And if you laugh at them, you’re probably a moron too

There’s a new breed of celebrity, and their meteoric rise is nothing short of depressing. Welcome to the era of the Vine mega-tool, young British men who equate sexual aggression and penis jokes with comedy gold.

These Air Max-toting wannabe TOWIE stars have taken to their smartphones looking for attention in the wake of the success of Dapper Laughs, the publicly-shamed comedian who lost his TV show after telling a female audience member she was “gagging for a rape”.

It doesn’t take a genius to see most forms of social media are incredibly narcissistic, but beyond the unprovoked word-vomit of Twitter and the endless Instagram selfies, Vine has to be the most self-indulgent of all of them.

Of course, Vine isn’t all bad – it’s been used to document significant events such as the aftermath of the 2013 United States embassy bombing in Ankara, and has brought us such important cultural milestones as Yass Cat.

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The problem isn’t Vine itself: it’s the people who use it. The app has become synonymous in Britain with self-aggrandising young males, who have found fame through little more than harassing strangers in public. You’d think there’d be nothing worse than watching some jumped-up iPhone owner’s mental masturbation, in five or six second chunks, on constant repeat. But the most obvious example, Dapper Laughs, has had his videos “looped” over 180 million times.

The intolerable alter-ego of London comedian Daniel O’Reilly, Dapper Laughs, became infamous for his treatment of women with lines such as “show her your penis – if she cries, she’s just playing hard to get” – but still somehow managed to land a primetime slot on ITV2 from them.

After an anti-Dapper Laughs petition which garnered over 60,000 signatures, O’Reilly’s TV show was pulled by ITV and the disgraced comedian appeared on Newsnight to offer an apology, in which he claimed Dapper Laughs was a “character” who he’d be retiring.

Daniel O'Reilly's televised apology

Daniel O’Reilly’s televised apology

After the grovelling interview, in which he said of Dapper Laughs “not only am I going to stop it, I am going to help it not being promoted”, O’Reilly has since returned as Dapper Laughs to promote his “Res’Erection” stand-up tour. Really. But whether Dapper Laughs had returned or not, O’Reilly’s damage had already been done – he had given birth to a generation of Lad Bible-reading, Nando’s-eating Vine stars, famous only for their inability to not be a dick in public.

Jack Jones is one of the most cretinous pretenders to Dapper Laughs’ throne. His videos involve him either antagonising old women by saying they’re giving him “a raging hard-on”, or goading strangers into attacking him by telling them their breath smells. Even when Jones commits a rare act of kindness, like giving a woman a rose on Mothers’ Day, or feeding the homeless, the whole thing reeks with the self-indulgence of a smarmy teenager doing it all to raise his view count.

The fact is, the only talent of Vine stars like O’Reilly and Jones is a lack of social inhibition. Their comedy is not the clever Trigger Happy TV brand of hidden camera tomfoolery: it’s public humiliation at its best, and sexual harassment at its worst.

Of course there are those who say the content is staged, but in reality isn’t the idea people agree to this sort of thing for a literal five seconds of fame even worse?

What’s most depressing is how these guys have a real following – probably from the same people who signed the petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear because they think he’s a “national treasure”.

O’Reilly and Jones are just two examples. Everywhere you look, young British men are posting their own humiliating Vines in a bid to kickstart their own viral careers. It’s like the only credential you need to make it as a comedian nowadays is the ability to approach a woman in public and tell her you’ve got a big dick – as if the white van man stereotype has somehow become a mark of pride for aspiring pranksters.

Even when you ignore the (valid) arguments of how these new role models promote sexism, normalise rape and enforce racial stereotypes, there’s still one blinding problem: these guys just aren’t funny.

Surely we’re better than this. If this is the direction in which British comedy is heading, then we seriously need to consider turning back.

But it doesn’t look like anyone is interested in doing so – O’Reilly and Jones’ fanbases are only going from strength to strength.

So in the meantime, I’ll just have to get my enjoyment from watching Jack Jones get punched in the face on a constant loop. Which is probably what he wants.

@thebobpalmer