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McSavage is on the money

WHY do so many people love to savage David McSavage? I've known perfectly reasonable individuals whose faces darken over if you mention his name.

He's a regular target of abuse on message boards -- but then who or what isn't these days? -- and he's always had something of a fraught relationship with certain Irish journalists.

He's never been part of the cosy Irish stand-up fraternity typified by witless love-ins like The Panel, where his wildly unpredictable brand of humour doesn't sit easily on the anodyne bill.

Meanwhile, his every appearance on an Irish chat show (he was on The Saturday Night Show at the weekend) is akin to watching a bottle of nitro-glycerine rolling around the floor of a speeding bus.

Some of the more virulent responses to McSavage -- many of which feel like a latent knee-jerk reaction rather than an honest critical appraisal of the man's comedic abilities -- mean that praise for The Savage Eye, when it's forthcoming, seems to be conceded almost grudgingly.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with McSavage's uncompromising personality. There's nothing artificially warm, huggy or touchy-feely about him. He doesn't give the impression of yearning to be loved, like so many comedians. He isn't desperate to be popular for popularity's sake.

And that's precisely what makes The Savage Eye so good -- and if the ratings are anything to go by, so popular. Whether you like the show or not is a matter of personal taste. But you can't deny the energy, commitment, care or comic inventiveness that goes into it.

Oh, and the talent, of course. One thing that tends to get overlooked with The Savage Eye, now into its third series, is that McSavage is an extremely versatile performer and a gifted mimic (his Pat Kenny is priceless).

Last night's show dealt with the subject of Irish TV and, with supreme irony, was scheduled directly after RTE's 'official' satirical TV critique, the self-indulgent Republic of Telly.

McSavage and his talented back-up cast took the skewers to The Rose of Tralee, The Late Late Show ("where poor Irish people go to get stuff for free" -- which may be truer than it sounds), dead-brained daytime shows, vapid cookery shows ("The Boiling Water Show", with a spot-on Hector Ó hEochagáin) and a hilariously accurate parody called The Emerald Isle Talent Show, hosted by a hair-flicking Grainne Seoige-alike.

Saying it was hit and miss is redundant -- Monty Python wasn't funny all the time and Spike Milligan had as many off-days -- and claims that some of McSavage's creations, such as Ireland's President for Life (pictured), are outdated misses the point, I think.

The Savage Eye is less about satire and more about unfettered surrealism. It's the closest thing we have to The Mighty Boosh.

Billy Wilder's classic Sunset Boulevard employed the gimmick of having a dead man narrate the events that led to his murder, and did it brilliantly. That, however, was a black comedy about Hollywood. Using the same device to recount the real-life murder of a 16-year-old boy in a London council estate is a trickier proposition.

But My Murder, about the killing of Shakilus Townsend (charmingly played by John Boyega) in 2008, was a touching and powerful drama. Shaki, as his friends called him, fell for 15-year-old Samantha (Simona Zivkovska), unaware she was the girlfriend of a local teenage gang leader.

She cruelly led him on and, when the non-existent affair was discovered, even more cruelly led him into what investigating police called "a honey trap".

She then looked impassively on while her boyfriend and his mates attacked Shaki with a knife and baseball bats.

He was stabbed in the leg, shoulder, armpit, chest and stomach, puncturing his liver. It took him 10 hours to die.

A sad, despairing picture of cheap life and brutal, pointless death in Britain's high-rise ghettoes, excellently performed by a vibrant young cast.

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