MacPhisto and beyond

Can't get enough of that devilish humour? Welcome to my world!
Here I've compiled a varied list of books, films, TV shows, music and poetry that I enjoy because they remind me of MacPhisto in some way. If you happen to share my taste, you just might appreciate some of these as well. Why not check them out?

"Stay" by Shakespears Sister

Siobhan Fahey This amazing power ballad was a UK chart-topper in 1992 (staying at #1 for an impressive eight weeks), and came with a fabulous and highly memorable promo video. In it, the song's main vocalist Marcella Detroit is seen tending to her lover who appears to be in a coma, and pleading with him not to leave this world without her. At the bridge, the song and video take a dramatic turn, with Siobhan Fahey appearing as an Angel of Death who has come to claim the dying man. The two women fight over him as the song reaches its emotional climax, with love eventually conquering death – the man wakes up and is embraced by Marcella, while Siobhan rolls her eyes before ascending the staircase alone.

If you love Mr MacPhisto, you're bound to get a kick out of Siobhan Fahey's performance in this video – her Angel of Death is very much like a female version of MacPhisto. Not only is there a visual resemblance, with her sparkly catsuit, gothic makeup and creepy facial expressions, but she even moves like him – tottering around unsteadily and flinging her arms in the air, ensuring that she steals the show. It's been revealed that Siobhan was drunk as a skunk by the time she filmed her scenes, hence the crazy posturing and difficulty in keeping her balance!

You can watch the classic video on YouTube here.

"I, Lucifer" by Glen Duncan

I, Lucifer "Finally, the other side of the story."

Published by Scribner in 2002. Apart from U2 At The End Of The World, this has to be my favourite book ever, and it's absolutely essential reading for anyone who's a fan of witty, charismatic devils. In the book, Lucifer has received a surprising offer from the old man upstairs – a chance to return home, if he can manage to get through a lifetime on earth without mortal sin. Of course, Lucifer has no intention of accepting this deal; but he's certainly keen to take advantage of the month-long "try before you buy" period. He's given the body of a failed writer named Declan Gunn who was on the verge of suicide, and proceeds to test that body's limits by indulging in all the pleasures that flesh has to offer. He also sees a valuable opportunity to give the world his own version of events, from Creation through to the present day, and before long he's hard at work on the highly anticipated movie script – though he finds himself increasingly distracted by the side project of writing this, his autobiography.

I really can't praise this book enough. It's both cleverly insightful and laugh-out-loud hilarious, putting a huge grin on my face with virtually every page, and it will certainly remind you of MacPhisto's speeches at times. If you're as big a fan as I am, I promise this will be right up your street... just about everything you wanted to know about the Devil (his motives, his secrets, his insecurities) can be found within its pages. Comments from reviewers include:

"Lucifer is charming and sexy and very very funny. Glen Duncan knows way too much and says it far too well. I fear for his soul."

"The devil gets all the best tunes and on the strength of this fiendishly funny, wickedly eloquent little number, it would seem he gets all the best books as well."

I couldn't agree more! You can read an excerpt from the novel on Google Books.

I, Lucifer "I, Lucifer" by (The Real) Tuesday Weld

This 2002 album released on Dreamy Records is the "soundtrack" to Glen Duncan's book. (The Real) Tuesday Weld is the band of Stephen Coates, a good friend of Glen's, and they decided to merge their respective projects as they were sharing a flat in Clerkenwell at the time. This YouTube video features both Stephen and Glen talking about the origins of I, Lucifer.

Track listing:
1. It's A Dirty Job But Somebody's Got To Do It
2. Bathtime In Clerkenwell
3. The Ugly And The Beautiful
4. Someday (Soon)
5. Coming Back Down To Earth
6. One More Chance
7. La Bête Et La Belle
8. The Root Of All Evil
9. The Eternal Seduction Of Eve
10. Heaven Can't Wait
11. The Show Must Go On
12. Someday (Never)
[Hidden Track] The Pearly Gates

The sleeve notes introduce the album as follows:

"When love is sacred, betrayal is profane, desertion is demonic, forgiveness divine. But in the fallout from the oldest lovers' tiff of all time, on whom, exactly, does the burden of forgiveness lie? What's heartbreak for the heartless? Hope for the hopeless? Romantic redemption for the defiantly damned?
With guests omnisciently orchestrated by (The Real) Tuesday Weld, this soundtrack to Glen Duncan's novel,
I, Lucifer, offers a celestial mix of styles to chart the rights and wrongs of the Original Break-up, from heaven's lounge to earth's scurrilous samples, to torch songs straight from hell. The result is a musical sacrament for every saint and sinner in the Church of Romance..."

The tracks It's A Dirty Job But Somebody's Got To Do It and The Root Of All Evil feature direct quotations from the book (the latter is a deliciously brooding reflection on "the beauty of money"), whilst others merely hint at the underlying story and stand up equally well as love songs in their own right. There's an eclectic mix of styles here, from the zany Bathtime In Clerkenwell to the romantic The Eternal Seduction Of Eve and the poignant, other-worldly The Pearly Gates. Other highlights include gentle ballad The Ugly And The Beautiful, the desolate Someday ("there's no way you're coming home") and the wonderfully catchy The Show Must Go On. A lot of the music is based around samples of old-fashioned, pre-war recordings, giving it a haunting and nostalgic quality that dear old Mr MacPhisto would probably appreciate! Well worth checking out. You can listen to samples of every track on the Antique Beat website.

