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Monkey Dust

Monkey Dust is a British animated TV series that satirises the darker side of life in the United Kingdom. It deals with taboo subjects and has drawn controversy for its portrayal of murderers and paedophiles. The first episode was aired on BBC Three on February 9, 2003 and there have been three series to date – the third began airing on January 4, 2005.

Each episode features animation by several different companies including Slinky Pictures, Nexus Productions, Sherbet (of which Mr Bingo was a part) and Picasso Pictures, but is linked by recurring themes and jokes, and by seamless transitions between sketches. The episodes are untitled but instead are known by the characters introduced or the one-off sketches included. The principal writers and creators of the series were Harry Thompson and Shaun Pye, although other contributors are responsible for a significant proportion of the work; sometimes collaborating with Thompson and/or Pye; sometimes contributing fully-formed sketches to the show. A short overview of the main characters, called a nocturne, set in the various characters' bedrooms with no dialogue and a depressing accompanying song, usually precedes the final section.

The animation goes alongside contemporary music which helps the scenes to flow, with numerous songs by Goldfrapp, Boards of Canada, and introduction music by Eels ("That's Not Really Funny" from Souljacker). The inclusion of music from Goldfrapp during the first series would have pre-dated the commercial release of their debut album, but production on the series took so long that by the time of airing, Goldfrapp were about to release their second album and the songs included in Monkey Dust were fairly well-known. Thompson and Pye comment on this in the Series 1 DVD commentary.

On 8 November 2004, the first series of Monkey Dust was released in the UK on DVD. Several musical substitutions had to be made from the television airing (where the BBC is allowed to play any commercial release without permission), as artists such as Cliff Richard and David Gray would not allow their work to be used on the DVD. Cover versions of the original songs were used instead.

The second and third series were broadcast on BBC Two and BBC Three respectively. Only the first series of Monkey Dust was commercially released on DVD.

Characters

The show is based on regular returning characters, along with one-time sketches.

Series one

Labia

A series of sketches featuring a morally dubious consultancy company begin several episodes. Initially a satire on the Royal Mail renaming itself Consignia, the company charges large amounts of money on ridiculous rebranding exercises, e. g. renaming cancer as "Closure" and advertising it as an attractive end-of-life option or rebranding the Fire Service as 'Icarus' to combat their reputation as an "essentially reactive organization" by going into the frothy coffee business.

The man who invents their new brand names is an international adventurer who looks like Lord Byron. The company's offices are in the shape of their logo, just like the former NatWest Tower (Tower 42).

Liar Clive

In each episode, Clive walks slowly through the city back home, which is located in a tower block of high-rise flats. He arrives home (sometimes months or even years) late and when questioned by his wife as to his whereabouts, his excuses swiftly collapse into the plots of well-known fiction. Examples include The Lord of the Rings, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dune, 24, a specified episode of The A-Team, the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and the song "Hotel California" by the Eagles. When his long-suffering wife coolly points out his obvious plagiarism, Clive is forced to reveal his actual whereabouts. This usually involves something sexually degrading, such as bestiality or S&M, and, on one memorable occasion, "trying to fill a bath with my own cum".

Prior to being humiliated, his desperate catch-phrase is: "... and that, darling, is what really happened!" As the series progresses, his wife eventually reaches the point where she cuts him short in one episode (she is due to meet her friend Janice in five minutes), and in another she cuts him off as he is about to reveal a spoiler for the next episode of 24, which she hasn't seen yet. As soon as Clive arrives, she barks out: "Excuse?" Clive: "I got lost on the common!" "Theme?" "Scott's Polar Expedition 1910-1912!" "Reality?" "I was getting tag-fucked in a pub toilet." In the final Liar Clive skit, she has actually left him at last, and it is revealed that he is delivering his pathetic excuses to only himself in a mirror, meaning he can finally smile ironically and conclude; "I knew you would believe me!"

Liar Clive's skits are always prefaced by him walking home at night to the sound of "Lovely Head" by Goldfrapp.

Ivan Dobsky

Ivan Dobsky is a supposed notorious criminal, known as "the Meat-Safe Murderer", held in custody in the high-security H.M. Prison Crowmarsh. Despite his repeated protests that he "never done it" and that his confession had been coerced by various methods of police torture and brutality, he was convicted for killing a typist at a meat-safe in 1974 by strangling her with a pair of ladies' pants. Dobsky bears more than a passing resemblance to the true case of wrongly-convicted Stefan Kiszko.

