As he would probably put it, comedian Dapper Laughs has had a "right mare".

Dapper, real name Daniel O'Reilly, was built up by social media, where hundreds of thousands of followers have swarmed around him. And now he's being destroyed by it.

His ITV2 dating show has been cancelled after days of growing controversy on Twitter around his comedy, which includes telling one woman she's "gagging for a rape" and trying to raise money for the homeless with a song where at one point he yells "you smell like s**t" at a rough sleeper. The charity Shelter rejected his cash.

Dapper's defenders say not to take him literally. He's just having a joke. He's being ironic. But the targets of his comedy make the irony hard to see. Any grander point is unclear.

He's either a great and self-aware satirical character comedian along the lines of Sacha Baron Cohen, or he isn't. He definitely isn't.

More plausibly, he's just another cocksure good-looking #lad with bag loads of #banter and a smartphone, but who happens to have found a mass audience for his shtick.

"I think he has gained such a big following because people find him amusing and in some cases aspirational," Abi Wilkinson, a journalist for the UsVsTh3m website and the person who brought the Dapper Laughs homeless song controversy to the attention of the wider public and Shelter, told IBTimes UK.

"His brand of sexism is so normalised that a lot of people don't even realise there is a problem with it. I watched some of his Vines and not all of them are actually individually offensive, I found a couple funny myself."

The Rise

How different the south Londoner and godfather of the British Lad scene thought things would be. His story encapsulates every facet of the social media age, from the fame of instant virality to commercial success to a Twitter backlash. He's a product of the new digital landscape.

Dapper first found fame on Vine, the social video app which allows users to share six second clips, managing to amass almost 600,000 followers with his special brand of cheeky laddishness.

The shareable clips often involve going up to random and unwitting members of the public, or even celebrities, and enveloping them into an awkward or crude exchange. All for the camera and his mounting pile of fans. He's like Dom Joly-meets-Danny Dyer, but without the charm of either.

Put simply, he goes about bothering people. Sometimes it's a mild ribbing. Sometimes it's self-deprecating. Sometimes it's plain harassment, like walking up to attractive women saying "she knows". The message is she knows he'd give her one and she'd like it. She probably wouldn't.

Another of his favourite comedic tics is to declare a woman to be "proper moist", meaning she's turned on by him. She probably isn't. It's the sort of stuff a man with crow's feet should have grown out of a decade before.

His Vines have been looped more than 146 million times. He has 365,000 followers on Twitter and 1.7 million likes of his Facebook page. By tapping into the subculture of the British lad – a new brand of alpha male metrosexuals who use tanning salons, get their teeth whitened weekly and keep Brylcreem in business – Dapper became a phenomenon. A Jim Davidson for the web-savvy TOWIE generation.

From this platform, he has cashed in by touring nightclubs and universities and doing stand-up routines (though Cardiff Students' Union successfully got his appearance cancelled).

He had top ten chart success with Proper Moist, a song playing on his notorious catchphrase, despite getting no radio airtime and relying instead on downloads and streams spurred on by his enormous social media following.

Finally came the big opportunity: having his own ITV2 show commissioned. It was called Dapper Laughs: On The Pull and was his chance to reach a sort of media adolescence. He had almost made it.

The Fall

Then, as so often happens, fame turned to infamy. In some ways he became a victim of his own success. Dapper Laughs is not unique. There are hundreds of thousands of people like him across the UK. But he made himself a megaphone with social media and so drew lots of probing attention.

There had been rumblings for some time about Dapper, which grew louder after his TV show began airing. More and more scrutiny was invested in his brand of comedy, in particular its latent misogyny. And it all came to a head when he released his Proper Naughty Xmas album on Spotify.

One song in particular was picked up by Wilkinson of UsVsTh3m, who highlighted that in his mission to raise money for the homeless he had managed to tell one they smell of s**t.

She used Twitter to drum up awareness of the hypocrisy and, along with others, built up an online campaign against him, in which his comedy was raked over and scrutinised.

Eventually a story broke which showed a video of Dapper defending himself against his critics at a stand-up set in a London nightclub. At one point, he addresses a woman in the audience who has shouted something.

"Oi, you're missing a few front teeth there. Yeah. Rape gone wrong," he says, before pointing at another woman who had shouted out and saying "she's gagging for a rape". (Skip to 10:20 in the video)

'Cheer up you ugly c**t'

There were further waves of attack on social media, dredging up his dubious Vines and tweets from the past. Though many people still defended Dapper. Some of the defences underline what Dapper's critics were saying: that his comedy normalises and spreads misogyny.

Wilkinson of UsVsTh3m highlighted some of the responses she got after tweeting her complaints at Dapper, who had replied on Twitter and included her username before deleting his tweets.

Among them was one man who called her a "bored little sket with nothing better to do". Another said "shut up you f*****g slag ... cheer up you ugly c**t".

After more highlighting of Dapper's past Vines – including one where he jokingly says a woman who cries when you show her your penis is just playing hard to get – ITV2 pulled the plug on his show. There will be no second series for Dapper.

"Twitter was massively important as it provided easily digestible evidence of his contempt for both women and homeless people," Wilkinson said.

"It also showed that his comedy directly influences people's opinions and behaviour: the girl who thought that his behaviour couldn't be harassment if it was on his show, and the people reporting they had been harassed by men shouting his catchphrases.

"Facebook and Twitter also allowed my post with the screenshots of tweets to be shared so that over a million people ended up reading it and finding out about the issue."


Despite the outpouring against Dapper on social media, his defenders and core following – as well as the rampant lad culture in Britain – will ensure he still has an audience. It just might not be in the mainstream. He'll go back to where he started: an underground sensation on social media.

To some credit, Dapper has apologised for going too far. Whether this is enough, after time has passed, to secure him another opportunity akin to the ITV2 show remains to be seen.

"His career has definitely been affected, it's hard to know what he will do now," Wilkinson said.

"I imagine he'll return to Vine and possibly keep doing nightclub appearances, if Dapper Laughs hasn't become too toxic.

"What I'd like to see is Daniel O'Reilly accepting the problems with his character and returning to comedy either with a modified version, or possibly doing something completely different."