Thursday 15 November 2018

Review of Aprés Match Presents Election ’82: 'Surreal, daft, playful and childish'

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

This might be encroaching middle-age or something, but I’ve come to a rather shocking realisation: I don’t find slagging off the past as amusing as I once did.

Tonight’s Aprés Match Presents Election ’82 (RTE 1) was pretty good fare, with its Reeling in the Years-spoofing graphics, spot-on celeb impersonations, and funny juxtaposition of real footage with faked dialogue. A few years ago I’d probably have shouted the house down laughing – I used to love this stuff.

“Used to…” These days, I think I’ve become a bit…bored of it. A bit jaded. Whatever – I don’t seem to laugh at it as much.

Yes, people had funny-looking hairstyles in 1982. Yes, their clothes were cheap and crappy-looking, their cars were bockety old wrecks, all the houses looked drab and shabby. Computer graphics were laughably primitive. All the technology was laughably primitive. People seemed simpler, less sophisticated, than us suave hipsters of 2016.

And that’s kind of funny, on one level, sure. But on another level – much like those “oh my God these are the worst family photos EVER” – there can be an element of mean-spiritedness about some of this stuff.

Like, we’re basically pointing out something that we feel is somehow beneath us, from the modern-day standpoint, and going, “Ha ha ha, you look different and sort of stupid, let’s all laugh at the rubes back in 1982.” I’m not sure there’s even a joke in this type of joke, if you know what I mean – beyond stating the obvious and then chuckling, well, just because.

However – and this is an important “however” – Aprés Match Presents Election ’82 was saved from the worst of this by its sheer silliness. There was some “let’s have a good giggle at the plebs of the past”, alright. But mostly the comedy was surreal, daft, playful and childish (in a good way).

It could have been written about any topic, in any era, and remained as enjoyable. Gary Cooke, Barry Murphy and Risteard Cooper are top-class writers, even better actors/impressionists, who’ve been working together for so long that there’s an unforced ease and smoothness about the end result.

And they produced some superb gags in this show. The running joke about colour (how the country was relentlessly brown, “even the grey bits were tinged with brown”, and Church hitmen would shoot dead any woman caught wearing read. In the election, Labour promised “less brown and more blues and pinks”.

People growing beards at the weekend just for something to do. The pastiches of old adverts, especially Maurice Pratt and Darth Vader. “To be a politician, all you needed was to own a suit.” A youthful Dave O’Leary describing Dublin as a “voting town”. Technical problems in turning on RTE’s election count computer.

The young Pat Kenny is always good value too, and a bearded Fintan O’Toole, 1982 version, made me laugh out loud with his proclamation that he would “overthrow the whole system…by writing an article in Magill”.

So yeah, pretty good fare all round. But I do prefer when the Aprés Match tackle Ireland in the present day. The past may be another country, as someone once said, but it’s also a too-easy target.

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