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Thursday 25th June 2009

Too. Much. To. Discuss.
Malfunction. Malfunction.

Ok well, until about 11pm last night this entry was probably going to be partly about Virgilio Anderson, but I will keep that bit brief. A couple of people have suggested that maybe because he is interested in investing he might have chosen his name in honour of this guy - Richard J as I call him (He call me Richard K - we have quite the time of it). It's a good theory, but one that must still be slightly annoying for Richard J, if he has a facebook page. I am practically certain that Virgilio has no idea who I am (or at least didn't). But he won't reply to my messages so there's no way of being sure.
In other Virgilio news "Who is Virgilio Anderson?" T shirts are available to pre order at the Go Faster Stripe website. We are doing a very tiny print run so the shirts are £15 each plus p&p, but we're doing this to spread the word, not to make money. We only had Large to begin with but due to early demand we are making them available in all sizes available. And if loads of you want these things we will make more. The initial run is for 20 T shirts, so if only a few buy them they might become some kind of a collector's item.
I was also going to write about Steven "Swells" Wells, who died this week. I found out via Twitter, which is very modern and now. I was very shocked and upset by this as I had no idea he was ill. I didn't know him all that well, but he had written on "On The Hour" and was a frightening and supportive force towards Stew and me. Here's his obit in the NME and also his last column in which he uncannily ends by quoting "I blame it on the Boogie". When I read that I thought it was a fittingly cool epitaph to him, but as the day ended it seemed like some amazing predictive comment on the world at large.
I actually knew Swells - not very well - and I liked him. I was saddened that he'd been taken from us so young, but was able to carry on with my day. I didn't get hysterical. I was able to laugh at what made the man brilliant and infuriating and scary. I regretted the loss of someone who was great at what he did and passionate and ridiculous and brilliant. I didn't change my mind about him or ignore his faults just because he was gone. Do you see where I am going here?
Even though Twitter had hurt me in the morning, I had a lot of fun messing around on it for the rest of the day, instead of working (well as well as working - the show is slowly taking shape and had another encouragingly good preview tonight). I provided a jokey commentary to the first few games of the Murray match at Wimbledon and then later, when he won, did a satisfying riff on the idea that I knew it was going to be Britain's year this year and so had put £1000 on a Murray Henman final. I was going to write about that in Warming Up today, but events overtook me. I guess you can find it all somewhere in here if you want to look at my amusing discussion of what would happen if you got odds of infinity to one on a bet.
On my way back from the gig in Deptford I got one tweet from someone saying that they were looking forward to this week's podcast, what with the Michael Jackson news. I didn't know what the news was and didn't have time to check, but in any case assumed he'd pulled out of the concerts and in any case we've done the podcast this week.
When I got home I settled down to watch Psychoville and Mitchell and Webb on Sky+ and casually checked Twitter again to see the breaking news that Michael Jackson had died. I had come into the story just at the point where certain outlets were confirming his death, whilst the BBC was waiting for absolute confirmation. The tweet I had received had come, I suppose, when the news was coming in that he was going to hospital.
It was a shock, but you know I didn't know Michael Jackson personally and I wasn't a fan of his music and had strong reason to suspect that he had done some stuff we shouldn't really be celebrating. I felt sad that he had died, though was initially suspicious (as were you) that it was a publicity stunt or a way of getting out of doing some shows he didn't want to do or a way for him to go into hiding forever, along with Elvis who is definitely still alive. I understand that his music means a lot to many people and that he was never found guilty of anything (though when he tried to defend himself on that TV documentary he managed to make himself look even more strange and guilty) and I also feel terribly sad that another life has been ripped apart by fame and the media. I think in many ways he had a horrible and tragic life and whatever he did or didn't do his death brings me no delight.
But the coverage of his death was quite astonishing (or maybe totally expected) and it was quite an experience being on Twitter for it the whole time. Both to read other people's comments and to follow and remark on the news coverage. It was fascinating to see how quickly jokes started coming out: jokes that some people found inappropriate, but that's up to them. People cope with this stuff in different ways. My first remark was "140 characters sometimes just simply aren't enough." I then proved this by tweeting pretty solidly for the next two hours.
I think laughing in the face of horrible and tragic death is an appropriate response and actually much less offensive than the mawkish TV coverage or the hysteria of people eulogising someone that they didn't know and never met. I think if Jackson had lived an exemplary life then it might have been less dignified to joke so quickly, but to be conferring sainthood on this man without any dissenting voices would be just as wrong. In any case the comedians were soon getting to work and there was something exhilarating about it all happening in the here and now. Peter Serafinowicz opened proceedings, "MJ will honour his London dates, but as the Thriller zombie..." It was a neat little gag and I retweeted it, pretending to be appalled. But I wasn't.
I felt the mood needed to be satirised and was pleased with my first offering "A candle in the wind. And one for a change who has actually been on fire. And looked like he was made from wax."
It was a comment more on the reaction than on MJ himself. And with some exceptions I think I managed to make my remarks about the happening, rather than trying to suggest that a 50 year old man dying was amusing in itself.
Uri Geller was on the phone to Sky News with unseemly haste, claiming that he was too upset to speak, but managing to speak anyway (presumably using his magic powers). It seemed unseemly that a "friend" would so quickly seek to make his comments felt. I tweeted "If Uri Geller was any kind of friend he would make him alive again."
No one was mentioning the elephant in the room (and given it was Jackson there might literally have been one -along with the chimps and the llamas). At least not on the TV. It was all over Twitter. Some fans were getting cross about the "disrespectful" comments. Not that I had yet said anything all that bad. I added, "I wonder if when Gary Glitter dies that everyone will forget what he did and get cross if you make jokes."
This predictably led to several people telling me that MJ was found "Not guilty". "It's nice that people still believe in the process of law," I said, before adding, "It's the cherubs that I'm worried about."
Twitter was alive with reaction and consternation and jokes and tears. It was a beautiful thing in many ways. I was losing some followers, but gaining more as people retweeted my comments.
As a comedian it was exciting to be bouncing off something in real time that everyone was experiencing. Sky news was talking about the diehard fans taking to the streets outside of the hospital. I was able to immediately tweet, "According to Sky, Die Hard fans are out on the streets. They should go back in and leave this to the MJ fans." Even the people who didn't like me joking about it seemed to enjoy this one. I still prefer the candle in the wind one, but I suppose there was some surreal fun to be had from the idea of fans of John McClane taking to the streets at this time.
There was then an astonishing spectacle as Uri Geller, now on camera, discussed his "friend". They must have dispatched a camera crew with embarrassing haste to get Geller on film. I know he can see into the future and stuff, but "his friend" hadn't even been confirmed dead for two hours at this point and we were treated to his self-publicising crap. He seemed to be reticent to answer certain questions because they were too personal. Though it was mainly questions such as "When did you last see Michael?" which he presumably didn't answer because it was more than six years ago. "He was best man at my wedding," was the closest to an answer that he gave. It was a bizarre and upsetting spectacle as Geller claimed to be shocked and said it hadn't sunk in, in front of a news camera team. He kept saying that he didn't want to say anything and then would reveal another personal insight. He was the first to broach the subject of the allegations, which although he refuted them, still seemed inappropriate. On Twitter others said they felt sorry for him, as being MJ's former friend was all the Geller had left now and now that was gone too.
So it continued, with some people enjoying it, some people berating me, me berating the fans back saying that if they were such big fans they would have bought his last album and he might still be alive. I idly wondered if Jarvis Cocker might make an appearance at the funeral and then went to bed.
For some reason none of my Tweets got read out on Sky News.

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