PA­TRICK FREYNE

This week, Steph and Dom met Nigel Farage, and the re­sults were about as funny as Mussolini

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

Back in 1990, some peo­ple thought it would be clever to cre­ate a sit­com about a cou­ple who live next door to Adolf Hitler. It was called Heil Honey I’m Home! It was ter­ri­ble. I thought a lot about Heil Honey I’m Home! this week. On an un­re­lated note, I just watched a one-off re­al­ity TV sex-com­edy/real-life sit­com Steph and Dom meet Nigel Farage (C4, Mon­day). It in­volves a bick­er­ing, booze-hob­by­ist cou­ple (the tipsy “posh cou­ple” on Gog­gle­box) who run a guest­house. They have a wacky neigh­bour who comes around to tea. He has a funny name.

“Is it Farage, Farage or Fridge?” asks Steph.

Nigel Fridge, grin­ning, blazer-wear­ing leader of the right-wing, anti-im­mi­gra­tion po­lit­i­cal party Ukip, is “an or­di­nary bloke”. Well, an “or­di­nary bloke”, as might be de­signed by the aliens from Mars At­tacks in an at­tempt to in­fil­trate hu­man so­ci­ety. He loves his ale and his fags and he tucks his nap­kin into his col­lar be­fore eat­ing din­ner, un­like you hoity­toity types who read The Ir­ish Times and prob­a­bly have but­lers to clean you with a sponge after feed­ing. “I don’t think I know any­one in pol­i­tics as poor as we are,” he says (he’s on a ¤96,246.36 salary as an MEP) and an­gels, im­mi­grants and Euro­crats weep.

Politi­cians queue up to be on re­al­ity TV shows nowa­days be­cause they be­lieve they can reach more peo­ple by be­ing vac­u­ously “re­lat­able” than by writ­ing a col­umn in a news­pa­per or hav­ing co­her­ent poli­cies. If I was posh Nigel’s cam­paign man­ager, I’d push his com­mon­man shtick even fur­ther. He could wear over­alls and a flat­cap. He could con­tract rick­ets and scurvy and TB. Or maybe he could carry a bindle and stick and wear a bar­rel like a De­pres­sion-era hobo.

Snowy-haired Dom takes crinkly-faced Nigel down the pub, where Nigel quaffs ale, glad-han­dles the barflies and be­moans hav­ing to smoke out­side. “It’s the mod­ern world isn’t it?” he says sadly. “You can’t have a smoke in a bar.”

“Or send chil­dren up chim­neys or own peo­ple or die of a pre­ventable in­fec­tious dis­ease,” I add help­fully, from the couch.

Steph rings Dom. “Mrs P, she’s al­ways go­ing ‘Which pub are you in now?’” moans Dom. Nigel chuck­les in recog­ni­tion, for he knows women.

They go back to the guest house for din­ner where they drink more booze. Steph spills wine on Nigel’s trousers. “I’m go­ing to se­ri­ously have to take your trousers off,” she says, and in the after­life Ken­neth Wil­liams and Enoch Pow­ell say “Ooh Ma­tron!” in uni­son. Steph gives him a pair of jeans with holes in the knee to change into. Th­ese make him, she notes, look like “a mem­ber of Bros”.

Steph and Dom gen­tly grill Nigel about his poli­cies. Oc­ca­sion­ally they’re ef­fec­tive in­ter­roga­tors, but this may be due to the dis­in­hibit­ing ef­fects of al­co­hol (TV idea: Pissed Prime Time –a tooled-up Miriam O’Cal­laghan con­fronts drunk and fighty politi­cians in a pub car-park). Over the course of the dis­cus­sion, Nigel says that he’s un­likely to ever be the Bri­tish PM and that his role in Europe is largely sym­bolic be­cause ef­fect­ing change there is im­pos­si­ble. He also says that he has one tes­ti­cle due to hav­ing can­cer in his youth.

This is a gen­uinely hu­man­is­ing de­tail, but later, after lis­ten­ing to Nigel de­scrib­ing his

Like their pre­de­ces­sors on ‘Fawlty Tow­ers’, they men­tion the war at ev­ery given op­por­tu­nity

life in pol­i­tics, Steph says, “You have to have balls of steel.” Nigel stares at her. “No pun in­tended,” she adds. Steph and Dom are some­times, in­ten­tion­ally and un­in­ten­tion­ally, hi­lar­i­ous. Like their guest­house-own­ing pre­de­ces­sors on Fawlty Tow­ers, they men­tion the war at ev­ery given op­por­tu­nity. They show Nigel a photo they found on­line in which a mi­cro­phone on front of his face makes him look like he has a Hitler mous­tache. Nigel stiff­ens.

“Didn’t that make you laugh?” asks Steph.

“I don’t think Hitler is funny,” he says.

“I agree with that,” says Steph, ea­ger to be on the tak­ing-Hitler-se­ri­ously band­wagon.

There’s a solemn pause. “Mussolini can be quite funny,” says Nigel. In fact, he says, he knows Mussolini’s MEP grand­daugh­ter. I scrib­ble down a sit­com idea in my note­book.

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