Often imitated (mostly by skanks and piss-poor websites), but never bettered, Chris Morris is arguably one of Britain’s finest comic talents, and a national treasure. Controversial, but rarely less than ball-bruisingly funny, Morris is part satirist, part media terrorist, and part post-modern journalist. His bizarre new “ambient comedy” series, Jam – a spin-off of his BBC radio show Blue Jam – has just started running on Thursday nights on Channel 4. It seemed like a good excuse to “fact the love”.

  1. Due to his notoriously publicity-free persona, little is known about the origins of the Morris. He grew up in Cambridge. His parents are doctors. He has two brothers – a theatre director, and a playwright. He attended a Jesuit boarding school, and went to Bristol University. He suffered from extremely bad acne as a teenager – the ruins of which can be witnessed on his face today. He also has one of those giant purple birth-mark things on his face, that he covers up with make-up.  At a funeral when he was just 18 months old, the ringing of an altar bell prompted the infant Morris to shout: “Bloody phone”.
  2. While at Bristol University, Morris worked at Bristol’s Radio West, assisting in the station’s news output. He repeatedly risked being fired for tampering with the smooth-running of the station. One time his plan to broadcast a taped news story about a mutant cow that couldn’t be killed was rumbled minutes before it was due to be broadcast. Also, he would often ask interviewees: “What do you think of beard economics?”.
  3. Legendarily, on another occasion he filled a BBC newsroom with helium prior to the live broadcast of a story about a train crash, and on yet another doctored the Queen’s speech to read: “In this room my father used to service men and women”. He was finally sacked by Radio West in 1989, when he added a running commentary over the top of a news story.
  4. In 1988 Morris interviewed Victor Lewis-Smith, now a Daily Mirror and Evening Standard columnist, then ground-breaking broadcaster and telephone prankster. The pair took an immediate dislike to each other, with Lewis-Smith accusing Morris of ripping-off his style and jokes. Lewis-Smith said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of being an unoriginal thieving bastard”. Morris countered the allegations with the comment: “He reserves the sole right to recycle his own material so frequently, I don't know why anyone else would bother.”
  5. In 1990 Morris was contacted by producer Armando Ianucci, who was putting together a team for a new BBC Radio spoof current affairs show, entitled On The Hour. The show not only gave Morris his big break, but also helped established the careers of Ianucci, his Armistice co-presenter David Schneider, as well as Steve Coogan, and Lee & Herring (who reportedly fell out with their colleagues, and didn’t contribute to the TV version of the show, The Day Today).
  6. While working on On The Hour, Morris and Coogan rang The Sun newspaper claiming to have a tape of then Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock drunk and raving in a restaurant. Desperate to get their hands on the tape – which featured Coogan’s spot-on impersonation of the Welsh politician – The Sun sent a taxi, and £1,500 to collect it. Around the same time, Morris fooled The Sun’s hopeless music hack Piers Morgan into believing he was talking on the phone to U2’s Bono. “I can’t believe this!” exclaimed a fawning Morgan.
  7. The Day Today hit screens in 1994, and remains arguably the best thing Morris has ever leant himself to. His terrifying frontman persona was a barely disguised parody of Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman. Nevertheless, Paxman once cornered Ianucci in a BBC lift to tell him how much he loved the show.
  8. However, Morris was very nearly not part of The Day Today team. He walked out of the production after feeling the pilot episode was awful. On other occasions he clashed with Ianucci over the tone of the series. Ianucci vetoed Morris’s sketch about the discovery of the fossilised remains of Christ.
  9. In 1994 Chris Morris won Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards. Commenting on an outlandish performance by Meatloaf earlier in the evening, Morris accepted his award with the words: “I hope this will allow me to develop as bike a coke habit as Meatloaf.” Meatloaf’s threats to sue were not backed up. Meanwhile, a second series of The Day Today was planned, but failed to materialise.
  10. Morris next appeared on Radio One in an 8pm Wednesday evening show. Inevitably, Daddy Controversy was in tow. By the end of his run – cruelly denied further series – Morris had announced the deaths of the still-living Michael Hesletine MP, Jimmy Saville and Meatloaf. He’d shouted “Christ’s fat cock!” down the phone at Cliff Richard, called Peter Stringfellow’s girlfriend an idiot “Just for being a woman”, and upset the authorities at Gatwick Airport by forcing them to page people with thinly disguised, foreign-sounding names like “Aneeda Sheet” and “Heidi Drahgzqueeg”.
  11. At the time of his Radio One show, Morris dismissed the controversy engulfing him, saying: “The thing is ... most of what I do isn't that troublesome, it's just the 1 per cent. You don't set out to run over 160 sacred weasels one by one, otherwise you end up desperately trying to shock, like Richard Littlejohn.”
  12. He was set to return to TV in 1996 with his most controversial offering to date – Brass Eye. Already turned down by the BBC due to its content (which included graphic scenes of masturbation and bum-sex) it was eventually broadcast on Channel 4, but not before channel controller Michael Grade had vetoed the show. Producer Talkback Productions had by then already invested £1 million in it. Eventually, Grade resigned under pressure from the Channel 4 board. When the show – effectively an evolution of The Day Today – was finally shown in February 1997, Morris inserted the subliminal message “Grade Is A Cunt” into one episode. Grade wasn’t happy.
  13. Grade was even less happy when he learned that Morris had written to Nelson Mandela, asking his support to get Brass Eye on the air. He informed Mandela that Grade had run a campaign to keep him imprisoned. Morris also wrote to Paul Simon with a similar request, telling him that Grade had banned Channel 4 from showing footage of him, because he was so ugly, and Colonel Oliver North, alleging that Grade had abused his position to smear his reputation.
  14. Other Brass Eye upsettees included Noel Edmonds – who threatened to sue over being conned into filming a public service film warning against the dangers of the fictional drug “Cake” – and fat, patronising agony aunt Clare Rayner, who described Morris as “sad” for similarly fooling her. Still, Brass Eye was subject to the censor. One skit featuring a musical starring serial killer Peter Sutcliffe was pulled.
  15. Prior to the first edition of Brass Eye hitting screens, Morris said: “Watch this programme now, because it will never be allowed a repeat. British law prohibits a video release and I'm too puked out to consider a second series. Brass Eye should put an end to the recent spate of feeble, under-realised faux-prankster drivel. It won't of course. It will just spawn another host of second-rate imitators. So top this, you quisling fucks.

“The whole of the media is a deception, everything that happens is a deception, cloaked in coded statements - a pay rise, a sacking, whatever. I can't stand that high-handed attitude that there's a proper way to behave. Everyone's fucking about. I’m just displaying it. You can dupe people till the cows come home as far as I'm concerned'.”

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