I’m not sure what’s worse – the coronavirus or ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. One makes me scared for humanity and the other is a life threatening virus. It sure is a topsy-turvy world. Let’s see what we can do with them.
For a start if you’re going to make a virus sound nasty then you might do better than name it after a Mexican beer. You may as well call it samba-flu or calypso-fever. Next, if you want people to be really scared of a virus then you have to make it sound truly horrible. So far as I can gather with this one you get fever symptoms then shortness of breath and then, if you’re really unlucky, you die; and while that doesn’t sound like the most fun you can have in an afternoon I could also think of worse ways to go. If you told me that you cry blood and have convulsions so extreme that your spine drops out of your arse like loft stairs, then that would make me worry. It is, I concede, slightly sinister when you consider that right now most people who have the coronavirus don’t even realise it. Maybe I’ve got it. If I have then I’m being untypically, and foolishly, blasé.
When I was a kid my Geography teacher taught me that things like the coronavirus were a Malthusian check: that crap stuff like war, genocide, disease and drought were just things the world does to offset other crap stuff like overpopulation and outright stupidity. Here we are in the most over informed moment since the big bang and we’re wetting ourselves about a virus that so far has killed just over 100 people. Call me cold hearted but 100 people isn’t really a lot, especially for China. Let’s not forget that chubby Chairman Mao’s hyper-optimistically named ‘Great Leap Forward’ killed somewhere between 15 and 55 million, and with such a soft furnishing of perspective we can see that 100+ is a drop within a drop within a drop, in an ocean so vast its boundaries are beyond the understanding of the human mind. SARS killed 774 people in 2002 and that’s only a slightly bigger drop, but it was enough to scare the shit out of the world without ever really scratching the surface. Perhaps right now we need SARS, and we need the coronavirus: something needs to reign us in a bit. We don’t need Thanos, we just need a slap in the face.
What makes me worry more than coronavirus, or indeed any other crappy blight that God neglected to mention in The Bible, is that despite having access to more information than we’ll ever need so few people knew about Wuhan. It is, we’re told (as in …..’oh, so now we’re told!’) a city the size of London. A condensed mass of 11 million people and yet hardly anyone has ever heard of it. Next they’ll tell us that most people who live in Wuhan haven’t heard of Wuhan. How many Wuhan’s are out there, choking the planet in disguise? On the radio someone mentioned that it has the highest number of students of any city in the world and given that students like to show off that makes its anonymity even more peculiar. What next? That Atlantis really did exist and is a suburb of Cheltenham? That Elvis earns a living as a bingo caller in Ho Chi Min City? That ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ is meant to be funny?
Seamless, n’est pas? You may think there is no comparison yet you’d be wrong, you idiot. But while the coronavirus combines elements of nature, misfortune and stupidity, ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ is a work of stupidity alone. In concept, delivery and audience it has blossomed into an achievement that openly questions millennia of evolution and intelligent design. When it comes to dealing with unbearable, humourless children (few things in the world are more regrettable than a child with no sense of humour) the common tactic is to ignore them and, with luck, they’ll just go away. Sadly it appears there are simply too many people out there willing to give ‘MB’sB’ a slice of their precious life every week and so it has been given enough oxygen to multiply and thrive. Like coronavirus, I suppose. The comparisons, don’t you see, are manifold.
Once is enough. As one dose of coronavirus will do for most people so one episode of that shit is enough. It’s all I’ve ever watched of ‘MB’sB’ and it safely fell into the collection of memories I’d rather not have to remember by accident. While the audience were busy vomiting with laughter I found that my sense of humour had shrivelled up, like a willy in an ice bath. It exists on its own planet where funny, actual funny, is a stranger and that taste passed by years ago, on its way to some other distant universe. ‘MB’sB’ is so frighteningly unfunny that the most amusing thing about the whole episode was when my doctor texted me to say I definitely had bubonic plague. That the public have voted ‘MB’sB’ as best comedy is just another sign of what people are willing to accept as a substitute for entertainment. I may have been underwhelmed by ‘Fleabag 2’ and not quite totally won over by ‘Afterlife’ (both require a second viewing, I guess) but I stand firm that ‘MB’sB’ does for the soul what a dirty protest does for the fingernails.
Ultimately that’s why we need these viruses and fevers: to give us perspective and to make sure we value what is really worth valuing. I am happy to admit that I am a cultural snob when it comes to some things but I will also gladly own up to a multitude of guilty pleasures and cheap thrills. You think I’m wrong? Well consider this – one day there will be a proper pandemic and people will literally be shitting themselves with fear on the streets, and anyone sensible enough will have their head in an oven or have quarantined themselves in their own homes, quietly waiting for good news that may never come. As some form of feeble distraction they’ll be shooting through a rapidly diminishing supply of TV channels until eventually there will be only one left, and that will be playing ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ 24 hours a day, and at that moment the human world will reach its lowest moment; apocalyptic horror and light entertainment hell, combined to form a thick soup of despair that would make even the most stoic of us weep for a quick death.
Conclusion – they’re equally useless and unwelcome, but if we try our very hardest we may one day find a way to get rid of both of them forever.
G B Hewitt. 29.01.2020
Did you know that the other day a woman died in Australia when she choked herself off the coil in a sponge cake speed eating competition? Stupidity, fucking stupidity, is always out there. Somewhere.
Ignore any mistakes. I’m too tired and daft to proof read this one more bloody time.