Dapper Laughs is no more. Daniel O’Reilly appeared on BBC’s Newsnight on the 12th of November to discuss the controversy surrounding his ‘character’ Dapper Laughs and to announce its retirement. He’d had a shave and donned a, possibly-funereal, black polo-neck in an attempt to distance himself from his alter-ego saying ‘I don’t want to represent Dapper Laughs and I don’t want Dapper Laughs to represent me.’ In a ham-fisted attempt to persuade the interviewer that Daniel O’Reilly is the man behind Dapper Laughs rather than vice-versa, he described his reaction to his Dapper Laughs material: ‘Come on that’s not real. I don’t think that. I’m taking the mick out of what I thought men think.’
In this article I will refer to the Arsehole Formerly Known As Dapper as ‘Daniel O’Reilly’ but this is only because of the sheer relief at not having to type that ridiculous name any more.
Since performing at De Montfort’s Students’ Union on the 23rd September, O’Reilly has been the subject of much debate in the comedy world, resulting in his eventual downfall. I wrote about the show at the time, mentioning that some students considered it to be ‘offensive, derogatory and bad taste’. An article by Lee Kern on comedy website Chortle described his act as ‘a woeful, misogynistic celebration of banter-based cretinism that is sadly having a renaissance among the unenlightened, the confused, the intellectually frightened and the simpleton.’ This was quickly followed by a series of petitions calling for his stand-up shows to be cancelled or relocated.
Students at Cardiff University were the first to succeed. The petition was started on the website ‘Change.org’ by Journalism student Vicky Chandler. In her opening statement on the website, she described how she considered the booking of Dapper Laughs to violate the Union’s ‘anti-lad culture policy’ which is designed to promote gender equality. She went on to say that she ‘cannot believe a man whose jokes centre around the trivialisation of rape, unprotected sex and dehumanising women, is allowed a soap box for his misogyny inside the walls of an academic establishment that claims to protect the rights of its students.’ At least seven hundred and thirteen students agreed with her, because that’s how many signatures she had when the petition was presented to the Union on the 4th November.
This week has seen O’Reilly’s New Lad Order come crashing down. A video emerged of him describing a female audience member at a stand-up gig as ‘gagging for a raping’. Shortly after this, ITV 2 announced that they would not be re-commissioning his show On the Pull and Academy Music Group announced that ‘Dapper Laughs Full Length Tour has been cancelled.’
If Newsnight was an attempt at damage limitation then it was in vain. The interviewer, Emily Maitlis, systematically dismantled O’Reilly’s justifications and apologies. She suggested that viewers would be thinking that ‘the apology’s come because he’s just had his series pulled, his tour’s been pulled and his album isn’t for sale’. A point which O’Reilly tried to refute, saying ‘My tour hasn’t been pulled, I woke up this morning and decided I don’t want to do Dapper Laughs anymore.’ Next he’ll be saying that it was a mutual decision.
He cited the popularity of the character as an excuse for his act saying ‘at the time I didn’t think so many would end up seeing it.’ ‘it kept growing and growing and growing and it took hold of me a bit’. Perhaps O’Reilly sees himself as an Al Murray figure, the articulate and intelligent performer behind the ironic character. I’m not convinced though, Matilis reminded him that he’d previously said that ‘Dapper Laughs is an extension of [Daniel O’Reilly]. You said he allows you to do things you wouldn’t normally do and you blame it on him. It doesn’t sound like satire at all, it sounds like an excuse.’ O’Reilly’s only response to this was a poor attempt at gaining sympathy, saying that the last week of bad press has ruined his career. When pressed on this point he eventually said that he was a victim of his own mistakes.
‘Show her your penis, if she screams she’s playing hard to get.’ This was yet another indefensible quote that O’Reilly was forced to confront, lamely responding with: ‘looking at me now do you really think I’d go out and do that?’ He was finished before the interview even began and his final assertion that ‘My family have talked to me about it, you know’ is the last and perhaps worst attempt to convince the public that he’s sorry.
It’s reassuring that such simple democratic processes as petitions can impact the media. It’s easy, however, to get carried away with the back patting and satisfaction at seeing the series of cancelled dates on the See Tickets website. Daniel O’Reilly was torn to shreds on Newsnight. It was a bad PR move. He was unprepared and had only empty apologies to offer. If his management wanted to save him then the very least they could do is suggest he make a token donation to a Women’s Shelter or a similar cause.
It might have been a bad PR move for O’Reilly, but what about his management? The people at ITV 2 who devised and commissioned his show, the people who booked his tour, his agent, and, most importantly, the people who were behind his rise to social media fame: members of the general public, all played a part in Dapper Laughs. I doubt any of them will be on Newsnight any time soon.