Prankster Simon Brodkin sat his sights on Simon Cowell, Sir Philip Green and President Trump
It started with the famous 18th century dandy, Beau Brummell. How does a ‘dandy’ earn a living, I wondered, when I first saw him in my history textbook.
By advertising wigs? The same goes for fashion gurus, philosophers and dinosaur-hunters. Haven’t they all got some other, less exciting-sounding job?
I was thinking of this as I watched Simon Brodkin, described as Britain’s Greatest Hoaxer (C4).
To be fair they answered my question early on by telling us he was a comedian, which ought, unless he is very unfunny, mean that people pay him to make them laugh.
He must do that very well and be paid handsomely for it because, as this documentary suggested, he spends an inordinate amount of time and energy on the hoaxing side of the empire, which can’t rake in that much dough.
He spends an inordinate amount of time and energy on the hoaxing side of the empire
The money is not the point, perhaps he would say, to which I’d ask, ‘Well, what is the point, then?’
Certainly, in terms of changing the world order, stunts such as hanging a banner on the side of a businessman’s yacht, and flinging a few swastika-emblazoned golf balls in the direction of Donald Trump looked a little limp on the screen.
They looked even more limp after the cameras had shown us all the time and effort Simon had spent planning them.
His ‘hoax’ on the popular show Britain’s Got Talent meanwhile just looked like sneering.
Mr Brodkin came across as brash, bruce, cocky and self-delighted
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Sneering at the people who want to go on it, sneering at the people who enjoy it, knocking something that really didn’t need knocking, just because he could.
He reminded me of those people who think it’s fun to invite Jehovah’s Witnesses into their living rooms and wittily demolish their arguments.
The wit of Mr Brodkin, it has to be said, was throughout the programme less obvious than other, less likeable qualities.
He came across as brash and crude and cocky and selfdelighted and the film delivered such a strikingly vivid portrait of a certain kind of clever, ruthless media huckster that I wondered if he himself was a hoax.
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It was calming, after that, to revisit the cooing lofts of my childhood, with Flights of Fancy: Pigeons and the British (BBC4). I’d be exaggerating if I said everyone had pigeons when I was growing up.
I think there was only one shedful of them in my street, nevertheless, this whimsical film dealt with the same, chiefly Northern landscape, all but gone by the mid-Eighties.
It wasn’t hard to see why men who worked down pits and in foundries relished the chance to spend weekends gazing at the skies, half-competing, half-dreaming they were soaring likethe birds.
Flights of Fancy: Pigeons and the British tell the story of a remarkable bird
In both world wars, though, this harmless hobby got serious, with mobile pigeon lofts following the lines of combat, for the combined purposes of reconnaissance and communication.
Racing pigeons received call-up papers and no small amount of military brainpower was expended on working out how to drop them from aeroplanes without killing them.
Pigeons, clearly, have a very special nest inside the British heart, though the film hinted that the passion goes wider.
The Queen’s lofts are descended from a pair of birds given to Victoria by the king of the Belgians, and Marshal Tito was a known fancier himself. Not all flat caps and whippets, then.