Dobsky has the mental age of a four year old child, speaks in a soft, flowing North East English accent, and generally gives the impression of being a completely harmless simpleton. However, the prison warders describe him as the most dangerous man in Western Europe, and keep him in strict confinement, restrained by methods very similar to those used for Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme's film version of The Silence of the Lambs.

Early episodes depict him being pardoned and released when DNA evidence exonerating him comes to light. During his time in custody he has been oblivious to changes taking place in the world outside the prison walls, and thus when he attempts to rejoin society he appears as a throw-back to the 1970s. He joyfully rides out of jail on his space hopper (called "Mr Hoppy") only to find things have changed too much for him to understand. After deciding he'd rather remain in prison than to face the modern world, he ends up actually committing a murder in order to be reincarcerated.

Mr. Hoppy seems to have a mind and will of his own, carries on conversations with Dobsky, and often encourages him into violent action. The two characters are implied to represent different manifestations of a multiple personality disorder, in which Dobsky is an unwitting innocent and Mr. Hoppy a sociopathic monster. For the most part Dobsky is able successfully to remain in control, until the conclusion of the first series ends with his mind snapping and him dismembering the prison staff to construct a horrific space hopper made from bits of their bodies (on which he rides to freedom to the music of "Sunrise" by Pulp).

In the second series Ivan marries a prison visitor who then becomes the object of Mr. Hoppy's jealousy and is brutally murdered by him.

Many celebrities campaign to free Ivan from prison, including Brad Pitt (hired to play Ivan in a Hollywood movie), Billy Bragg, Manic Street Preachers, Bono and Nelson Mandela.

In the first episode of series three, Mr Drummond, the prison superintendent and Dobsky's chief caretaker, becomes enraged at factual inaccuracies pertaining to himself in the film version of Dobsky's life and joins Ivan and Mr Hoppy in a murderous rampage.

David Baddiel

The famous comedian put upon to perform numerous tasks because, as a famous comedian he is just as qualified as a trained professional. Such tasks include rescuing a child trapped underneath the wheels of a car or piloting a space shuttle.

He is played by himself, and in real life is partner to Morwenna Banks who provides voices for several of the characters in the show.

Daisy Harris press conference

A bumbling police force investigating a young girl's murder appear alongside her foster family in a seemingly endless series of televised press conferences, but are unable to spot her foster father's obvious guilt despite the foster mother's accusing glare and stern expression. The foster father bears a marked resemblance to serial killer Harold Shipman, who went undetected for years before being identified and convicted. The inept police officer in charge constantly stresses that they are looking for somebody with "evil staring eyes" and the word "chillingly" is overused when describing the murder. A young local man of simple intellect is eventually charged with the murder, despite possibly suspect evidence (a reference to the conviction of Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando - the fictional suspect uses the alias "Frank Sinatra", while George changed his name to Barry Bulsara and claimed to be related to Freddie Mercury).

Divorced dad (with Timmy)

Timmy usually lives with his mother and Roger, his mother's new boyfriend. Each week Timmy comes to visit his father but always just talks about what Roger has done for him. The dad doesn't feel that he can impress him and ends up committing suicide each episode, but as he goes off to kill himself, in truth Timmy is deeply fond of his Dad but this is revealed too late. Roger remains an unseen character until episode 4, when Timmy shows his father a photo of him - revealing that he looks like an older version of Timmy himself, complete with ginger hair. Realising the truth, Timmy's father decides not to kill himself but to be a good father to Timmy anyway. In the last episode featuring these characters (during series two), the divorced dad is enthusiastic about a forthcoming visit from Timmy because they have not seen each other since Timmy and his mother moved to a rough area several years previously, but on discovering that a now teenage Timmy has begun to dress, talk and act like a yob in order to fit in with the local kids, the father commits suicide for the final time out of sheer desperation. (This turns out to be Timmy just showing off, and in fact he longs to be how he used to be with his father -- alas, too late, as always.)

Chat room pervert

A paedophile attempts to lure children via a chat room, but fails each time, unable to successfully portray himself as a 12-year-old boy named "Benji". Failures include correcting a child's grammar, inadvertently mentioning that he was in London while it was being bombed in World War II, and trying to get a photo of the girl to whom he's been chatting, but only getting a photo of her friend "Lucy", a rabbit. When he eventually manages to arrange a meeting with one of his online friends known as "Charlotte", the "child" turns out to be another elderly chat room paedophile.

