There is a rather sweet moment in the middle of each Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown show where, after some magnificently obscene one-liner, he addresses the howling audience. ‘I love you people,’ he says. ‘Just like me, you’re rough.’ The audience laughs and applauds at this observation of itself. The wall is broken and the performer and audience are as one. This is ‘rough’ used primarily in its north-east of England context, meaning not so much violent or abrasive (although both are also possible), but cheap and low-down and a little bit ugly.
Roy’s now 76 and has been knocking them dead for 40 years, packed houses wherever he goes. But you won’t see him on television. Nor is he about to be presenting The News Quiz on Radio 4, not least because they’d have to rename it ‘The Fucking News Quiz’ and it would be a lot funnier than it is now. He is shunned by the comedy commissioners because, like Bernard Manning before him, he transgresses. He does not share their values nor their multitude of aching sensibilities. They do not find him funny — they find him a disgusting throwback to a time before political correctness.
So no TV for Roy. But increasingly he is also persecuted by the Labour-run councils which still — for a while at least — run the large concert venues in the north of England. The latest to recoil in horror from him is Sheffield City Council, spurred on by the local Labour MP Gill Furniss. The council has supported Sheffield City Hall’s decision to ban Brown from appearing, and Furniss said: ‘There is no place for any hate-filled performance in our diverse and welcoming city.’ Furniss is as thick as mince, sententious, totalitarian: there is no ‘hate’ in any of Roy’s performances for a start.