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Alexei Stale's Liverpool
By Phil Thornton
If you didn't catch the first part of Islington based 'comedian' 'writer' and 'broadcaster' (what exactly is a 'broadcaster' anyway? Someone who's been on the telly by all accounts), Alexei Sayle's three part series about his former home city, then you missed a valuable and philosophical insight into the complex culture, history and psychology of er, Alexei Sayle. Far from being a programme centred around an entire city, it was more of a half-hearted apologia from a man who obviously feels betrayed by his former fellow citizens. See, Alexei made some disparaging comments about Liverpool being a philistine city when the city was awarded the Capitol of Culture and was taken aback by the level of hostility these comments aroused in a population that is prone to bouts of collective hysteria and victimisation syndrome. This is the same man who once declared that Liverpudlians were different to other Britons because you were likely to find fellars on the bus home from work reading Proust. You can't have it both ways lad. Just as his Proust on the bus comments were ridiculed at the time by those scousers who really knew how to seperate romantic self-mythologising from reality, so his 'philistine' comments were treated as the typically unjustified sour grapes from an ex-pat who long ago left behind his roots to become a token scouse member of the Islington Media Mafia.
There are fewer self-regarding and hypocritical members of this nauseating clique of former alt-com arseholes than Sayle. He really does see himself as some kind of intellectual collossus, a writer of the calibre of Camus, Joyce and Burroughs rolled into one. He'll willingly slag off the likes of Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and David Baddiel (and who could argue with him with those three prize twats?) for being 'sell outs' yet excuses his own voiceover and advert whore work by stating that he has put bread on the table. Look Alexei, no-one gives a fuck about your literary pretensions they just remember that shite Cockney act on 'Hello John Got A New Motor' and the admittedly brilliant Bobby Charriots. You're the Scouse Albanian Jewish version of Lenny Henry; you want so much to be treated as an intellectual heavyweight but all you'll be remembered for is zany schoolkid comedy. Ooooooooh-Kaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy!
Sayle's diatribe was centred around his desire 'to reconnect' to Liverpool in light of his comments, so he set out to interview some of the leading cultural lights of the city (Brain Patton, Derek Hatton, Joe Farag, Jegsy Dodd etc) as a way of explaininghow and why scousers became so angry and embittered. He dismisses MIlitant and indeed the entire trade union movement by whining that his dad's death certificate was almost registered in North Wales due to a strike in Liverpool's council. Oh, so when union strikes affect him personally, then that's it, they're all a bunch of self-serving, despicable, unfeeling bastards! Then he declares that the Militant years were futile because every minor conflict feels of utmost importance to those engaged in it whereas the world at large just shrugs indifferently. And? So that means that every at of defiance and dissent is worthless then? Let's just roll over eh Alexei as the general public don't give a shit.
Lastly, the main flaw of his political and personal narrative was to use Harry Enfield's 'scousers' characters as an example of how some comics are accepted whereas other speakers of truth such as er, himself are victimised. This argument displayed his utter cluelessness and lack of local knowledge. Enfield's constantly bickering, idle, drunken, scrounging scousers weren't loved by ordinary scousers at all. They were as one dimensional and insulting as Carla Lane's Bread characters and even less funny. Like with all Enfield's 'regional' stereotypes, he got the accent totally wrong (even the uncle tom scouse actors hammed up the Beatles Ringo voices for Middle England consumption) and the fashions and the facial hair and the scenarios wee all hopelessly out of date, all exaggerated to acentuate the Daily Mail/Sun depiction of scousers as violent, corpse robbing parasites. Moronic football fans from places as tediously banal as Southampton or London would seek to parody scousers with their Enfield curly perm/muzzy/idiot grin enemble at Anfield. Ha! Ha! Scouers eh? Can't laugh at themselves can they? Calm down, calm down!!!
So let's get it right Alexei, YOU were taken for task for insulting a city that you left almost 30 years ago in your quest to become one of the greatest and most respected thinkers of a generation. Ofcourse he has every right to criticise and condemn but atleast go to the trouble of getting the facts right. We at Swine have always had massive reservations about capital of culture - who's capital, who's culture? was one idea we proposed to Writing On The Wall years ago - but Sayle's self-pitying (self-pity city strikes again) and childish reaction to negative press comes across as the petulant outpourings of a comic who has failed to live up to his early promise. All ex-pats begin by accentuating their regionality, then despising it and it was funny to see how Sayle's 'scouse' accent had suddenly re-appeared at the start of this show before gradually degenerating into that poncey Boho set drawl by the end. That the BBC not only commissioned this three hour programme but felt that Sayle was the perfect person to tell the story speaks volumes for both of these smug, out of touch bastions of patronising liberality. Can't wait for the interview with Hooto in Transalpino.
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