Cast your mind back to the summer of 2020 and you might recall having a good laugh online at the antics of a rogue Downing Street adviser. He wore louchely unbuttoned Oxford shirts, deludedly felt he had the ear of the Prime Minister , clearly thought himself above regular people, coined mildly offensive nicknames for the residents of No 10 and adored the sound of his own voice.
Heady days – but Dominic Cummings wasn't the only one. At the same time, as the Government lurched from crisis to scandal to u-turn, there was another adviser – mercifully fictional but otherwise matching the same description – entertaining the locked-down masses on social media.
He was Rafe Hubris – or, to give him his proper title, Rafe Hubris, BA (Oxon) – and he was the creation of 25-year-old comedian Josh Berry. Every time a political gaffe occurred, up popped Berry as the insufferably entitled Hubris, pretending to advise the hapless minister in trouble that he could spin them out of it.
"Blojo!" he'd often intone in the videos, phone clamped to an ear, "how are we?" That's probably about all I can reproduce here, but suffice to say that each one served as a neat and perfectly observed skewering of not just the current administration, but the culture of over-familiar, self-important special advisers too.
"It all started when Michael Gove tweeted Stormzy's own lyrics at him, do you remember that?" Berry says. That happened during the general election in 2019 when, during an online row over the rapper's political views, Gove posted: "I set trends, dem man copy."
"I just remember thinking, God, that's so tone deaf. Who would advise him to do that? Because someone would have. And I've been around those people, they're exactly the sort of people I'd have seen in a club…"
As an Oxford graduate who did at least one of the Ps in PPE, Berry had to do little more than recall the boat-shod, gilet-wearing characters he met in smoking areas at university in order to research the part.
"Yes, it was just that. I've been researching it all my life, without realising it. The nasal voice was essential, but everyone has come across a Rafe at some point, haven't they?"
The pandemic provided fertile soil for satirical comics on social media. Not only were we stuck inside mindlessly scrolling in search of a distraction from all that was going on in the world, but the Government provided those comedians fodder on a daily basis. Matt Hancock certainly did.
(A recent rumour that the former health secretary is planning a book entitled "How I Won the Covid War" – given that Berry has published one as Hubris called Staggering Hubris: The Rona Years, Vol 1 – has caused him much enjoyment.)
"It was a gift for a comedian, this whole pandemic. Hancock is a walking caricature of a man, he just gets butchered. It's almost a pantomime cast, certainly when Cummings and Hancock were around. It doesn't take much work to repurpose that into comedy."
In a west London pub, near to where he rents a flat with some friends, Berry is engaging, slightly bashful company. He's also alarmingly tall, given most people have only seen the top half of him on Twitter. "Yes, a lot of people say that," he says, stooping to enter the room, "it's like meeting your Zoom colleagues for the first time."
Berry's videos as Hubris – including an all too easy ribbing of Peppa Pig-gate this week – would regularly receive more than 100,000 views and won him fans from all over the political spectrum. The pandemic, he says, was "very helpful, because there was less division of opinion, which made it easier to play off a set of jokes".
When everyone's in agreement on a topic, it's easy to mock it. It's partly why Berry was surprised when US comedian Dave Chapelle wrote and performed controversial material for a Netflix special about the trans debate. "There doesn't seem to be a unified truth on that. It's a murky discussion where people haven't worked out what they think and that makes it hard to do comedy, irrespective of what you think of his opinions," he says.
Berry already knows how it feels to have a Twitter mob rise up against him. In his armoury of characters, he also has a Bristol student, "Trustafarian" (a young person who presents as a paragon of counterculture despite being supported by their parents), who mocks drug culture and the hard Left. Earlier this year, one – admittedly not brilliantly executed – skit saw this character attend the "Kill the Bill" protests against the Government's police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. That one didn't go down very well.
"The critique was that it was 'punching down', which I thought was absurd. To use Marxist language, it was a parody of the bourgeoisie pretending to be the proletariat, which was lost, I think, on Twitter," Berry says. "It was all said from a Left-wing perspective – I agree with the right to protest, it was just a critique of middle-class privilege…" He looks a bit exasperated. "I was just trying to be funny, but with comedy, people get so cross."
