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Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation

Methuen, London, 1993
(price: 7.99; 118 pages)

The blurb on the back:

Jeremy Hardy is without doubt. The transcripts of these six lectures, delivered on his many speaking tours of Great Britain, offer an inspiring guide to the pitfalls and reqrds of modern living for the contemporary person. How we live our lives as citizens of the world is the greatest challenge - if not one of the greatest - in the closing years of the century.
The question facing us all is 'Why?' Jeremy Hardy tells us how.
Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation is based on the radio series made by Pozzitive Television for the BBC. The producer is David Tyler.

Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation was a Radio Four series that ran for three seasons of six programmes apiece in the mid-1990s, starring former Week Ending writer and future News Quiz star, Jeremy Hardy. Taking each week a subject such as 'How to know your place' or 'How to be a leader of men', Hardy would deliver a stream of hostile observations on British culture and society from a left-wing perspective, with the occasional interruption by sketches. The latter element was not entirely successful, but Hardy's humour was always worth hearing:

Indian cooking has excellent vegetarian recipes. Unfortunately, many white English people were put off Indian food at an early age by their mothers' attempts to make curry. When I go to my favourite Indian restaurant in South London, I have a delicious savoury meal full of wonderful herbs and spices. But when my mum makes curry, a great amount of fruit seems to creep into the scenario: apples, sultanas and bananas; hundreds and thousands on the top; sponge fingers on the bottom. (p.23)

Similarly, you can't help but love Hardy's style of diatribe, which doesn't always bother with jokes and just stays on the level of pure abuse:

Some celebrities have reputations built almost entirely upon their tireless efforts in support of charities, but as long as they're doing it, does it matter what their motives are? If they raise millions of pounds, is it right to judge them for being self-publicising egomaniacs who would rather see human beings reduced to the status of abject beggars than given their full rights in a decent society where their needs are met by the public purse and charity is consigned to the history books? (pp.52-53)

Of course - as you'll know if you've heard Hardy - much of this is particularly funny because of the disjunction between his Thought For The Day delivery and the sheer class-hatred that makes up half his material. On the page, and in the absence of his voice, I think it probably loses something, but it's still damn lovely. This book compiles the scripts from the first series of the programme, and it's well worth finding. It even has some totally pointless - but nice - pictures, like this:

another fine mess

PS I've just updated the indices and in the Index of Books, this nestles between Jacqueline, Daughter of the Marquis de Sade and Jesus Christ Superstar: The Authorised Version; I think that's about right.