British comedy would be a hell of a lot poorer without Chris Morris around. The Day Today, Brass Eye, Nathan Barley... when it comes to satire, Morris’ shows are comedy TV gold. The writer/director has also ventured successfully into movies with the classic Four Lions and his latest movie, in cinemas now, The Day Shall Come (co-written with Succession’s Jesse Armstrong) is a film that was shot in secret, then announced fully fledged just before its premiere at South by Southwest in March earlier this year.
Starring newcomer Marchánt Davis as Moses Al Shabazz, the head of a tiny religious group, the film is a sometimes hilarious, always incendiary take on the true tales of the FBI turning victims into terrorists to keep their ‘arrest’ numbers sweet.
We recently caught up with Davis, who revealed to us what it was like to work with Morris and just how he kept the filming a secret.
“He just doesn’t give you the information,” laughs Davis. “The best way to keep something secret is not to tell anybody, so that’s why I didn’t get the script until I got the job. The information was on a need-to-know basis, but there were definite moments in filming when I was banging on his door and saying: I need to know!”
As for how much he knew about Chris Morris before shooting the movie, it turns out that he was also in the dark there, too.
“I didn’t discover any of Chris’ UK-based TV stuff, like Brass Eye, until I got the job. When I saw that, it felt like I was watching something that I shouldn’t be watching. There is something mischievous about it. There’s something really bad about it, but great that he’s willing to provoke enough and have these conversations.
“He’s one of those people like Dave Chappelle right now who pokes and he doesn’t care who he is poking at.”
The Day Shall Come is in cinemas now - and to get you in the Morris’ mood, here are the 8 best moments from his shows and movies… don't forget to vote for your favourite.
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Best Chris Morris moments
1. Brass Eye’s Paedogeddon
One of the most controversial TV episodes ever aired, Paedogeddon garnered some 3000 complaints (to be fair, Ghostwatch got around 30,000 complaints) when it aired in 2001, making jokes about unintentionally sending real-life paedophile Sydney Cooke into space with an eight year old boy, and getting celebs to back its ‘Nonce Sense’ campaign. There are lots of laughs, but they all come with a huge slice of discomfort.
2. Brass Eye’s Shatner’s Bassoon
This episode of Brass Eye centres on a news report about a massive yellow drug the size of a birthday cake that’s doing the rounds which, if taken, affects the part of the brain called Shatner’s Bassoon. It’s absolute nonsense and a brilliant take on the media’s furore about ecstasy at the time. Despite how ludicrous the whole things is - Morris explicitly calls Cake a made-up drug - celebs and politicians alike still fall for it, so much that it was actually brought up in parliament.
3. Four Lions’ bleach scene
If anyone could find the comedy in UK’s domestic terrorism problem, it would be Chris Morris. Four Lions is a fantastic film that manages to make you both laugh and cry at wannabe suicide bombers bungling their way through a terrorist plot. Morris called it the ‘Dad’s Army side to terrorism’, which is a perfect description. One of the best scenes is when Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) tells the rest of the group how he procured 12 bottles of bleach from the same shop without raising suspicion - he put on a different voice with each purchase.
4. The Day Today’s Eat My Goal!
Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan’s greatest character, started off life on Chris Morris’ The Day Today, as a sports presenter. His one liners were some of the best things about the show. "Boof! Eat my goal!, "Twat! That was liquid football!" and “He must have a foot like a traction engine!" are just a few of the lines from Alan Partridge's Road To 94 goal montage that are still quoted in pubs up and down the country today.
5. Jam’s casual parents
If you thought BrassEye was dark, then take radio show Blue Jam, and the TV version Jam, for a spin. Each of the show’s skits are horrific and hypnotic - usually focusing on some sort of death or debauchery - and set to a fantastic ambient soundtrack. The result is what David Lynch would come up with, if he were ever to do a comedy show. One of the best clips from Jam is called Casual Parents - it focuses on two laidback parents who are slow to realise their child is missing and, well, don’t seem that bothered about it. This is comedy painted black and dipped in oil for good measure.
6. The Day Today’s Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan
"Peter, you've lost the news! What have you got to say?" Another character from The Day Today and another one inept at their job, O'Hanraha-hanrahan was the go-to economic correspondent for the show and was useless, even faking speaking German in one episode with the infamous line: “ich nichten lichten”.
7. Nathan Barley’s Geek Pie
If you work in the media then the spectre of Nathan Barley still looms large - and it’s largely due to how true the portrayal is, even more so now that the world is awash with influencers and hipsters. One of the best moments of the show was when Barley got a Geek Pie haircut, because his idol, journalist Dan Ashcroft, told him it was a new style of haircut. It wasn’t, it was an accident because Dan had accidentally killed his barber’s cat. Morris wrote Nathan Barley with future Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker and the result is another satirical masterpiece.
8. The Day Shall Come's dinosaurs
“Pitch me the next 9/11” says an FBI agent in The Day Will Come, a movie about the US government’s plans to turn seemingly innocent people into terrorists so they can arrest them and make sure they are hitting their targets. Despite the plot (inspired by hundreds of true accounts), for the most part, the film is a lighthearted look at the FBI trying to coax newcomer Marchánt Davis’s impoverished prophet Moses Al Shabazr to the dark side. One particular standout scene is when Shabazr meets up with a fake sheikh and tells of his plan to take over the world, by calling on the dinosaurs.