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January 15, 2004


I will probably have more to say about this later, but just now I'm still gently simmering and can only be bothered with the bottom line: Jerry Springer the Opera is cack.


Not everything about this show is terrible. If it were trimmed to about a twentieth of its length it might have made an entertaining skit on Attention Scum! It has a couple of good ideas, but they are spun out so far beyond their capacity to sustain any interest that the light from there takes 20 minutes to arrive -- and then buried beneath a much greater weight of really bad ideas.

The good ideas are these: (i) to do a show in which the trailer trash tabloid aesthetic of Jerry Springer is translated into a high art format; (ii) the tap dancing Klansmen at the end of Act I; (iii) that Jerry be whisked off to Hell to sort out the dysfunctional relationships of the major figures in Judaeo-Christian mythology. Each of these is certainly worth a couple of minutes of airtime.

The crucial bad ideas are: (i) that tuneless shrieking and warbling is opera, or indeed anything worth seeing or hearing; (ii) that "fuck" is an unfailingly hilarious lyric; (iii) that anything vaguely blasphemous is automatically morally complex and sophisticated.

Of these, the first is far and away the show's biggest problem. The music is uniformly dreadful, and the cast sing it badly.

As to the others: you should fucking know by fucking now that I have no fucking problem with fucking swearing. Swearing is big and it is clever. It can be hilarious when done well -- the South Park movie (to which Jerry Springer the Opera bears some superficial resemblances) springs to mind. And there's no denying it sells. If the success of this show (and the rather better Mother Clap's Molly House) proves anything, it's that NT audiences have an almost limitless appetite for the word cunt.

As far as blasphemy goes, I say: bring it on. My opinions on religion are well-documented, and anything that exposes its raging stupidity is fine by me.


It's not as easy as that. For swearing and blasphemy to work well onstage -- at least, for more than a couple of minutes of tittering -- they have to have some direction, some underlying intelligence to give them satirical power. Jerry Springer the Opera has none. The whole thing feels like it was concocted one night in the pub after a few too many drinks. It's a senseless mish-mash. It is, as I said back at the start, cack.

And it's boring cack. It's mind-numbingly tiresome. For a show full of transsexuals, fat crack whores, murderers, hillbillies and -- for fuck's sake! -- Satan, this is unforgivable. It drags on and on and fucking on. And even when it's all over, there's more: a finale reprises every single pathetic excuse for a song in the show. Which isn't actually very many -- the material is unbelievably thin -- but still too fucking many.

According to the programme notes, one of the rules of Kombat Opera is:

Never write anything longer than three minutes. If you do write something longer than three minutes, make sure it is shorter than three minutes.

(words to that effect, anyway, I don't have the programme to hand). I guess the NT weren't willing to stage a three minute show, which is a shame: at that length Jerry Springer the Opera would probably have been great fun. At two hours it is a total fucking waste of time.
Posted by matt at January 15, 2004 10:52 PM


For those of us on the other side of the pond, is that good or bad?

Posted by: Faustus, M.D. at January 15, 2004 11:11 PM

It's bad. It took me 4 episodes of Futurama to recover. Ech.

Posted by: matt at January 16, 2004 12:42 AM

Is that cack as in "cackhanded"? Adding a bit more to the load on us left-handed types? Now we're responsible for Jerry Springer too? Sigh. "Sucks" would have done.

Did you pay money to see that?

Posted by: zeeGayCA at January 16, 2004 01:14 AM

I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

Wait, that's not what I meant. Seeing that my opinions don't often stray far off your own, I guess that's at least twenty-five quid that I'll be saving. Dinner is on me - and before you resist, I don't give a damn what day it is ;)

Posted by: Stairs at January 16, 2004 07:13 AM

P.S. I'm quite taken with the entry descriptor in your RSS feed.

Posted by: Stairs at January 16, 2004 07:15 AM

[zee] Etymologically-related. Cack means shit and isn't in itself an insult to lefties. Cackhanded is insulting (one derivation goes like this: people were supposed to eat with their right hand and wipe their arses with the left; thus the left is the cack hand) but that's hardly my fault. And no, Jerry Springer was not your fault, although it's statistically likely that at least some of the large number of people responsible are southpaws.

[Stairs] We'll see about that. And happy 24th.

The entry descriptor is one of the lyrics from the show.

Posted by: matt at January 16, 2004 09:51 AM


And thank you :)

Posted by: Stairs at January 16, 2004 10:10 AM

No it isn't.

Posted by: Max at January 16, 2004 11:16 AM

Isn't apt? Or isn't cack? If the latter I demand that you justify this outrageous statement!

Posted by: matt at January 16, 2004 11:31 AM

It isn't cack. Or wasn't when I saw it at the National. See no reason to justify it when you didn't even bother to support your own claim. Besides, your occasional lapses in taste are well documented :P

Posted by: Max at January 16, 2004 12:56 PM

I can only assume you mean fraternizing with people like you :P

As predicted, I've expanded on my initial summary, and there the prosecution rests. If you think you can find anything to say in Jerry's defence, be my guest.

Posted by: matt at January 16, 2004 04:22 PM

And I'm distressed to see that nearly the whole front page of WalkyTalky is now made up of bloody reviews. This must stop!

Next post should hopefully be IQ3, which is at about the halfway point so far. I won't be around much this weekend, so it'll probably be a while yet. Please bear with me.

Posted by: matt at January 16, 2004 04:33 PM

Comments for this post are now closed, but feel free to email me if you have something interesting to say.