The nocturnal mammal house: Depression, Chris Morris and me.
“It was my mothers house. I’d gone back to stay there, I do that when I’m at the bottom of a low, but I shouldn’t. Particularly when the house is not actually my mothers, but just a derelict one that feels a bit like it. Towards the end she had no windows either.”
3am, many 3am’s ago, I was aimlessly watching random British comedy bits and listening to podcasts on YouTube. What should appear in my recommendations? Jam-episode 1. I watched it and fell asleep. I watched an episode every night for the rest of that week, I was hooked. I had no idea what was going on or why, but I loved it. It summed up everything I felt at the time. That life was ridiculous, that we were all ridiculous. Some parts were hilarious such as the Mr Ventham sketches and all the Dr jokes. Some parts were just plain left field in an amazing way, like the smart pipes and Martina sketch. Some parts were just downright painful and contemporary like the birthday party parent and the first floor fall. I cannot explain it but I fell head over heels with this bleak, strange and humorous show. You can imagine my delight when I found out it was based on a previous and much more highly regarded work, Blue Jam.
Blue Jam was me, at 4am, naked, staring out of my window watching the sunrise after a night out, still hazy whilst laughing and crying to the monologues and intros. I wish I could go back to a time before I listened to the Suicide Journalist or the London Dungeon, just to feel what it felt to listen to them for the first time again. Blue Jam was me in the sense that I was frustrated at University, no one would listen to me but would happily blame things on me. I never felt like I was being controversial for the sake of it. Neither did Morris.
“ How sometime during all of this, I’d flown off the thread and collapsed to far even to realize how far I had collapsed.” (Blue Jam, series 3 episode 5)
So that’s how it started. I was in a phase where I would go days without sleeping then sleep for a week. I’d eat nothing one day then everything the next. My migraines were out of control, like my life. Some how, at night, in the day, even at the library I’d end up listening or watching something by Morris. I wanted to do a dissertation on the media’s seizing and creation of neo-liberal Feminism. Instead I did moral panic and Brass Eye, which in fairness is kind of similar and how I ended up here in the first place. I felt like my conclusion could have worked for either.
But through all of this, I couldn’t help but feel I was looking at his work from the wrong angle. I don’t mean by being offended, I mean I was genuinely brought to tears by the Geefe columns. What is all that about? Am I that female that dark comedy just manifests itself as a heart to be fixed and something I should feel sorry for? Is that just another branch of offence? Was I the one not cultured enough all along? I honestly don’t know. If you spend enough time on the internet divulging in comedy circles, eventually you’ll end up at Cook’d & Bomb’d, which is based upon a large Morris fan forum. It’s full of men with big words and whatever. The more I read the more of an idiot I felt. Was it not normal to find some of his work as emotionally moving as it was funny?
“ You have made me too depressed to write. Unlike the great melancholics — Baudelaire, Beethoven — I have no genius from which to draw consolation. I am at best a Brian Wilson, but a Brian Wilson who went to bed before making Pet Sounds. Fuck you all.” (Time to Go, the final article)
Then, I stumbled upon a comment made about Blue Jam and it’s analogies of depression. Oh. Suddenly it started it make a lot of sense indeed. Blue Jam was made in the aftermath of the original Brass Eye series. As, in some ways, were the Geefe columns. They seemed so out of context given the rest of Morris’s oeuvre. However many stories and ideas used in both pieces are just references from things he’s used before. Even the final Geefe column which revolves around the dinner party of the ‘suicide journalist’, quite clearly aired 3 months earlier on Blue Jam as a sketch. All these character chastised out of their media circles, being tied up and called a Jesuit for entertainment, a complete narrative of hopelessness and doing the wrong things in the right places. After a little research into Morris, both these works can’t help to feel at least slightly inspired by real life events, though completely blown out of proportion of comic effect. It is at this point in writing where I’m realizing how narcissistic this is going to sound, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was ‘getting it’ on a different level. Not a better level, just a different one.
“When the winter comes, I spend a lot of time waiting in reception areas, its a good way to keep warm.”
I never talk about how I feel, not really. I tell myself that like many things, it just shouldn’t come up in conversation. I cry a lot when I’m drunk but won’t tell anyone why. The truth is, it’s the accumulation of every feeling let out at once in a way I can’t control. It feels so freeing, like it’s not me having to deal with it, but at the same time, kind of dealing with it. I like to listen to Blue Jam all the way through in mid November to early December. This is usually the hardest part of the year for me. It’s cold, something shit usually happens that sets me off and then I’m sent down a spiral of guilt and hate for every part of humanity. It normally coincides with the anniversary of my Uncles death. I was 15, already set to fail most of my GCSE’s, I dreaded school where I felt stupid and insecure of my stupidity. Like all teens, I hated everything about myself, I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t really any good at anything and I thought that was unfair. Until at 15 I was shown what unfair really was. Accidental death. Despite what this may read as, I am over it. I am always in grief, but I am over it. However it was the first link in the chain of realizing just how cruel and unloving the world could be.
