x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Comedian lost his marbles with attack

For his efforts, Mr Marbles (real name Jonathan May-Bowles) was instantly on the receiving end of a rather devastating right hook from Murdoch's 42-year-old wife Wendi Deng.

"It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before." Bar a few discrepancies (a missing "far" and an extra "before"), this was a quote forever associated with Charles Dickens and the final head-chopping scene of A Tale Of Two Cities. Until Tuesday, that is, when it became linked with a shaving foam pie assault on the world's biggest media baron.

To quote the tweet in full: "It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat". This was the warning sent by the "activist" and "comedian" Jonnie Marbles just before he launched his famous pie attack on Rupert Murdoch during his appearance before a select committee of the British parliament to answer questions regarding phone hacking at News International.

For his efforts, Mr Marbles (real name Jonathan May-Bowles) was instantly on the receiving end of a rather devastating right hook from Murdoch's 42-year-old wife Wendi Deng.

While Marbles may have been looking to ridicule Murdoch, who had been doing his Mr Burns impression for almost an hour and was possibly on the verge of denying he had ever read a newspaper, the result was anything but. Suddenly, with his glasses on the floor, Murdoch looked vulnerable, a word that has perhaps never been uttered in the same breath as one of the most ruthless media men in history. As for Marbles, he just looked like a young guy who tried to attack an 80-year-old, but was beaten up by a woman.

Had he bothered to do his research, of course, he might have gone about it differently.

Almost exactly 10 years ago, then-British deputy prime minister John Prescott was hit with a close-range, possibly free-range egg on the back of his head during an election campaign and the boxer-turned-politician unleashed a swift left jab against his mulletted assailant, a reaction that seemed to earn him respect in many polls. A couple of years earlier, Prescott had a jug of water poured over him by the pseudo-anarchic British rock band Chumbawamba, who have since sunk into obscurity.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden's visit to a bird sanctuary in 2001 came to abrupt halt when he was struck square in the face by a strawberry tart lobbed by a 16-year-old, who was later tried for threatening state security. King Carl remains on the throne.

Over in North America, it's all about the pies, with numerous figures having faced the whipped-cream attacks from groups such as the Biotic Baking Brigade, Entartistes and Al-Pieda. Bill Gates, Ann Coulter and Milton Friedman have all been on the receiving end of such dairy-based assaults. The right-winger David Horowitz described his pie-ing as "sinister" and that "the person who throws the pie is saying, 'I hate you. I don't want you to speak'," which is probably true given his rather distasteful comments against Islam. Members of such pie groups have regularly been tried for battery and assault.

Although a pie, or even an egg, might add that touch of comedy to a protest, Marbles should perhaps have left the contents of his fridge alone and opted for the current lobbing weapon du jour: the shoe. Ever since Muntadhar al-Zaidi flung his brogues at George W Bush in 2008, everyone from Tony Blair to Dominic Strauss-Kahn has seen footwear tossed in their direction.

But rather than becoming the subject of Twitter ridicule, à la Marbles, al-Zaidi was instantly proclaimed an international hero after his two-soled salute. Countries and characters practically fell over themselves to offer him gifts, including a TV job, a six-door Mercedes and even the hand in marriage of a man's 20-year-old daughter. The shoes themselves were the subject of a $10 million (Dh37.7m) bid by a Saudi businessman (unfortunately, reports suggested that American forces looking for explosives had destroyed them, as you do).

Al-Zaidi might have missed, but his efforts were lauded as a remarkable and symbolic act. In 2009 he was placed third on Arabian Business's list of the world's most influential Arabs.

Marbles may have a brief stint in the spotlight following his attack, but given that he interrupted a hearing in which Murdoch wasn't coming across as well as he might have liked and gave the old man an unlikely appearance of vulnerability, it probably won't be to his credit. Soon, the only thing we'll remember is Wendi's right hook.

He should have just done it to James instead.

* Alex Ritman