Before Sacha Baron Cohen and Marc Wootton created their various satirical characters, and way before Vitalii Sediuk accosted celebrities and famously received a restraining order, there was a much wittier and sharper celeb-harasser named Dennis Pennis. Pennis was a character created by Paul Kaye and Anthony Hines; he was a nerdy, red-haired, badge-wearing, post-punk, Woody Allen-esque interviewer, and Kaye who played the role of Dennis would ask various Actors, Sports personalities, Models, and even Porn Stars some very hilarious and relevant questions.
In 1995, Dennis Pennis featured in BBC Two’s “The Sunday Show” and as he visited movie premieres, hung around at red carpets and press functions, he would entice celebrities to talk to him. His “BBC” microphone flag was like bait to an attention-seeking Hollywood type, and as they looked both perplexed by his look but intrigued by his association with the “respectable” BBC, they were hooked in by Pennis who then made some great comments and asked some hilarious questions including…
To Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red): “How do you describe your voice, is it Rock, is it Pop? I think it’s Soul… you are-soul.”
To Demi Moore: “Have you thought of injecting silicone into your movies? To stop them flopping!”
To Kenneth Branagh: “I imagine you’re not that popular at picnics, you always take the biggest roles for yourself”
To Michael Jackson: “Is your favourite group 3T? Or do you prefer boys to men?”
To Woody Allen: “Do you have to change your work schedule these days? Sort of, err, working around the school holidays?”
To Kim Basinger: “You look like a blonde bombsite”
To Dudley Moore: “If you got an offer in Snow White, would you be happy… or grumpy?”
To Andrew Lloyd Webber: “I heard you were writing sheets and sheets of music and then erasing them, rubbing them out… I heard you were decomposing”
To Cher: “Has anybody told you you’re beautiful… and meant it?” (to her credit, she actually laughed!)
To Steve Martin: “How come you’re not funny any more?”
His segments within the show didn’t last long, and neither did the character. Apparently it became too expensive to go to far-flung destinations like Cannes and Hollywood without knowing for certain that they’d get access, the right reaction, or any footage at all. Because of this, Pennis was killed off in 1997.
Paul Kaye’s next great character was Mike Strutter, a perpetually-angry, drug-addicted, 70s Lawyer who riffed over video clips and music videos for his MTV show “Strutter”. Seen snorting masses of coke, wearing a tourniquet around his leg, a tousled afro, and voice which resembled Sean Penn in “Carlito’s Way”, he was a strange choice to speak over contemporary video clips. Regardless of appearance however, “Strutter” was a much needed addition to MTV once “Beavis And Butt-Head” left in the late 90s, and similar to Mike Judge’s creation, Mike Strutter mocked music videos – he was basically an aged Beavis with added swear words. The mock-adverts which featured on Strutter’s show were also brilliant, some were works of genius especially the “Smoketank” and the “Reliefcase” and with Mike shouting “cocksucker!” at any and everything with his Brooklyn-ish accent, the show broke the record for “Most swear words on a TV Show”. “Strutter” was without a doubt one of the best things on television during the godforsaken 00s.
If you watch Dennis Pennis today it might seem tame in comparison to Mike Strutter, but for me it’s more clever and subtle. And with a complete lack of mockery on TV today, both these classic characters and both these shows are worth seeking out, especially since the BBC and MTV have become lame, middle-of-the-road pussies who air almost constant garbage.
A DVD of Pennis’ interviews are available on Amazon.co.uk for an astonishingly low price of £2.52 (the last time I checked) so it’s well worth buying. “Strutter” on the other hand has never been released on DVD or made available on any streaming services, despite this being one of MTV’s best shows since the aforementioned Beavis And Butt-Head. It’s strange how the best stuff is either not available to purchase or is so cheap that it won’t make the people involved any money.
Incidentally, Paul Garner who co-wrote “Strutter” also worked on the racist-as-fuck “Bo’ Selecta!” with Lee Francis and he’s also written for the lame-as-fuck Jimmy Carr. Anthony Hines who co-wrote “Pennis” also co-wrote “Borat” with Sacha Baron Cohen (but he also wrote the crappy “Bruno” too). Paul Kaye has recently acted in the overrated “Game Of Thrones” and the dire “Dracula Untold” (I guess you have to keep up with your mortgage payments somehow). All three have since made more bad than good, so depressingly, it looks like “Dennis Pennis” and “Strutter” were the pinnacle of their collective careers.
Dennis Pennis, Mike Strutter, and other similar comic creations are part of a great tradition of mocking those in power (as well as those who are generally annoying or talentless). From newspaper caricatures to celebrity pranksters, this type of comedy is greatly missing today. But, with cunts and cocksuckers on the rise in the entertainment business, surely it’s exactly this type of mockery that’s needed in contemporary society? There may be a few fake “Roasts” here and there but nobody gets down and dirty without the celebrity’s approval these days.
Ever since the dawn of the millennium, we’ve been living in a culture that consumes celebrity without being discerning. As a society we seem to adore the very concept of celebrity without separating those who are worthy and those who are undeserving of our adoration. Celebrities themselves have become complacent; they now assume that by getting some media attention, getting shot by the paparazzi, and selling us a shite product they’ll automatically be loved and fawned over. This should never be the case, because the only thing that results from all this obsequiousness is a culture that produces fame-whores. These fuckwits then attract doormats and boot-lickers and the whole ecosystem thrives off whoring and arse-kissing without even a shred of artistic accomplishment.
When a particular set of people become guilty of exceptionalism, it becomes necessary to bring them down a peg or two. Since they’re all financially compensated for any criticism they receive, why not dish some of it out? Only through satire, parody, and mockery, is the entertainment industry forced to cull their weaker stock. If you’re going to earn millions and even billions, you better have some fucking talent worth buying into. If you’re not worthy of your position, then surely a little comedy at your expense is a small price to pay for all the undeserved money and fame you’ve attained?
So instead of bending to pressure to conform and consume, instead of being scared of being called a “hater” or “troll”, if there’s some famous cocksucker out there who is mediocre, a hack, or generally talentless, do what Dennis Pennis or Mike Strutter would do – let them know by way of comedy. That’s the least they fucking deserve!
Strutting With Your Pennis Out.