At the time, Berry logged off for a while, as people attacked him from all angles and pointed out that he is himself privileged – a fact Berry is acutely aware of, to the extent that it makes up the backbone of his stand-up routines. Then he remembered that Twitter is not a real place, and came to the conclusion that with some people you just can't win.
"The hard Left don't like being mocked, they don't like laughing at themselves, in a way that the Right really do. I think the Right have much more of a sense of humour, and take criticism quite well. Boris Johnson goes on Have I Got News For You, Jacob Rees-Mogg does stuff like that… The Left doesn't seem to have that ability."
Incidentally, Berry is quite posh, or at least looks it – "I have a particularly posh face," he laments, accurately, to the photographer. The son of a teacher and accountant, he was born in Crewe but grew up in Reading, attending the same private school his mum taught at, before reading philosophy and theology at Oxford.
He broke into comedy by doing such spot-on impressions of tennis players that he caught the attention of Andy Murray, who tweeted a video of Berry's, launching him onto the radar of Dead Ringers at just 21. He's been doing impressions, stand-up and character work ever since.
— Josh Berry has a book out (@JoshBerryComedy) January 11, 2019
"If you look at the first bit of my life, it's quite different to how it looks now. My parents were divorced, I grew up in a semi-detached house with my mum, and then now it's like: 'Oxford graduate living in West Kensington'" he says, laughing.
Berry now has people shout catchphrases at him in the street – or one anyway, the nasal, "How are we?" – and doesn't find it annoying yet. But some do. "I've had people who went to Eton get quite upset that he's a parody of an Etonian, and I just think: 'Why?' I guess posh people are quite sensitive."
If anything, that's what he's trying to get across with Rafe: that maybe the country shouldn't always be run by people hired because of where they were educated and who they knew.
"Oxbridge deserves a lot of mockery, " Berry reckons, momentarily getting serious, and not least because "the sort of institution that can teach you to be confident without necessarily being that rigorous… isn't maybe the best thing in the world."
Still, he won't grumble too much. As long as the Eton and Oxbridge factory lines keep pumping, he'll never be short of material.
Staggering Hubris by Josh Berry (Lightning Books) is out now, and available to buy for £8.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514
- Trump Has Embraced the Far-Right Meme of the 'Alt-Left'
- Right to privacy verdict: What the judges said
- What’s So Hard to Understand About the Young Left?
- Warm air from Africa brings a sense of spring to the UK ahead of New Year's Eve as temperatures soar to 57F - but yet more rain leaves 55 flood alerts in place across the country
- The populist right fought a dirty culture war. Labour failed to fight back
- Tragedy as rising footy star is left to die on rural road after being struck by hit-and-run driver as he cycled home from a friend's house
- Having a baby wiped my memory: Camre Curto longed to be a mother, but a near-fatal pregnancy crisis left her unable to recognise her fiance... or even her newborn son
- Left-Winger Bette Midler Under Fire After ‘Transphobic’ Tweet
- The trip that hits all the right notes: Setting sail on a 'musical cruise' dedicated to the West End and Broadway, with performances from Alfie Boe and Sheridan Smith
- Leipzig Attack Shows ‘Inhuman Violence From Left-Wing Extremism', German Interior Minister Says
- Bushfires in East Gippsland and Victoria's north-east have left at least 17 people missing, Premier confirms
- The best movies on Netflix Australia: great films you can watch right now
- Best non-fiction of the decade: End of liberalism and growth of the right
- Far right, misogynist, humourless? Why Nietzsche is misunderstood
- Pelosi Has Lost Control of the Democratic Party to AOC and the 'Lunatic' Left, Scalise Says
- Making Sense of Kanye West’s Surreal
- Mother tells how she suffered a stroke on her BIRTHDAY in Lanzarote that left her paralysed on one side after thinking her persistent headache was caused by the Spanish heat
- Newt Gingrich: The Modern Left Is Repudiating Lincoln's Vision of America | Opinion
- The Scottsboro Boys review – a dazzling civil rights musical
- Season 7 Finale Recap: The Sense of an Ending
‘Right-wingers have much more of a sense of humour than the Left’ have 1784 words, post on www.telegraph.co.uk at November 25, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.