The pseudo-intellectuals

A group of pseudo-intellectuals make increasingly pretentious statements about art, culture and life in general while waving their arms around earnestly. Examples include: "The nineties were to the eighties what the seventies were to the sixties" and "Serial killers are just rock stars without guitars". They are shown queueing outside a club or restaurant, a church, and even one of their own mother's house. Each time, they are turned away when they get to the front of the line due to a "No Wankers" policy. Later sketches saw other people responding to them with extreme violence before they can even get to the front of the queue: "Excuse me, I'm sorry, but I couldn't help overhearing what you were saying and I'm going to have to arrange to have you crushed to death by a grand piano." One of characters is referred to in the script notes by the moniker 'Scotch twat'.

Geoff the first-time cottager

Geoff is a wimpy bespectacled office worker who constantly tries to pluck up the courage to fellate strange men in toilets or parks, but is always thwarted somehow, and when he finally succeeds, he finds that he doesn't really like it. In one scene, Geoff attends an evening class in cottaging for beginners at his local college, in which he enters the classroom proudly announcing to the class that he wants to be a cottager, only to be told that the class is for Bengali literature. When Geoff visits Rio de Janeiro for the Carnival, he attempts to perform fellatio on a man dressed as a traffic policeman. The man tells him in Portuguese that he really is a traffic cop (Geoff looks through his phrasebook) and beats him savagely. In another episode, he is prosecuted for false advertising under the Weights and Measures Act, for describing his penis as a 'Red Hot Quarter Pounder' on a toilet wall.

The yuppies

A group of middle class friends who are constantly holding very dull dinner parties, until a bizarre or out of the ordinary event happens to liven it up (eg. in one episode a guest suddenly suggests playing Russian roulette and in the next scene one of the guests has been shot in the head; in another a couple are talking about how they had children via IVF using eggs and sperm donated by athletes and geniuses, at which point the children come downstairs and cause their parents' heads to explode using the power of telekinesis, a homage to the films Village of the Damned and Scanners).

Sven-Göran Eriksson

A television shows a stock crowd scene from history or nature, for example, a herd of stampeding wildebeest or Indians bathing naked in the holy water of the Ganges, and a voice-over says 'And of course, no surprise to see (former manager of the English national football team) Sven-Göran Eriksson in the crowd'; a reference to his ubiquitous appearances at football matches throughout England at the time.

The classically-trained actor

A man named Guy who constantly speaks in the emotionless, non-committal style of a TV voice-over, including during sex, in the crowd at a football match, drunkenly admonishing other customers in a pub, when crying during a speech at a friend's funeral and other times when it is normal to talk in an emotional manner. His only friends are also voice over actors. One is a parody of the American gravelly voiced actor who voices over video trailers (Bill) whilst another speaks in the style of a 'consolidate your finances with one loan adverts' actor's voice. Everyone else who hears him, especially his wife, notice nothing wrong in his speech. Whenever slighted, he notes that he is a classically-trained actor but he can only ever get television voice-over work. The voice of the "classically-trained actor" is voiced by a real life voice-over artist, Peter Dickson whose voice has been used on such shows as "Today With Des and Mel", "The Price is Right", "The Paul O'Grady Show" and many others . The other voice-over actors are played by Enn Reitel (consolidation adverts man whose voice is used by Lombard Direct) and others

Theme pub

A cardigan-wearing man named Brian walks into his local which although he is the only patron has on each occasion been transformed by orders of "the brewery", seemingly as an attempt to deter his one and only customer. Themes include Crack House and S&M bar. On one occasion, he enters the pub to be told by a barman named Keith, in an absurd leprechaun outfit that it is now an "Oirish pub". When he asks what happened to the previous barman, who was Irish, he is told that he wasn't "Oirish" enough. Brian only ever drinks a pint of Best, with cheese and onion crisps.

Kelly, work experience girl

A very dim teenage girl with no understanding of office work, she says "I'm Kelly, I'm on work experience" whenever approached. She is totally inept: if you ask her to file some papers, she might photocopy a kettle or staple a mousemat to her foot.

Movie parodies

Several movie parodies are featured in the first and subsequent series. These typically satirise big-budget Hollywood tendencies, particularly:

  1. Wildly inaccurate "historical" films, such as U-571 or The Patriot.
  2. The "Americanisation" of British heroes or stories, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
  3. The casting of British actors (or use of the British accent) in the role of the antagonist – e.g. Alan Rickman in Die Hard, and Patrick Stewart in Conspiracy Theory.

