There’s No Actual Evidence For It, But It’s Scientific Fact: The Work Of Chris Morris

Published on November 29th, 2009 in: Comedy, Culture Shock, Issues, OMG British R Coming, TV |

By Matt Keeley

Perhaps the oddest thing about comedian and writer/director Chris Morris’s lack of popularity outside of the UK is that he’s peripherally involved in things that ended up being quite huge in the States.

For example, his TV show The Day Today is often cited as being one of the influences on The Daily Show. The fictional character Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan) originated on The Day Today and its radio predecessor On The Hour. Chris Morris also had a small role in The IT Crowd, a show with such a sizable cult following in the US, that NBC shot a pilot of a remake in hopes of having another Office. Instead, they had another Red Dwarf.

morris the day today

Admittedly, of these, neither the Alan Partridge character nor The IT Crowd were created by Morris; as for The Daily Show—one can see the influence somewhat on the earlier, inferior Craig Kilborn-era, though the shows diverged pretty much immediately.

While the early incarnation of The Daily Show always used real people as interview subjects, The Day Today was wholly fictional, aside from vox pops. It may have borrowed the tone—surrealism and absurdism delivered with seriousness—but none of the characters or style that made The Day Today great. In fact, The Daily Show only flourished when Kilborn left and took his mean-spiritedness with him and Jon Stewart turned the show into real news with a satirical bent.

I’m not sure if Chris Morris is familiar with either incarnation of The Daily Show, but if he were, I’d wager he prefers the Stewart-era as well for its more biting satire. Of course, you can’t get much more biting than Morris.

While The Day Today was often more absurdist, his later news magazine parody called Brass Eye (think Dateline: NBC) combined the absurdity of The Day Today with brutal satire of the news media. While Morris cohort Charlie Brooker (co-creator of Morris’ sitcom Nathan Barley) analyzes and deconstructs the media with actual examples in his series Screenwipe, Morris holds a mirror up to them by using their techniques on absurd claims—baffling charts, deliberately leading phrases, and interviews with “experts” to prove that due to animal abuse, an elephant in a German zoo has stuck its head “up its own guts.” (Don’t worry, it had a happy ending: the elephant’s head was removed, but due to the immense pressure of its insides, the head came out small and white.)

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2 Responses to “There’s No Actual Evidence For It, But It’s Scientific Fact: The Work Of Chris Morris”

  1. Mike Leffel:
    November 30th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Great and accurate article, didn’t mention the amount of people killed in the making of the series though. Like five. A-

  2. Popshifter:
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Chris Morris sounds like he is right up my comedy alley. Thank you for piquing my interest!


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