Jason Cundy found himself in the rarefied position of making Piers Morgan look reasonable when he brought his tepid take on World Cup commentary to Good Morning Britain this week.
The former Chelsea and Tottenham defender and TalkSport presenter was discussing Vicki Sparks’s achievement as the first woman in Britain to commentate on a live World Cup match. He said he found it “a tough listen”, which, funnily enough, was how I felt watching him try to justify an opinion that seemed to be unravelling even as the words tumbled out of his mouth. “For 90 minutes listening to a high-pitched tone isn’t what I want to hear,” he said, looking less and less convinced by the second that he’d made a good call by saying that on national television.
The fact that women’s voices are considered the best choice to be AI assistants – helpful, subservient, trustworthy – and unsuitable for positions of authority (one of the many criticisms of Hillary Clinton was that pundits found her “shrill”), shows the depth of the problem here. In sports commentary, the idea of men in a male space seems particularly sacred, and Cundy is by no means an especially grave offender in clinging on to that. Professional women commentating on American football or baseball, for example, have long been open about the public criticism they receive, for sounding like a “nag” or for simply being “annoying”. Often, these comments are couched in the language of “I’m not sexist but…”, a phrase that only ever announces that a big bit of sexism is on its way.
In a World Cup where we’ve had a “hottest fans” gallery from an internationally renowned photo agency, and where a reporter had to berate a passerby for forcefully kissing her while she was trying to present, Sparks smashing through this particular barrier was steady progress. To reduce it to “but her voice annoys me” was, at best, daft, and Cundy knew it.
He apologised the same day, admitting he had been “an idiot” and regretting “the hurt and anger” he had caused. But his candour was more useful than it was hurtful. He laid out, clearly and plainly, that the reason he didn’t like listening to a woman talking about football was completely subjective. “Listen, it’s nothing to do with her insight, the way she delivers it or her knowledge or her ability to do the job,” he said, handily providing the main objections to his own beliefs, saving us women the hassle of making our annoying lady voices say it out loud.
Hannah Gadsby makes light of the darkness, against all odds
When the Australian standup Hannah Gadsby first began to perform her show Nanette last year, reviewers, while generally positive, seemed stunned by what they had seen.
It was as if they were not quite able to fully digest this unique, sophisticated, invigorating hour or so of devastating comedy. It’s a show that chews on its own tail, with Gadsby declaring early on that she is through with standup, that Nanette will be the last time she attempts to make light of situations that just aren’t funny any more. “In the first runs of it I really put the audience in shock,” she told Vulture. “I was just going, throwing grenades into the audience, and they were stunned and they’d leave.”
Now that it’s on Netflix, Nanette has become a phenomenon. “It’s bigger than me. It’s taken on a life of its own,” she said. It is an extraordinary piece of work, staggeringly powerful, devilishly clever, and it is at turns bellyache-funny and utterly flooring.Gadsby talks about her life as a lesbian, as a butch woman, as a “not-normal” in Australian society. She talks about how she used self-deprecation as the fuel for her jokes and she talks about feeling tired of putting herself down. It all builds to a climax more astonishing than any standup show I have ever seen. If that sounds like hyperbole, then, in this case, it’s simply the truth.
There is surely at least a part of Nanette that every viewer or audience member will keep. It’s that kind of show, and that is Gadsby’s intention. In this climate of fear, hatred and intolerance, of growing horrors on the global stage, what has remained with me is the way in which Gadsby turns overwhelming fatigue into rage, and rage into constructiveness, connection and love. She wants her story to be heard. For those who haven’t yet listened, it’s the least we can do.
Arise Danny Dyer, the king of Brexit reason
‘Can we go back to this whole Brexit thing?” asked Danny Dyer, unprompted, during a discussion about Love Island on ITV’s Good Evening Britain on Thursday, involving Jeremy Corbyn and Pamela Anderson. It was one of those TV moments where you can only tell it’s not satire because no satirist could get away with something so outlandish.
Dyer sliced through the hosts’ attempts at good-natured fluff with an incisive indictment of the Brexit process. “No one’s got a clue. It’s like this mad riddle,” he said, with Corbyn in his sights, and demanded the head of David Cameron. “Where is the geezer? I think he should be held accountable.”
He then called Cameron a twat for the second time in a minute. In a display of national frustration, the outburst quickly went viral. And not for the first time: Dyer also went viral when he found out he was a direct descendant of Edward III and promised to start wearing a massive ruff.
Since Dyer seems to be the only one prepared to ask the difficult questions of elected politicians right now, and since he’s got the heritage, is it time to call for him to take his rightful place at the head of the nation?
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist