Chris Morris (satirist) : biography
In July 1987, he moved on to BBC Radio Bristol to present his own show "No Known Cure", broadcast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The show was surreal and satirical, with odd interviews conducting with unsuspecting members of the public. He was fired from Bristol in 1990 after "talking over the news bulletins and making silly noises", and filling the news room with helium during a live news broadcast. In 1988 he also joined, from its launch, Greater London Radio (GLR). He presented The Chris Morris Show on GLR until 1993, when he was fired after a sketch was broadcast involving a child "outing" celebrities.
In 1991, Morris joined Armando Iannucci’s spoof news project On the Hour. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, it saw him work alongside Iannucci, Steve Coogan, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring and Rebecca Front. In 1994, Morris began a weekly evening show, the Chris Morris Music Show, on BBC Radio 1 alongside Peter Baynham and ‘man with a mobile phone’ Paul Garner. In the shows, Morris perfected the spoof interview style that would become a central component of his Brass Eye programme. In the same year, Morris teamed up with Peter Cook, as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, in a series of improvised conversations for BBC Radio 3, entitled Why Bother?.
Move into television and film
In 1994, a BBC 2 television series based on On the Hour was broadcast under the name The Day Today. The Day Today made a star of Morris, and marked the television debut of Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character. The programme ended on a high after just one series, with Morris winning the 1994 British Comedy Award for Best Newcomer for his lead role as the Paxmanesque news anchor.
In 1996 he infiltrated the audience of daytime television show The Time, The Place, posing as an academic called Thurston Lowe. He was rumbled when a producer notified the show’s host, John Stapleton.
In 1997, the black humour which had featured in On the Hour and The Day Today became more prominent in Brass Eye, another spoof current affairs television documentary, shown on Channel 4. Brass Eye became known for tricking celebrities and politicians into throwing support behind public awareness campaigns for made-up issues that were often absurd or surreal (such as a drug called cake and an elephant with its trunk stuck up its anus).
From 1997 to 1999 Morris created Blue Jam for BBC Radio 1, a surreal taboo-breaking radio show set to an ambient soundtrack. In 2000 this was followed by Jam, a television reworking. Morris released a ‘remix’ version of this, entitled Jaaaaam.
In 2001, a reprise of Brass Eye on the moral panic that surrounds paedophilia led to a record-breaking number of complaints – it still remains the third highest on UK television after Celebrity Big Brother 2007 and Jerry Springer: The Opera – as well as heated discussion in the press. Many complainants, some of whom later admitted to not having seen the programme (notably Beverley Hughes, a government minister), felt the satire was directed at the victims of paedophilia, which Morris denies. Channel 4 defended the show, insisting the target was the media and its hysterical treatment of paedophilia, and not victims of crime.
In 2002, Morris ventured into film, directing the short My Wrongs #8245–8249 & 117, adapted from a Blue Jam monologue about a man led astray by a sinister talking dog. It was the first film project of Warp Films, a branch of Warp Records. In 2002 this won the BAFTA for best short film. In 2005 Morris worked on a sitcom entitled Nathan Barley, based on the character created by Charlie Brooker for his website TVGoHome. Co-written by Brooker and Morris, the series was broadcast on Channel 4 in early 2005.
Morris was a cast member in The IT Crowd, a Channel 4 sitcom which focused on the information technology department of the fictional company Reynholm Industries. The series was written and directed by Graham Linehan (writer of Father Ted and Black Books, with whom Morris collaborated on The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam) and produced by Ash Atalla (The Office). Morris played Denholm Reynholm, the eccentric managing director of the company. This marked the first time Morris has acted in a substantial role in a project which he has not developed himself. Morris’s character appeared to leave the series during episode two of the second series. His character made a brief return in the first episode of the third series.