Thomas Hobbs 1st July 2020
There was a time when Mr. Blobby had more cultural capital in Britain than just about any pop star. A manically laughing, beer-bellied humanoid, whose spaced-out pinball eyes looked like they were dosed hourly with LSD, Mr Blobby emerged from the shadows to become the most pivotal British entertainer of 1993. It was an unlikely success story.
Starting out as a joke among presenter Noel Edmonds and television producer Michael Leggo, Mr Blobby later became the beating heart of the pair’s wildly successful prime time BBC entertainment show Noel’s House Party, which ran from 1991 to 1999. The character’s act almost entirely consisted of running around shouting “blobby, blobby, blobby” while knocking over furniture and ruffling the hair of bemused celebrities, but this was like catnip for us Brits. As a duo, Blobby and Noel were a sort of Chewbacca and Han Solo for people who had been hit over the head, and if you enjoyed cathartically destroying inanimate objects then Blobby was your God, which could explain why he was so popular among toddlers, like me.
The enormously popular Blobby, before we all tried to pretend like he never happened as the new millennium rolled in, had his own family, theme park, clothing line, VHS tapes, number one single, and balloons that sold for £2.50 in every shopping centre in Britain. Nowadays, it’s tempting to look back at Blobby mania (or “Britain’s answer to Barney”, as the New York Times more eloquently put it) with pure confusion and horror, but the character’s chaotic slapstick act filled more British living rooms with joy than it did fear. He briefly united us. And he can again.
At this point it’s okay to wonder if I’ve gone mad from all those months sitting inside a house that I don’t own, watching Boris Johnson squirm his way through press conferences, cringing while my Tory neighbours un-ironically clap for the NHS, and wondering if I’ll ever earn a normal monthly wage again. However, I’m here to tell you that now is the right time for Mr Blobby to make a proper comeback. Hear me out.
Whether it’s a gang of white actors treating a Black Lives Matter campaign video as an audition for a sickeningly earnest new movie (maybe a sequel to 2004’s Crash?), Madonna calling coronavirus “the great equalizer” from her luxury rose-filled bathtub, or Gal Gadot leading a celebrity sing-a-long video of John Lennon’s Imagine to brighten up the day of coronavirus patients hooked up to ventilators, the rampant cesspit of a year that is 2020 has proven worshipping celebrities is a pointless ritual. In fact, the underlying concept of celebrity has come under question, with people starting to realise that massive levels of privilege, wealth, and delusional self-importance do not necessarily result in galvanising, salt of the earth characters, who are worth calling on for guidance during a time of crisis.
Blobby’s act was all about making pompous celebrities look stupid. Crashing around their feet, placing them in bear hugs that showed a complete disregard for the three hours of make-up they just went through backstage, and outright mocking their profession (as he did with both footballer Garth Crooks and disc jockey Gary Davies, among many others) was Blobby’s bread and butter. And in an age where the public would like to see more celebrities put under pressure, and taken the piss out of as opposed to being worshipped like unimpeachable deities, Blobby could thrive once again.
He was one of Britain’s first pre-internet trolls, an innovator if you will, and it feels like this anti-celebrity climate is ripe for a bit more of him. It’s easy, for example, to imagine his character invading live TV shows, disrupting the status quo with his glitchy nightmarish vocals and obvious disregard for the famous people who usually anchor them. Over recent years, he’s been teased back with brief appearances on entertainment shows like Loose Women and This Morning, but I would like to see this ramped up and made a little nastier, and “Blobby Hacks” to become the new norm in order to keep both presenters and their guests on their toes. He could unexpectedly pop up in Celebrity Come Dine With Me and fuck up an arrogant former-X Factor singer’s dry dinner, or even emerge from behind a desk and rugby tackle Andrew Neil when he’s being a condescending prick on the Daily Politics show.
It feels like lots of people want to see the cult of privileged, out-of-touch celebrity smashed to pieces, and for something to act as a symbol to accelerate this process. Well, who is a better symbol than Mr Blobby? The very notion that a pink and yellow-spotted leper could end up as one of the most famous British faces of the 1990s was, at its core, an anti-celebrity act. People might enjoy posting anti-capitalist tweets, but Blobby was really about that action, smashing up shopping malls for fun in this video.
I’m sure people could get behind him again, especially if it diverted attention away from the pampered, out-of-touch “stars” who often dominate our TV schedules and Instagram feeds with their tone-deaf comments about social issues. Replacing their — far too dominant — voices with something as absurd and ridiculous as Mr Blobby just feels like poetic justice.
When I interviewed Blobby’s creator Michael Leggo for VICE back in 2015, he said: “I wouldn’t call Blobby performance art or political, but he was certainly all about anarchy, a little punk rock if you like. He was larger than life and never played by the rules—I think that’s what resonated with people.” And at a time where the idea of fame has never felt more frivolous, a bit of anarchy, and a character geared towards messing with the conventions of dull, white, mainstream celebrity could be just what we need. Mr Blobby, the nation needs you again. Come free us from these pampered pricks.
Thomas Hobbs 1st July 2020