David McSavage - The Savage Eye himself
by Ben Kritikos
David McSavage was known and feared on the streets of Dublin. When I used to busk for a living, I saw him in Temple Bar all the time, surrounded by a flock of masochistic onlookers. His fiery, insulting brand of humour proved appealing, almost addictive to the punters — until, of course, he turned his “savage eye” on them. Suddenly, you could see them bricking it.
McSavage’s talent to offend almost anybody didn’t really impress me at first. I guess when somebody is that good at something so negative, it seems more like a chip on the shoulder than genuine talent.
It wasn’t until I saw The Savage Eye, in one long sitting on YouTube, that I fully understood the extent of the man’s talent. Perhaps it needed that bit of physical distance from the material; or perhaps the constraints of time, budget and what RTÉ will put up with really forced him to get especially creative. At any rate, The Savage Eye is the best comedy to come from Ireland since Father Ted — it’s even got some of the same actors.
The series watches like an anthropological documentary about the Irish. It’s replete with exaggerated characters who you could totally believe exist, many of whom you may know personally. Some of my favourites are: the publican obsessed with sex, “quee-urs” and Louie Walsh; artists who think that drink will make them talented; two farmers finding their way in the modern world; as well as voxpops from people you’ve almost certainly met on the streets of Dublin. Each episode centres around questions of the Irish identity — made up primarily of ridiculous stereotypes. The first episode asks the question, “Why are the Irish so influential in the world of arts?” — and it just gets more acerbic from there.
Celebrities get some brilliant treatment: I’ve never seen some one take the piss out of Sex and the City better than The Savage Eye. Nobody is safe from the show. Fianna Fáil are lampooned as viciously as they deserve to be (as the Minister for Laughing Inapppropriately, the Minister for the Use of Three Similar Words, the Minister for the Understanding of Problems, and the Minister for Breathlessness to Appear Earnest). Ireland’s “President for Life”, and her significant other, “My house-bound, It”, is not terribly far off the Mary Robinson mark. There are also subtle digs at local Dubliners who you’d know if you’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes in that town, or drank a pint now and then in Grogan’s.
This show’s crowning achievement, however, is the bit of every episode dealing with the Catholic Church. The introductions alone had me in stitches: they each begin with new and clever ways for priests to steal children from under the very noses of their parents. Truly classic.
The Savage Eye employs a brand of humour not unfamiliar to British audiences; it’s not a million miles away from the quick character-based sketches of The Fast Show or The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer. The amazing thing is that nobody has done this in Ireland. Not only have McSavage et al brought freshness to an old format, giving it a new lease on life; but they’ve managed to both capture and absolutely decimate the whole notion of “Irishness”, without the pooped-out crutch of stale, bushwhacking zaniness in sit-com format.
The biggest two complaints I’ve heard about The Savage Eye have been 1) from people who featured in the voxpops and subsequently regretted it; and 2) people who didn’t know it was on television until it wasn’t anymore. Look it up on YouTube; it’s all there. I implore you to watch it, whether you’ve ever been to Ireland or not.