Unless you were a commuter struggling to reach work last week in London, the antics of Extinction Rebellion were comedy gold. If the world really is in imminent danger, as the activists tell us, then at least we’ll go down laughing.
I’m not sure what gave me most entertainment. The giant yoga session, maybe, or the activists dancing across Waterloo bridge, although it looked less like dancing and more like a troupe of crusties trying to ward off a swarm of wasps. Then there was the side-splitting interview on Sky News with Robin Boardman-Pattison, the 21-year-old Extinction spokesman (and jet-setting skier), who threw a hissy fit when Adam Boulton suggested he and his pals were “incompetent, middle-class, self-indulgent people”.
But what tickled my ribs particularly was the quartet of impeccably polite protestors who glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s garden fence. They had with them some chocolates in a paper bag marked “Jeremy’s love hamper” but the leader of the opposition not only declined the gift he didn’t even deign to talk to the activists, a snub that apparently left them “tearful”.
This was no youthful protest staged by spotty students who’d skipped lectures for the day. The adhesive activists were 42, 55, 60 and 64. As I studied their photograph their faces looked vaguely familiar. Hang on, aren’t these the Modern Parents who first graced the pages of Viz 25 years ago?
Malcolm and Cressida Wright-Pratt were the New Age mother and father of Tarquin and Guinevere. The poor kids just wanted to have fun but playing football in the garden had been banned by the Wright-Pratt’s Household Forum on Ethical Play because it was a “symbolic enactment of male violence”. Similarly, Christmas trees were a no-no because they also “deserve human rights”.
The Modern Parents are today’s Modern Grandparents, and their children have succumbed to the brainwashing and now practise yoga on Waterloo bridge and push pink boats down Oxford Street.
But the laughter stops when one realises that the Modern Parents aren’t the only Viz characters that have jumped off the page and into real life.
Also grown-up is ‘Spoilt Bastard’, the bespectacled young boy who threw tantrums if he didn’t get his own way. Ring any bells, Mr Boardman-Pattison?
Then there was Millie Tant, the ferocious feminist who insisted her young niece addressed her as ‘Uncltie’ because Auntie is a patriarchal word that subjugates women.
And what about Student Grant, and his equally gormless and privileged university chum called Crispin? They didn’t support England in the World Cup because cheering for England was racist, and only a Nazi would wave the Cross of St George. What’s the difference between racism and jingosim, asked a confused Crispin at one moment. “Racism is discrimination on the grounds of race, jingoism is discrimination on the grounds of, er, jingo,” explained Student.
If you are wondering what became of Student, Crispin and Millie, you’ll find them working in broadcasting, rising through the ranks of the police, lecturing at universities and, most alarmingly, sitting in Parliament.
Why do you think Brexit has turned into such a fiasco? Because the Commons is crammed with grown-up Student Grants, who knew better than the rest of us 25 years ago and jolly well still do.
Self-absorbed and self-righteous, these humourless men and women behave in the House of Commons as they did in their Halls of Residence, deploying a strategy of ‘sneer and smear’ against those who dare hold different opinions.
I’m from the same generation as Student Grant and his middle-class chums. I saw them up close in lecture halls and in the student union bar, laughed at them when they labelled me and the rest of the rugby club imperialists.
Viz’s heyday was when Yvette Cooper, Tom Watson, Nick Boles, David Lammy, Brandon Lewis, Nicola Sturgeon and James Brokenshire were at university in the late 80s and early 90s. The comic sold more than a million copies each issue; sales are now at around 50,000, although they received a boost in 2016 when Facebook temporarily banned it for violating their “welcoming, respectful environment”.
The decline in sales is no surprise. Why spend your hard earned cash on a comic when you can switch on the news and watch the same characters for free?