“This man is not a cartoon character, he isn’t Del Boy or Arthur Daley, he’s a pound shop Enoch Powell and we’re watching him.”
So said Russell Brand of Nigel Farage on Question Time in 2014. But the former UKIP leader appears to have had the last laugh. We will soon be watching him again…
Yes, Farage is to be the subject of a BBC comedy, Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, in which actor Kevin Bishop imagines the life of the former scourge of Europhiles after his leadership resignation following the victorious referendum campaign.
Bishop played snooker promoter Barry Hearn in the brilliant 1980s snooker-com The Rack Pack (this new show is being made by the same team) and he seems a great choice.
So does Farage. Regardless of your political views, it’s not hard to understand why the BBC see comic potential in him.
“Nigel Farage is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Bishop. “There is the moustache and now the appearance at the Trump rally, it’s going to be fun…”
Of course it has not all been fun… For some, Farage’s politics are dangerous. The Leave vote in the Europe referendum is a major change for Britain, and Farage’s involvement had a lot to do with that decision happening. Some also believe that certain comments he has made – about immigrants clogging up NHS beds and causing a tailback on the M4 – only help to incite hatred and division.
Some people probably think there is nothing funny about him at all.
But let’s leave aside Farage the politician for a moment and think about Farage the personality. Farage the comedy character.
I gather that the opening scene of the show sees him resign and then pans to his German-born wife Kirsten Mehr and records her grimace when she realises that she is going to have to spend a lot more time with her spouse. Bishop will portray him in the comedy, I am assured, like a “cross between Basil Fawlty and Enoch Powell”.
A version of Farage is a character who you can imagine in a classic sitcom. As in life, viewers are almost certain to recognise him and to either love or hate him.
Rarely seen without a pint or a cigarette in his hand, he has cultivated the image of the anti-establishment everyman, even if he is a former city trader from the Home Counties.
But he has a certain cheeky charm too, and is capable of being funny in his own right. After Russell Brand’s “pound shop Enoch Powell” retort, Farage wasn’t having any of it, slyly alleging that Brand had had his chest hair combed in the make up chair before going on air.
However inappropriate it may have been, there was something undeniably funny about his 2010 take down of EU Council President Herman van Rompuy too, who Farage described to his face as having “all the he charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk”.
And things happen to him. It was no laughing matter when he nearly lost his leg after being run over in his 20s but when, in 2010, his campaign plane crashed– yet Farage emerged bloodied but unbowed from the wreckage to carry on – it only added to the mythology of the man. It’s moments like that the scriptwriters of the new show will be looking to exploit.
Let’s leave the last words to Joey Essex, though, who after meeting Farage described him as a “really, really reem guy”. A ringing endorsement from one real-life comedy character to another…