Rich Peppiatt is a former tabloid journalist who wrote for ‘The Daily Star’ before he got better and decided to become a writer, broadcaster, and semi-professional troublemaker. He gave us a talk –essentially a truncated version of a similar talk he gave at the Pleasance during last year’s Fringe — on tabloid journalism that focussed primarily on the flagrant hypocrisy of certain editors. His talk could best be described as a show of three parts; one part lecture, one part stand up routine, and one part comedy sketch show along the lines of ‘Tripper Happy TV’.
Mr Peppiatt’s talk was interspersed with entertaining videos of pranks he pulled on newspaper editors who were questioned during the Leveson Inquiry. These included Hugh Whittow, editor of The Daily Express, who infamously suggested that it was the failure of the British public to stop his paper from printing deeply offensive headlines — such as those accusing the McCann’s of murdering their own child — that was at fault, not his paper for printing then. In moment of anarchic theatre, Mr. Peppiatt, dressed as the stereotypical journalist — complete with trench coat and fedora — covered Mr. Whittow’s car in front pages from the ‘Daily Express’, while he was walking his dog. Upon his return, the unamused Mr. Whittow proceeded to remove the papers, while doing his best to ignore Mr. Peppiatt as he asserted that it was Mr. Whittow’s own fault that he hadn’t stopped him. The talk reached a lascivious high (or low, depending on how you look at it), when Mr. Peppiatt recounted his experience dealing with ‘Daily Mail’ editor Paul Dacre at his house in London (very close to the Polish Embassy, we were told, with the aid of Google Maps). Mr. Dacre had spoken at the Leveson Inquiry about depraved, uncivilized sexual acts, and Mr. Peppiatt felt that the poor man was sexually deprived. So, as his video showed us, he left Mr. Dacre a thoughtful gift in the form of a dildo left on his doorstep, much to the consternation of whom I can only guess was Mr. Dacre’s home security guard, a man evidently so sexually repressed that he could not pick up the aforementioned sex toy with his bare hands, opting instead to use a page of the ‘Daily Mail’ to help in his disposal of it. A better use of that paper, Mr. Peppiatt had never seen. However, not to be thwarted by a belligerent bouncer, Mr. Peppiatt’s quest to relieve Mr. Dacre’s sexual frustration took him to Fleet Street, where he generously projected a porn film onto the wall above the entrance to ‘Daily Mail’ headquarters. Perhaps this is why the tabloids are so eager to see Mr. Cameron’s mandatory internet porn filter become a reality?
The talk was entertaining and there were a number of hearty laughs from the audience. However, it does seem as if Mr. Peppiatt’s talk was perhaps geared to a less highbrow audience, as several of his jokes fell rather flat, especially one about performing a sexual act on a puppy, after which the awkward silence was rather deafening. That said, Mr. Peppiatt never managed to lose his audience entirely and made a sound recovery, even from such tasteless jokes as that, and he ended his show on a high note, delivering a poetic list of apologies from tabloid newspapers, demonstrating the depravity, insensitivity, intrusiveness, and sheer lack of compassion that exists within the British tabloid press. Overall, the show was a good insight into an extremely morally dubious area of popular media that seems to exist to entertain and outrage far more than it does to keep the public informed — if indeed that is a part of its raison d’être at all.