Littlejohn's House of Bum - part 2

Getting this post together has been pretty difficult. Seriously. Things out of my control have stopped me from getting anything done on it. I got some odd thing with my ear that made me dizzy and sick for a bit. I dropped my phone with my notes on it in the bath. Richard Littlejohn is such a great lolloping bore with his belly and his Union Jack tie and his completely predictable attempts at irreverence and lack of realisation that he is part of the establishment now, he's not sitting at the back throwing bottles, he's in the middle batting them away - for millions and millions of pounds - that it's difficult to muster up the enthusiasm to say anything about him any more.

'Littlejohn's House of Bum - part 1' looked at the logic of the Littlejohn column. When I was reading the books, I was trying to identify any internal logic that might make Littlejohn's very silly columns work. I found one, and I'll be going back to it again in this post - but remember, he's not paid a gazillion pounds to write well researched, thoughtful and considered articles.

Okay, here we go.

Littlejohn's obsessions

In his novel To Hell In a Handcart, one of the characters, the one Littlejohn has said is most like himself, is a talk radio host. He turns up at work and has this exchange with his producer:

'What the fuck am I going to say to get them going today?'
'Petrol prices?' suggested his producer.
'Been there.'
'Speed cameras.'
'Done that.'
'Asylum seekers.'
'You're not serious. We did that yesterday. What is this, Groundhog Day?'

One of Littlejohn's recycled jokes that crops up now and again in his books is that he's into recycling because he recycles his own columns all the time. Woah, that's meta or something isn't it?

What makes reading most of Littlejohn's stuff feel like listening to someone burping into a kettle is the constant repetition. If you've read more than a handful of his columns, you'll be familiar with that ten year old list. Every now and again a new subject will be incorporated, but it'll end up being done completely to death in a variety of well-trodden repetetive ways pretty swiftly.

Even individual stories about specific events (there are some - but they fit in with his obsessions) don't escape the constant repeating. In 'House of Fun', we have a chapter titled 'This Litttle Piggy', which concerns 'the concerted campaign to impose a Muslim veto on public life', but starts with the story about a Muslim chef workinig for the police who refused to prepare pork.  I looked at charming Gary cartoon that accompanies the original article here.

In the couple of pages he uses to look at the story, he manages to mention that the guy should never have applied for a job with the police four times. (Apparently, he should have known because the fictional detective Jack Frost likes bacon sandwiches).

The things that get repeated more often are the subjects he's obsessed with. They're not normally of global importance. Even political stories are usually reduced to the personal. Gordon Brown is a sociopath, Tony Blair is married to the wicked witch, John Prescott is a wanker, Peter Mandelson is gay. Imagine that. A gay!

The long, long list of obsessions is probably familiar to everyone who's ever spent a minute on a Littlejohn column.  They won't have changed much from this excellent audit of 2008 in Littlejohn from Angry Mob.  Yes, there are a lot of references to homosexuality and cottaging and poovery and Peter Mandelson - he's gay, you know, but I didn't have time for a full audit.  There is a chapter in 'Littlejohn's Britain titled 'The Day I Discovered I Was Gay' though.  And two chapter titles in 'House of Fun' reference anal sex without being about anal sex or homosexuality.

Are you local?

'Littlejohn's House of Fun' is supposed to be his hard-hitting look at thirteen years of Labour government. With that in mind, which of the following has more chapters devoted to it:

a) The war in Iraq
b) Tony Blair
c) Bins

Answer: c.

Bins get more chapters than Tony Blair and the Iraq War combined. (The winner of 'most chapters devoted to a subject' in 'House of Fun is PC Gone Mad and Health & Safety, which get sixteen chapters).

Littlejohn isn't so much a climate change denialist - he seems in these books to believe that the climate is changing - he's just a global warming denialist. He thinks the world is getting colder. In "House of Fun," he says:
According to NASA scientists in Maryland, the polar ice caps, far from shrinking, are actually increasing in size.
Search the NASA website for 'polar ice caps' and the top two results are 'RECENT WARMING OF ARCTIC MAY AFFECT WORLDWIDE CLIMATE' and 'Satellites Show Arctic Literally on Thin Ice'. It's not difficult to see what NASA's position really is.

What do you think is the cause of his global warming scepticism? It's clearly not a careful consideration of the data, since he seems to be saying NASA thinks the polar opposite of what it does. (Hur hur, polar, geddit). It must be something, but what?

It's bins.

Seriously. Here's how the chapter on global warming I took the above quote from opens:
The justification for the great recycling terror is the belief that the earth is being destroyed by man-made climate change.
His stance on global warming is one of the few obsessions that is not completely parochial - but that's what it grows out of.

