Bishop divides opinion on drink

Some of the abuse poured on Des Bishop following the first episode of his latest TV series would lead a lesser man to require the services of a good stiff drink.

But that would just prove the point the comedian was trying to make about our alcohol-soaked society.

A Twitter storm erupted after Under The Influence was watched by 348,000 people on RTÉ One on Thursday night, with opinions sharply divided on whether the funnyman was exaggerating the extent of Ireland’s drink problem or just telling it like it is.

The debate, which also spread to Bishop’s Facebook page, contained plenty of praise for the programme, which was described by viewers as brave, honest, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and funny.

However, it also attracted criticism that it was condescending, mocking, judgmental, and stereotyping, and that it did a disservice to Ireland by painting the country in a bad light.

The most abusive comments were deeply personal about Bishop.

Bishop left Ireland on Tuesday for a working trip to China and was travelling when the programme set social media alight, but film-maker Pat Comer, who directed and did the camera work for the series, welcomed the interest.

“If it creates debate, that’s great. If it leads to some sort of positive change, that’s great,” he said.

“I’m not sure it will, but anything that might shine a light on this subject is important.”

Much of the criticism centred on footage shown of drunken young revellers turning the streets of Dublin into what the comedian termed “Stumbleville” but Comer, who filmed the scenes, said it was simply showing the reality.

“There was never an intention to expose or ridicule any individual. It was never the intention to be exploitative. But there’s only one certain way you can show levels of intoxication and that’s by showing levels of intoxication.

“People will say, but there’s a lot of moderate drinkers out there. So be it. That’s a different programme. That’s not what our programme is about.”

Bishop has attracted controversy before, notably for his provocative TV shows on marginalised communities and minimum wage industries and Comer, who worked with him on some of the shows, said he could handle abuse.

“I don’t think he would take offence. I imagine if that was directed at me I would categorise the offence as something that is more reflective of the commentator rather than the person it was directed at.”

The four-part Under The Influence, which RTÉ said was the most watched programme on its RTÉ Player replay yesterday, continues on Thursday with a look at marketing and sponsorship in the alcohol industry.

Picture: Miki Barlok

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