point of harassing, finding comedy in shouting sexual comments at women – is closer to criminality than comedy.
Don’t be persuaded that labelling anything as ‘banter’ excuses it. Dapper Laughs has learned his lesson, and we hope others do too.