In defence of MC Devvo

A schoolteacher has been sacked over his past life as a comedy rap star.

Gareth Sturdy

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A schoolteacher has become the latest victim of offence archaeology. Christian Webb was sacked last December from his teaching job at a primary school in Doncaster. His bosses had discovered his involvement in a number of viral comedy rap videos in the mid-2000s. It emerged last week that this was the reason for his dismissal.

Back in 2005, Webb and internet filmmaker David Firth created a comedy character called Darren Devonshire, aka MC Devvo. A self-styled ‘dole-queue hero’, Devvo (played by Webb) satirised the music scene of Doncaster’s white working class. Devvo is ‘a pill-munching, northern scallie’, in the words of one Vice writer, with foul-mouthed tunes like ‘Donny Soldier’, ‘Chrystal Meffin’ and ‘Yorkshire Till I Die’. The songs are full of four-letter words and references to drugs and sex. The satirical schtick is similar to Nottingham’s MC Pitman and Newport’s Goldie Lookin’ Chain. This is humour for grown-ups poking fun at the bleak conditions of Britain’s left-behind towns.

The Devvo character reached its peak in popularity a decade ago, and was officially retired in 2016. Webb has been a primary-school teacher since 2008. According to the Sun, both his colleagues at King Edward Primary School and local parents were unaware of the videos until he was sacked.

Over the years, Webb has had viral successes beyond MC Devvo. He is also credited with co-creating – also with David Firth – the dark viral sensation ‘Salad Fingers’. These achievements should be celebrated, not treated as sackable offences. Sadly, in the nervous, safeguarding-obsessed culture of today’s schools, Webb’s coarse but harmless comedy from many years ago is apparently to be treated as a threat to children’s safety.

When grime superstar Stormzy is invited to give talks in schools, it is on the assumption that he won’t rap sweary lyrics like ‘Fuck Boris’ in front of the pupils. MC Devvo’s language from 10 years ago is no worse. And yet Webb has lost his job. It seems that, according to our educational gatekeepers, someone can only be a suitable teacher if he or she has a mind as innocent and as squeaky-clean as the schoolchildren. Unless your inner life is as uncomplicated as Peppa Pig’s, you are a figure of suspicion.

In the past, a number of great artists, writers and comedians also worked as teachers, creating material outside of the classroom that was not suitable for children. Stephen King, Gene Simmons, Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut and DH Lawrence all wrote or performed adult material while they were teachers. More recently, sweary comedian Romesh Ranganathan started his comedy career when he was still a maths teacher. They were all left alone to craft and create. Society did not feel the need to uncover their lives outside of school, and they were trusted not to bring them into the classroom.

My hunch is that Webb most likely brought a performer’s wit and creative flair to the classroom. Indeed, while some of the parents in the Sun’ report agree with Webb’s sacking, others acknowledge that he had a ‘good reputation’. One says that ‘everyone always said he was a brilliant teacher’.

Schools are crying out for good teachers. Creativity, a sense of humour, chutzpah, a sharp observational eye, the ability to portray larger-than-life characters… these are all wonderful qualities for a teacher. With his Devvo character, Christian Webb has shown he has all of these.

A wise headteacher would hold on to him, rather than stick him on the dole queue.

Gareth Sturdy teaches mathematics and English in London and is co-organiser of the Academy of Ideas Education Forum.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Comments

Bronk’s Funeral

14th August 2019 at 9:31 am

Ah, that’s a real shame. I remember plenty of arguments on various forums as to whether Devvo was an actor or not.

James Knight

13th August 2019 at 5:39 pm

Stepford students becoming Stepford teachers employed to bring up the next generation of Stepford kids.

michael savell

13th August 2019 at 5:01 pm

Jim,the trouble is that his personality does not”sit” with girls,only boys.Since we are still in the era of girls playing “catchup”even though they have surpassed boys by miles,it rather depends who calls the shots and I think we know who does that nowadays.The writer of the article presumably does not know the dictator in question,but irrespective of “the board”it is always the individual hardheads who win out.

jessica christon

13th August 2019 at 3:20 pm

I remember going through primary school and almost every day there was disruption in class caused by two boys in particular although sometimes other boys would join in to try to impress them. In the last year it stopped; the ‘bad boys’ were suddenly as good as gold and actually enjoying school instead of being bored stiff with it.

It was also the only year we had a male teacher, and he had a completely approach to things like classroom discipline and getting the best out of us. But even back then he was the only male teacher, and turning primary education into man-free zones for purely feminist ideological reasons was a selfish move and children – especially those with more challenging behaviour – have lost out.

Bronk’s Funeral

14th August 2019 at 9:32 am

Cool anecdote, bro

Stephen J

13th August 2019 at 8:32 am

Old and in the past, but coarse humour and media presence bad…

But climate change in the classroom good?

Jim Lawrie

13th August 2019 at 10:44 am

Exactly Stephen. Had he form for violent protest in support of more rights for gays, trannies, BAME, women, animals etc … he could have mentioned it in an application for promotion.

Instead of discussing this, the article descends into whataboutery, the individual’s personal qualities rather than the essential points around freedom of speech and growing up.

I wonder did being good at his job and a man to boot raise the hackles of the feminists in his midst? Schools are becoming a no go area for men, unless they are Muslim or effnik or gay.

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