Sian struts onto the stage, with the uniformed guards either side and one step behind her. A brass ensemble strikes up the instantly-recognisable intro of a 70s disco classic, and the trio begin dancing.
Sian: [with the guards providing backing at the appropriate places]
People, there’s no need to feel down,
I said people, there’s no reason to frown,
I said people, when you’re played for a clown,
By the folk who make your life hell.
Jobsworths, make you go to and fro,
And the shysters, make you short of your dough,
And the posers, make your frustration grow,
Well it’s time to get your own back!
Sian twirls on the spot during the brief instrumental break. An eruption of sparks from the rim of the Mucky Dip heralds the chorus.
There’s no escaping our M-U-C-K!!
There’s no escaping our M-U-C-K!!
We have gallons and gallons of horrible gunge,
It’s all waiting for the plunge!
It’s pretty grim in our M-U-C-K!!
Won’t wanna swim in our M-U-C-K!!
You can get your revenge, you can have a good laugh,
You can give them a mucky bath!
While Sian sings, the wire-mesh chair descends to stage level. Sian sits sideways in the chair, while one guard draws it back and the other lifts Sian’s foot, showing off her luscious legs.
People! There’s a show you can dial,
Where the villains, will be put up on trial,
And we’ll dip them, in our gunk that’s so vile,
If you vote to send them in there!
The guard holding back the chair releases it, and Sian leaps off into the other guard’s arms.
So now, don’t you get yourselves vexed,
There’s a number, vote by phone-call or text,
For the scoundrel, that you’d like to see messed,
And we’ll make it happen for you!
Sian jumps down to her feet and the three start dancing again.
There’s no escaping our M-U-C-K!!
There’s no escaping our M-U-C-K!!
It’s thick and it’s lumpy, it has quite a pong,
It’ll right the most heinous wrong!
The nation’s wrath, it’s our M-U-C-K!!
An early bath in our M-U-C-K!!
Sian: Come on! Let’s hear you all sing it!
Sian: Who needs a lynchmob when there’s
Sian: People, people are you listening to me? People people, turn your on your tv!
The music peters out, leaving the applause of the audience. A final shower of sparks emanates from around the Mucky Dip.
Sian: Wooo! Thank you! That was amazing! Tom and Charlie, I didn’t realise you were such nifty movers!
The guards have already reverted to their stolid and silent selves.
Sian: Suit yourselves boys. Hi everyone, I’m Sian Welby and this is Comeuppance! If anyone’s tuning in for the first time, you’re a bit late to the party, but don’t worry; we’ve a stonker of an episode coming up. Down in the cells we have three irritating, intimidating and infuriating professionals – the kind whose day is made when yours is ruined – and tonight they will have to fawn and grovel for your clemency. Why? Because whoever attracts the greatest share of your ire will face a harsh and humiliating punishment: strapped into this here chair, hoisted upon high, and plunged into the ghastly depths of our Mucky Dip!
While the spectators express their enthusiasm, the camera sweeps over the gaping rim of the towering cylindrical vat, the interior of which is clouded over by a frothing fog of dry ice.
Sian: There’s a special twist to our muck this week, as we shall reveal later. For now though, I’m sure those sitting towards the front of the audience will vouch for the whiff of French cheese and fermented fish that’s diffusing their way!
Shouted from audience: I thought that was you!
Sian: Cheeky git! You’re lucky our three positions are already filled. Speaking of which, let’s crack on and meet our first contestant!
The maths teacher
Our runner-up from last week’s back-to-school special is Mrs Pascal, a maths teacher from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. She’s a bit coy about her age, but suffice to say she’s in her prime.
Sian: First of all, Mrs Pascal, let me ask: how’s Miss Field getting on?
Mrs Pascal: [smirking] Well Sian, it’s become a lot easier to find her on the school campus; we just need follow the trail of grass cuttings!
The audience laughs.
Sian: You’re in no position to be smug. Now, I’m damned if I’m going to talk about maths again, so let’s discuss teachers in general. From Miss Scatcherd and the Trunchbull, to Pink Floyd and the Demon Headmaster, you lot command a unique notoriety in the cultural psyche, don’t you?