Examples include:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank (series 1). Anne's merry band of Irish 'Jews' is brutally captured and terrified by the English-accented Nazi soldiers of the British Reich (pronounced 'reesh'), and are held in a large castle in Berlin, England. They are rescued by Anne's GI boyfriend, Johnny, who bursts in and skewers Hitler with a US flag, a "present from President Churchill".
  • The Crusades - a Jerry Brickhammer production (series 2). A bunch of American accented crusaders train to join the 42nd Horseborne. Sample line - "Say-laddin, you English bastard!". Ending line - "In honour of all the Americans who died in the early Middle Ages."
  • They All Come Home (series 3). An American Special Forces unit, "The Laser Rangers," save a pilot who has crashed behind "enemy" lines - in Freeville, the capital of Bongostan - in an overly aggressive manner. Despite the fact that the locals are clearly friendly, and even offer to repair the Rangers' broken helicopter, they torture a woman to make her tell them where the airport is, even though it is right behind them and she is freely offering the information already.

Series two

Jon Swoon

TV presenter/lawyer who tries to have Ivan Dobsky released from prison (while mentioning his own name at every possible opportunity). He ends up murdered by Dobsky's security robotic arm. Hosts a programme called Beyond Reasonable Doubt and sets about proving that Dobsky could not possibly have committed the Meatsafe murders because of the length of time it would have taken him to travel from where he was last seen to the crime scene by spacehopper. The character appears to be a satire of channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow.

Omar, Abdul and Shafiq, the incompetent terrorists

Omar, a former privileged public schoolboy is a fanatical Islamist and a member of a terrorist organization he calls 'The International Revolutionary Jihad for the Liberation of the Islamic Republic of Great Britain'. His cell is based in West Bromwich in the West Midlands in the UK and is bent on "unleashing a reign of terror the like of which the world has only dreamed about in its foulest nightmares." Omar has recruited two teenage boys, Abdul and Shafiq, to carry out suicide bombings in the name of Allah, but through various comical misadventures, their plans always fail.

The effectiveness of their terror campaign is somewhat undermined by the fact that they seem to take their jihad for granted and treat it with the same offhandedness as the mundane details of their daily lives such as sport (their beloved West Bromwich F.C.) and television (shows such as Room 101 and Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes). It's possible the inspiration for this depiction of radical Islamicist ideology in the midst of otherwise normal modern British life comes from the detention of the so-called Tipton Three at Camp X-Ray. In Monkey Dust's sketches, Omar the ringleader is said to come from Tipton, where the jihad is taken "dead serious".

Abu the illegal immigrant

An illegal immigrant who is never able to see the bad side of living in Britain, and remains eternally optimistic however dire his situation becomes. He often writes gushing letters to his family in India about how wonderful his new life in Britain is (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary), and even chooses a strip club as the ideal place to look for a girlfriend. He quickly gets promoted in his new job from doormat to curtain.

Essex man and London man

Two large, bald, essentially identical, men discuss the relative merits of Essex and London, usually on a topical theme (ie. where the next James Bond should come from, or where the best women can be found). This usually escalates to them yelling "ESSEX!" and "LONDON!" at each other. This references the way that, to the rest of the country, Essex and London are considered merely as contiguous parts of a whole. In one episode, a Madrid-Barcelona equivalent featured, wearing football shirts and Spanish moustaches.

"Your hair looks nice"

Girlfriend is having her hair done. Boyfriend tries to remember to compliment her on her new style, but is always distracted by some extraordinary event, such as an alien invasion, the arrival of James Bond or even the Second Coming of Jesus. By the time Girlfriend arrives, all evidence of the strange event has disappeared, and Girlfriend thinks the speechless Boyfriend just doesn't care.

