OPINION: The noble McSavage? Comedian vows to face jail rather than pay TV licence fee

'The Savage Eye' star is due in court later this month, but says RTÉ's comedy output doesn't deserve his money

OPINION: The noble McSavage? Comedian vows to face jail rather than pay TV licence fee

Comedian and actor David McSavage appearing in the 2015 production of 'The Pillowman' by Martin McDonagh [RollingNews/Mark Stedman]

On that fateful Easter Monday a century ago, just south of Grafton St, members of the Irish Citizen Army, led by arguably the most diverse leaders in the Rising, a former enlisted soldier of the most humble means and a Countess who stormed around in a hat festooned with feathers in the name of Ireland, took over St Stephen’s Green. One hundred years later, give or take, another son of Eireann took a stand, telling the Irish Sun from beneath his tweed hat that he would rather go to prison than pay his TV licence. Set your calendars for another symbolic wreath laying come 2116.

Grinning at the camera, wearing a brown Aran cardigan and a look that says publicity, the writer and comedian David McSavage announced to the newspaper yesterday that he appears to be operating on a 'no TV licence taxation without Savage Eye representation' policy. In the great Irish tradition of boycotting, the 49-year-old actor will head before a judge in Dublin’s Four Courts come April 22nd, where he will refuse to pay the tax legally owed by anyone or any business in the country owning a device capable of receiving TV signals.

“I refuse to pay my TV licence fee,” McSavage announced to The Irish Sun, “because the money will go to RTÉ and they are not producing comedy.

“Their output is appalling and they have no respect or passion for the craft of comedy,” he added. Nobody tell him about that Michaella McCollum interview, lest he take to his old busking stomping ground and self-immolate for the lols.

On the front page of The Irish Sun, David McSavage reveals his plans to not pay his TV licence fee [Twitter]

In defence of McSavage’s grievance, it’s hard to deny on the face of it that his opinion is wrong. I don’t much care for the current crop of RTÉ comedy shows – it isn’t easy to remain quietly on the sidelines when the persons in charge of greenlighting sitcoms in the national broadcaster’s comedy department have based at least four separate shows in the last decade on the combination of two different named characters (Dan & Becs, Sarah & Steve, Damo & Ivor, Bridget & Eamon), and very little else.

If not the two-handed sitcom, what else has RTÉ produced in an effort to tickle our viewing funny bones of late? A number of hidden camera prank shows, the self-referential hit-and-misses of Republic of Telly, the odd panel quiz show featuring a former Rose and her comedy bros, and a clip show of uncle Gaybo chatting to Billy Connolly or Peter Ustinov trawled up from the archive.

Though none of these appeared to be McSavage’s particular issues with RTÉ, with those seeming to have started around the time the national broadcaster opted not to make his sketch show a part of their centenary programme of shows.

“RTÉ didn’t commission my Savage Eye special,” McSavage proclaimed from outside the Department of Justice, “because they were too scared and we might have done something funny.”

Calling on all Irishmen and Irishwomen, TV viewers one and all, supported by their exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe who might have watched on the RTÉ Player, McSavage now strikes, in full confidence of a PR victory.

“The Rubberbandits,” McSavage decried, speaking of the Limerick-raised hip-hop duo and traitorous ITV2 game show commentators, whose special one-off The Rubberbandits’ Guide to 1916, to near universal praise, was commissioned and produced by RTÉ, “Are now as mainstream as Ryan Tubridy.

“They used to be quirky and bent, but I thought that they 1916 special was awful,” he added, before advising Blind Boy to page Elizabeth O’Farrell to deal with that burn.

“And as for the last series by Mario Rosenstock? I’m willing to go to prison for that,” McSavage revealed, failing to remember that Dublin’s largest prison, Mountjoy, has a number of television recreation facilities. With the Irish taxpayer footing the bill for the TV licence.

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