Mrs Pascal: But you’re forgetting Miss Honey, John Keating and Dewey Finn. A good teacher inspires like no other.
Sian: Not this week they don’t, because they’re all on strike. What’s your gripe, huh? Thirteen weeks holiday not sufficient? Three-thirty too late in the day to clock off? Too many coffee breaks in the staffroom?
The audience boos.
Sian: [looking round] Yuh! It’s too early to say if you’ll be a dodger, Mrs P, but you’re certainly jammy!
Mrs Pascal: Not “all of us” are on strike, and you’re a fine one to talk about short hours, Sian. You spend Friday evenings presenting this show, and then there’s a few five-minute slots for Channel 5 Weather and the Health Lottery. Talk about part time!
Sian: [offended] I also do the cycling on Channel 4, and if you don’t mind, a lot of prep goes into my presenting.
Mrs Pascal: Oh, whereas my lesson plans just fall into my lap!? And for you info, I don’t go home at 3:30 every day; [proudly] on Tuesdays and Thursdays I take after-school maths club.
Sian: [incredulous] Do kids actually go to that?
Mrs Pascal: Well I call it maths club… it’s more like detention really. [Stops and frowns] Are you chewing?
Sian: So what if I am?
Mrs Pascal: [sternly] You know my policy on gum. Wrap it in paper and put it in the bin – right away!
Sian: [defiantly blows a bubble] We’re not in the classroom now.
Mrs Pascal: I’m not here to argue, Sian. Bin. Now.
Sian: I’m afraid the bin’s too high to reach, Mrs P, and it’s already full of something far stickier than gum, as you might discover later on!
Mrs Pascal folds her arms and fixes Sian with her most withering teacher’s glare as the latter turns her back on her and addresses the camera.
Sian: I can just tell that loads of you want to put Mrs Pascal in that long-overdue detention, but before you commit please give your full assessment of our other two contestants.
The anti-file-sharing lawyer
Second up in the dock is Judi. She’s 31 and from the Isle of Wight, and for the past four years she has operated as an anti-file-sharing lawyer.
Sian: Ok folks, picture the scene: a respectable, well-to-do person – a vicar, say, or a nice old lady – receives a letter, in cold legal verbage, accusing them of downloading some smutty movie or contentious rap song. The letter gives the recipient the option to “settle”, by paying a not insubstantial sum, or else face a court case over the infringement. The poor Reverend knows nothing about the downloaded movie – less still of the lewd acts described in its title – but the prospect of a scandalous court case frightens him so much that he posts a cheque forthwith. This, ladies and gentleman, [jabs a finger at Judi] is the extortion racket that Judi here is involved in!
Judi: [who has been rolling her eyes throughout Sian’s vignette] Save me the strawmen! We don’t go through the phone-book looking for vicars. We use sophisticated methods to detect illegal file-sharing and the IP addresses involved.
Sian: Even accepting that to be true, the reliability of IP detection is dubious, and an IP address is not a person. The bill-payer may not be the person who downloaded the file; perhaps they had a guest over or their connection was hacked.
Judi: [waves a hand dissmively] Too bad for them – legally they’re responsible. You can make all the excuses you like but it doesn’t change the fact that these people are downloading copyrighted material illegally, and artists are missing out as a result!
Sian: And they’re continuing to miss out, because in many cases none of the money you rake in goes to the artist, because they signed away their copyright to a publisher, who subsequently sold it you!
Judi: Nothing wrong with that. The artist freely made the choice to—
Sian: And what’s more, you actually upload many of the files to filesharing sites yourself, which renders your copyright claims null and void!
Judi: [angrily] That’s completely untrue! You better retract that accusation, Welby, because I’m also trained in libel law!
Sian: [Pulls out a piece of paper] Judi, we recorded the IP address of your office as the uploader.
Shouts of “busted!” emanate from the audience.