Back in the 90s, in 'You Couldn't Make It Up', the local concerns seem more personal, more a reaction against things he's experienced. Sure, they're a stupid reaction (About bobbly pavements next to crossings, 'And if they really are for the benefit of the blind, why do they have to be red?'. Aha! Proof they're only to inconvenience us and not, you know, made out of red stuff), but they at least seem to be things he's experienced. He mentions his local council several times (Haringey).

In the later books, these things all seem to be taken from his postbag or hoiked from the Daily Mail.

It's almost as if these were written by someone who spends a lot of time away from the country, somewhere where they have things called 'trash compactors' maybe, who is repeatedly reminded of how small things about the UK irritate when he arrives back in the country. Or someone with complete contempt for his readership who throws them fish every now and again (in 'To Hell In a Hancart' his talk radio presenter says some of his shows are like 'a fucking NF rally' and his listeners are shown to be barely-literate, drunken slobs in football shirts). Hey, maybe it's both!

How do you do do that?

As annoying as the repeated subjects are the repeated bloody conceits. I swear if I read another 'imagine if some 70s show happened in the PC present. There's no smoking indoors!' story, my frustration will be enough to generate the 1.21 jigawatts of electricity to send me back to the seventies and stomp the fucker to death outside a Peterborough nightclub. Here's a list of some of the more familiar ones:

  • Let's look at the Guardian jobs section and pick on a couple of job titles out of context without examining what they actually do. Unless we lie about them and pretend the 'Street Football Co-ordinator' job is actually there to ban football or something. Cooodernnmayyykidapp!
  • Two people recently spoke on the phone or something. Here's how the conversation didn't go.
  • Let's turn immigration into a game show.
  • Here's a ridiculous situation a reader claims to be in, in a totally non-biased and objective way of course. It's not as if someone in trouble with the police would ever exaggerate or leave things out to make themselves seem innocent would it? I mean, I've watched cop shows on TV. That never happens.
  • Imagine if some 70s TV cop or other was in the police today. Imagine the hilarity of not being able to call women 'love' and the outrage at not being allowed to smoke indoors!
  • Imagine if something or other were taking place in a 70s/80s sitcom. Imagine how the banking crisis would have played out in Dad's Army or Only Fools and Horses (he manages both). What would Del Boy have done in the foot and mouth crisis? What if Porridge was set in my imagined present day? One of my favourites is an 'imagine how Del Boy would have fared in the PC 90s' from 'You Couldn't Make It Up', a book published eight years before Only Fools and Horses stopped being made.
  • Imagine if my imagined version of PC and Health and Safety legislation had happened in the past. Nelson would have not been able to do something or other. We would have been nice to the Nazis. (No, that doesn't make any sense and yes, this one is just a variation of the two above).
  • Let's make something into a really shit song!
  • Some politician or other has released some diaries. Let's imagine what they were like.
  • Imagine if some current event was on an automated switchboard and people really said 'so-reee'. "Dial 1 for a ridiculous outmoded stereotype, dial 2 for an unresearched bucket of wrong, dial 3 for a rubber bloody mallet to bash yourself in the head with to clear it of yet another reference to something in the fucking seventies happening today in exactly the same way it did every other chuffing time we imagined something from the seventies happening today".
What these things do is provide a lazy hook to hang things on while allowing the reduction of any issue to the local, parochial stuff he generally bangs on about. He does two crap seventies sitcom based banking crisis columns. When not relying on sitcoms to reduce global issues, a reduction to the personal is possible. In other columns about the banking crisis, the people who tried to take out ridiculous mortgages get the blame rather than the banks for offering them. "When I was younger and it was the seventies, I never had a great big mortgage and no-one offered them but if they did I wouldn't have gone for one." I'm paraphrasing.

Right. That's enough of that. Just thinking about all that was making me ready to stick my head in a drawer and whud it shut. In part 3 I'll look at his complete lack of research and wrap things up. This one will come quicker with any luck.


Ernie Goggins said...

Very interesting as always, but the real question is: how is dropping your phone in the bath something out of your control?

Anonymous said...

it realy depends on what he was doing in the bathroom with a phone dose it not :)

BenM said...

Oh, you got that "vertigo" virus too?! Horrible little illness that is.

The acute symptoms are bad enough, but the dizziness and associated nausea can last for a fortnight.

I'd never heard of it before but the number of people suffering it seem to be adding up. My wife got it a couple of years ago and two work colleagues last year.

Labyrinthitis I think it's called. Nasty.