One Rogue Reporter

Former tabloid hack Rich Peppiatt lampoons the industry he was once a part of and ingeniously confronts its worst offenders

Rich Peppiatt is a former tabloid journalist who has turned his back on his erstwhile employers with a one-man show that is equal parts atonement and revenge. One Rogue Reporter, which debuted at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival, concocts a heady brew of stand-up, social commentary and, er, porn.

This afternoon’s Out to Lunch audience nearly choke on their fish chowder when Peppiatt cranks up a covertly filmed recording of shamed News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck receiving a naked massage in a grotty B&B. Seeing the pasty-featured hack in all his 'glory' is an unhappy ending to today’s event, but thankfully the preceding 59 minutes are much more attractive.

Taking a quick show of hands before he begins, Peppiatt isn’t especially surprised that there are no Daily Star readers here, or that numerous Guardianistas are present. ‘Clichéd audience,’ he mutters, smirking. It’s a case of preaching to the converted, then, but this doesn’t make the ex-Star and Mail on Sunday man’s performance any less enjoyable or, in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, timely.

Much of Peppiatt’s time at the Star seems to have been spent 'interviewing' Aleksandr the Meerkat, dressing up as the transvestite cage fighter Alex Reid or hitting the streets in a burqa. Summing up the role of the red-top hack: to write about ‘people you’ve never heard of, or wish you’d never heard of, doing absolutely nothing newsworthy’.

Peppiatt scoffs at the notion that the tabloids are simply satisfying the public’s appetite for ever more lurid reporting. ‘I could bring a dog on stage and f**k it, and I’d probably sell out every night for a week,’ he rants.

But his rage is directed principally at the more invasive and damaging end of tabloid journalism. Peppiatt dismisses self-regulation as being in the same ballpark as ‘friendly fire or good AIDS’, and talks sarcastically about the curtailment of the tabloids’ prying ways as ‘an invasion of the freedom of the press’. He has a clever way with words that is nicely complemented by an edgy, earthy demeanour.

But the funniest and most cheering element of the show is a series of short films in which Peppiatt, wearing a stereotypical reporter’s coat and hat, ambushes newspaper bosses, giving them a taste of their own medicine in devilishly inventive ways.

Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow, whose defence at Leveson was that the Press Complaints Commission ‘should have intervened’ to prevent his paper publishing unsubstantiated Madeleine McCann stories, has his car plastered with Express front pages featuring the offending headlines. Peppiatt just shrugs that Whittow ‘should have intervened’.

Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail chief who described Max Mosley’s orgy with five prostitutes as ‘unimaginable depravity’, hides behind a bodyguard when Peppiatt travels to his London residence to offer to help broaden his imagination. He’s stopped at the front door, but Peppiatt helpfully gives the Belfast crowd directions to Dacre’s home in case we want to pay a visit ourselves.

But perhaps best of all is a hoax interview with the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, during which Peppiatt gets him to admit that incriminating text messages sent by a married celebrity to a lover would be of public interest, before confronting the unsuspecting supremo with his own secretly intercepted 'sexts'.

It’s priceless stuff, and could make an excellent, Dennis Pennis-style television series, presuming Peppiatt could come up with enough Fleet Street sleazemongers to harass, and it weren’t fantastically libellous. Not that the seemingly fearless Peppiatt would care if it were.

Beyond that, a future in comedy for the reformed hack would appear assured. One Rogue Reporter is funnier than a lot of stand-up, more incisive than most satire and livelier than Leveson. We could have done without Neville’s moobs, though.

Out to Lunch continues until January 27.