Judi: B..B..But those detection methods are unreliable! And an IP address isn’t a person!
Sian: Strange, either there’s an echo in the studio or you just copied what I said earlier. In any case, Judi, here at Comeuppance we have a file-sharing pool of our own. It facilitates high-speed downloads and uploads, and it’s perfect for leechers like you!
Judi puts her hands on her hips and pouts as Sian turns away.
Sian: And I’m sure lots of you are impatient to seed Judi’s voting ratio, but before you share your opinion, please peruse our final contender.
Sian: Her name is Trudi. She’s also 31, also from the Isle of Wight, and for the past six years she has sent out internet spam for a living.
Sian: So Trudi, most people will have worked out that you and Judi are twins.
Trudi: That’s right Sian. Ironic that Judi doesn’t like copying, when she’s actually a copy of me!
Judi: Don’t listen to her; I was born first!
Sian: [smirking] And I gather that the pair of you are very competitive, which is the reason you’re here on this show?
Trudi: That’s right. Judi clearly has the more obnoxious profession of the two of us, but she seems to think that I do. A friend suggested we go on Comeuppance to settle the argument once and for all, so I said bring it on!
Judi: Only after I said bring it on.
Trudi: [raising voice] I definitely said it first!
Sian: [Standing between cages with hands outstretched] Alright, enough bickering! Judi, you’ve had your say so let’s have you quiet now. [Goes to stand in front of Trudi] Like your sister, your crimes relate to the internet. The difference is that while Judi’s ilk only bully an unlucky few, you spammers are a daily nuisance to everyone! [Looks to audience] Ain’t I right?
There’s hearty agreement and plenty of booing from the audience.
Trudi: [snaps] Can you not use the s-word!? I notice you used Judi’s proper job title rather than calling her a “copyright troll”.
Sian: But you are a spammer, aren’t you?
Trudi: No, I’m a mailshot coordinator! “Spamming” is illegal, whereas what I do is perfectly legit. You won’t get emails about Nigerian princes and Russian “bedroom performance” pills from me – just carefully-selected, solicited marketing communications.
Sian: Ah yes – solicited! i.e. when someone forgets to untick the tiny box that says “if you don’t prefer not to be excluded from not receiving third party promotions then don’t untick the box!”
Trudi: [shrugs] That’s consent, isn’t it?
Sian: And what about when someone uploads their entire address book to “tell all their friends?” I’m fed up of getting “invitations” sent on behalf of someone I corresponded with years ago!
Trudi: Then email that person to tell them. Don’t shoot the messenger!
Sian: What about when the messenger uses their own address book?
Trudi: [fiddles with her glasses] I’m not sure what you mean.
Sian: [icily] I mean, ever since you contacted me to request appearing on the show, I’ve received emails pushing everything from dog-food to camping trips!
Judi: See, I told you she’s worse than me!
Sian: [raising a hand] I didn’t ask for your input Judi! Trudi, you may be interested to know that we have an extra-large spam folder, and it is brimming with odious offal. You could well be delving into it!
Trudi points at Judi and mouths “vote for her” as Sian turns to face the camera.
Sian: And so there you have tonight’s parade of horribles. All of them deserving of a Comeuppance, I’m sure you’ll agree, but alas our chair of chastisement seats only one. That’s where we put the matter to public vote – a kind of referendum if you will. Who’s up for a referendum?
A muted groan comes from the audience.
Sian: Oh come on, it’ll be fun! The question is simple: who shall remain clean, dry and fragrant, and who shall leave dripping with our dreggy dross? Will the numbers stack against our teaching tyrant Mrs Pascal? Or will things very get gruesome for one of our twosome – Judi the copyright cretin or Trudi the slippery spammer? The lines are open and the muck is waiting, so have your say and make them pay!
[As the scene fades out]
Trudi: Stop calling me a spammer!
Judi: Oh pipe down and accept what you are!
Trudi: Copyright troll!
Alternative poll link
Poll closes Wednesday 13th July at 10 pm. As usual, you can vote multiple times but with a gap of least 12 hours between votes.