The Paedofinder General

Inspired by the film Witchfinder General. An ominous, imposing character who executes alleged paedophiles on dubious evidence, parodying the hysterical waves of moral panic over the issue of paedophilia that swept Britain at the time (largely driven by the tabloid media), leading to certain individuals being demonized for little or no reason. Examples include a quiz show host seeking the correct answer of "P.D. James", a public swimming pool attendant whose Speedo trunks are mis-read as "Peedo", and the cast of a production of Fiddler On The Roof because he thinks it has something to do with kiddie fiddling. When executing suspected paedophiles, he will cite justification with the likes of, "By the power vested in me by a text vote on Sky News..." or "by News International...", or "By prurient wishful thinking... I proclaim you guilty of paedophilia!" He is seen looking at online child pornography himself, but claims that it's "for research" (possibly a reference to the reason used by Pete Townshend when he was caught entering a chargeable child porn website). The Paedofinder General appeared in a few skits in the first episode of series two and returned as a regular character in series three. In the third series, the Paedofinder General has a musical number, singing along with some of his cohorts. The song is "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (albeit with slightly changed lyrics)

Mail-order bride man

A grotesquely fat middle-aged man with a quiff, sideburns, poor personal hygiene and a penchant for Andy McNab books and REO Speedwagon, greets his Thai mail-order bride who turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, adoring of him and completely impervious to his disgusting lifestyle. Each episode, when he expects sex and she declines because she wants their love to grow stronger by waiting, he kicks her out.

Nazi grandfather

An apparently kindly and elderly man who is a former high ranking member of the Nazi party and was almost certainly active in their numerous war crimes. He has an unfortunate tendency to attend a formal occasion such as a wedding or court hearing, but finds he has nothing left to wear except his Nazi coat with a swastika armband, inevitably leading to trouble. On one occasion he is admitted into a nursing home, but has to leave when the other elderly people realise he is Der Weiße Engel - a reference to a scene in the movie Marathon Man.

Relationship-seeking girl

A girl looking for love walks over to a man in a nightclub and starts dreaming of the future. She imagines a number of bleak events (man cheating on her, man dressing up in her clothes, man flopping in bed) and storms off within seconds, usually after throwing a drink over him or slapping him in the face, before being comforted by her friends.

Series three

Fran Chappell

An ordinary mother who uses her daughter's disappearance and the ongoing police investigation as the springboard to launch a showbiz career. She appears on TV, releases a single and much more. The girl eventually comes back and Fran gives her £100 and tells her to go away. The daughter launches her own highly successful career, while her mother's fifteen minutes of fame are ending disastrously (resulting in a naked Fran begging outside the TV studios: "Gissa job! I'll do anything! Lezza stuff, barnyard sex, anal, Ready Steady Cook, anything!").

Noodles

Probably inspired by Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Noodles is a laboratory rabbit who can survive all manner of horrific medical experiments because he is only a toon. The sketch begins with Matt Harding's haunting "Our Conversation" playing in the background, as a doctor and another researcher discuss the problems the disease is causing the rest of their animal subjects apart from Noodles. In the final episode he turns the tables on the researchers by dropping an anvil on their heads in true cartoon fashion. Only of course for the human doctor, this is fatal.

Broody woman

A woman in denial that she wants a child despite evidence to the contrary, such as dressing kittens in baby clothes and pushing them around in a pram.

Prime Minister

A caricature of Tony Blair who makes a speech in front of the American flag, making ludicrous promises such as "Magic beans for every household," as well as more satirical ones like "Post to be delivered on time".

Saint Stephen's Hospital

A very badly run hospital highlighting all the main criticisms about the British National Health Service. Its many problems include a "superbug" that can be seen visibly travelling along the corridors, patients transported in a supermarket trolley, ants invading, organs stolen from recently deceased patients, a bereavement counsellor turning up before the patient has died, but promising to return in '15 minutes' and an ultrasound scan of a pregnant woman that reveals that her baby is spraying graffiti in the womb.

Middle-Aged Couple

A middle aged husband and wife are constantly interrupted by the noise outside their homely and comfortable flat. The wife wearily states "I bet it's those 'kids from the flats'". Her husband replies after peeking through the curtains, "yes... it's the kids from the flats again! ", who are performing such absurd acts as disproving the theory of gravity, coaxing Vin Diesel to fight a bear, performing handbrake turns on a giraffe and enlarging the EU.

Awards

  • 2003: International Student Jury Award (Banff Rockies Awards)
  • 2004: Best Multichannel Programme (Broadcast Awards)
  • 2004: Best Comedy (British Animation Awards)

Trivia

  • The font used for the Monkey Dust logo is Shatterboxx.

Further reading

  • Monk, Claire (2007). "London and Contemporary Britain in Monkey Dust". Journal of British Cinema and Television 4 (2): 337.

References

External links

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