“ God knows why I’m telling you when I haven’t told a single friend, let alone a doctor. And the truth is that the more I write, the more I feel like I did when I was telling a friend how I was bottling all my bodily produce and storing it in a freezer and I suddenly realised that I should stop.” (Second Class Male, the final article)
From then on, learning became even more frustrating as I attempted education post secondary school level. I had always lived in East Yorkshire near Hull, how dare anyone tell me that was worse than living in London, how dare they have more funding and THINGS. I had always been in state education, and it was, ironically, one night with the clarity of cold gin, that I realized just how far behind that had left me from anyone who had ever been anyone. I had no famous, royal or rich ancestors or fifth cousins. My idolized idea of having a perfect family disseminated as did members of the family I had grown up with. Suddenly the magical Narnia and Harry Potter infused world I had grown up in seemed a lot less cheery. I’m not going to go into my Feminist awakening or learning about capitalism and politics or I’d be here all day.
“ That’s what happens to anything that feels like a reason to live at the moment — it glimmers for an instant — easy to see because it is alone — and then vanishes like a mirage…” (Time to go, the first article)
People agree with bombing some people but not others, people agree with hating some people but not others. People believe some people should have money but not others. Somewhere between then and now, I went to uni, studied media and learnt all kinds of interesting things about corruption, I started to watch and read from independent sources (whatever that really means), hell, I even became a vegetarian and started listening to The Moody Blues again. And R.E.M. And the Beach Boys. And entire Spotify compilations of the songs from Blue Jam. Here I was, floating and drifting about like the edgy Von Trier watching, Morris loving, “my favourite book is Brave new world”, vintage jumper wearing, wavy haired arts student at an ex poly because I never got those GCSE’s that I was. I didn’t care. I felt like a cheap stereotype of something, some kind of pretentious art hoe. I remember lying in bed after finishing university, realizing I was a vegetarian feminist whose wardrobe mainly came from charity shops and had voted for the Greens (sorry) and spent her time watching European film. Of course I felt pretentious! I had no idea how I even got there, or why I’m telling you. Let me figure it out.
My reasons for loving Blue Jam felt pretentious also. Like something someone with the user name CinePhillip19 would write in the comments of a Woody Allen trailer from years ago, explaining why this film was without a doubt, the most important thing to him. It probably is.
“Susie, you’re a genius, this is what art should be like, moving in a relevant way” (Blue Jam, series 1 episode 2)
Did I love it for arts sake, rather than it’s comedic value? Of course I did. But that didn’t mean anything. It was different, avant garde if you want. I have no idea why I was so desperate to see it as purely comedy, as if anything that is good rests purely in a set of genre codes and nothing else.
“ I’ve contemplated taking my own life before but it wasn’t like this. I was 23, watching my girlfriend destroy herself with heroin and had just lost two friends in a road accident. Why did I stop myself then but not now? I had more reason to die then. But maybe grand reasons stop you because they excuse your mood. Reasons are not the reason. You decide to kill yourself at the point when the momentum of being born simply runs out. Spiritually we’re all born at different speeds. A few of us reach the end of the arc before we plough into the blades of car crashes and coronaries. And at that point, we decide to kill ourselves. I am probably not explaining this very well. Sorry.” (Time to go)
So I decided to keep Morris and his more depressing, dark pieces in my life. They’ll always remind me of certain things, and feelings, but I love that. My life is full of ups and downs. I sometimes think I’m okay. I’d done quite well this year, then I had a panic attack, the third one in my life, last week. I had walked into the dining room anxious as we had been told we couldn’t take food away to our rooms like we often do (I work with kids and lord sweet Jesus, after a whole day surrounded by them, sometimes you just want to eat away from them .. in the nicest way), that we had to be social and all eat together. Main problem then being, that the ‘meat dish’ was actual baby chickens, with legs and everything. It looked like dolls house food. But you would have to be blind to not look at it and think “that is an animal”. I have been veggie for over a year now and have never felt so passionate. Like a UKIP member standing up for the rights of women who wear burqas to be saved, I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I cried for hours after, like I had the last time. I only contemplated killing myself this time. Last time I made a pact with myself. In theory I was ready, but I’m not sure I was.
Sometimes I just sleep through everything. I did in December. When I woke up, Christmas lights had appeared. I wish I felt some kind of disappointment about it but I didn’t. Sometimes I just walk around aimlessly. Sometimes I just cry all the time. Sometimes I close myself in. Then, things clear up. I have a think, re-evaluate my life and try again. So far, I’ve ended up back to square one more times than I can count. For now, writing this has been enough. Possibly too much.
To clarify: I don’t listen, read or watch something by Morris to feel a certain way, but to understand how I feel. That’s why it appealed to me all along. That and that one Geefe column where he steals food from a child and calls him a cunt. LOL.
“ he said “I don’t want any trouble, where do you want to go?”. The nocturnal mammal house in the zoo was the only place I really wanted to go at that moment, I use it sometimes to collect my thoughts.” (Blue Jam, 1997, Episode 1.1)