"God, The Devil And Bob"

Lucifer Forget The Simpsons or South Park – this is my favourite cartoon series! Originally broadcast in 2000, it's a witty feelgood comedy in which God is thinking about destroying the world and starting again from scratch, but decides to give humanity one last chance to prove itself. He allows the Devil to choose one person, and if that person turns out to be worth saving, then he'll spare the whole world from destruction. Naturally the Devil picks the most unlikely candidate he can find – a seemingly hopeless case named Bob Allman (voiced by French Stewart, best known for playing Harry Solomon in 3rd Rock From The Sun). He's deeply flawed and the Devil does his best to lead him astray, but ultimately he's a good-hearted family man who always does the right thing in the end.

The charming Lucifer is by far the best character in the show – a very cool and sophisticated devil, sensitive and misunderstood, voiced by Alan Cumming with an English accent. (Is there something familiar about all this...?) He and God are on pretty friendly terms these days, even though God is quite mean to him sometimes and doesn't remember his birthday. Lucifer also has a hapless henchman called Smeck.

Alas, certain religious groups raised objections to the programme, and it was cancelled after just one series (in fact only the first four episodes were broadcast in the USA, although it's been shown in full several times in the UK and elsewhere). Quite how this gentle series – with its likeable characters and positive message – was deemed more blasphemous than the likes of South Park, I'll never understand. It's sad that they won't be making any more, as it was a very funny and clever show that's definitely worth watching if you get the chance. All 13 episodes are available on Region 1 DVD and can be viewed on YouTube. You can also see a few of Lucifer's highlights in this compilation!

"Sympathy For The Devil" by The Rolling Stones

Sympathy For The Devil This excellent song was the opening track on the 1968 album Beggars Banquet, and sees Mick Jagger in character as Lucifer himself. His devil has much in common with Mr MacPhisto, describing himself as "a man of wealth and taste" and advising his listeners to treat him with courtesy and sympathy: "Use all your well-learned politesse, or I'll lay your soul to waste". Indeed, MacPhisto has been known to sing the song's famous opening line ("Please allow me to introduce myself...") during the bridge of 'Desire', and parodied the lyrics in some of his speeches on the EI Tour. Bono also sings the chorus ("Pleased to meet you – hope you guess my name") during 'Bad' in the Rattle & Hum movie. Like MacPhisto, Jagger's Lucifer possesses an impressive falsetto which he shows off toward the end of the song.

Any self-respecting music fan should familiarise themself with this track, especially those with a taste for all things satanic. :)  Apart from anything else, it's great fun to sing along with. More information about the song can be found here, and you can listen in full here.

"No One Believes In Me Anymore (Satan's Boast)" by Keith Green

Speaking of songs that are perfect for MacPhisto... if you've never heard it before, have a listen to this track by the late Christian singer-songwriter Keith Green, from his 1977 debut album For Him Who Has Ears To Hear. It's another catchy tune written from Satan's perspective, and the lyrics bear a strong similarity to MacPhisto's 2018 speeches. Just as our favourite "busy little devil" thanks the audience for making things "so much easier for me these days", Green's song opens with the line "Oh, my job keeps getting easier / As time keeps slippin' away", and concludes "You know, it's getting very simple now / Since no-one believes in me anymore". Other lyrics include:

I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no-one's watching for my tricks
Since no-one believes in me anymore

As MacPhisto puts it: "When you don't believe I exist, that's when I do my best work."

"Have You...?" by Emma

Probably my favourite poem ever, based on the Joker's line "Ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?" from the original Batman film. You can read it here on the Ravenscar website. It just might set your heart aflutter...

"The Devil and Billy Markham" by Shel Silverstein

This epic poem is not for the easily offended – it's rude, crude, and utterly hilarious. Made up of six individual chapters, it tells the story of cocky gamblin' man Billy Markham and his ongoing battle of wits with the Devil. It's a brilliant read if you don't mind the colourful language, and years after I first read it, several lines still make me laugh whenever I remember them. An archived version of the complete poem can be found here (continued in Part 2) – be sure to read the whole thing, as the ending was always my favourite bit!

"The Devil and Daniel Webster"

Mr Scratch Enjoyable 1941 film based on the short story by Stephen Vincent Benét, about a struggling New Hampshire farmer who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven years of prosperity, then persuades the famed orator Daniel Webster to help him find a way out of the bargain.

The Devil, known locally as Mr Scratch, is played by Walter Huston (the grandfather of Anjelica Huston) who deservedly earned an Oscar nomination for his wonderful performance. Scratch is one of the coolest movie devils I've ever seen, full of gleeful mischief and totally gracious in defeat – his final scene had me giggling like an idiot!

"The Devil and David Webster" by Chris R. Lunt

A very funny story I stumbled across years ago, in which the Devil challenges a top computer programmer to the toughest coding contest of his life. If David Webster wins, he gets a futuristic new computer and The Box of Eternal Donuts; if the Devil wins, he gets David's soul. The geekier you are, the more you'll probably appreciate this one! You can read it here.

"Paradise Lost" by John Milton

This famous epic poem describes the war in Heaven that culminated in the rebel angels' expulsion, and their subsequent revenge with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. If a dozen chapters of 17th century verse don't feel too much like hard work, you may enjoy Milton's sympathetic portayal of Satan as a charismatic, likeable and relatable protagonist. His anguished speech to the Sun in Book 4 is somewhat reminiscent of MacPhisto's speech at the end of the Zooropa Tour, as Satan remembers his former glory and regrets falling out with his creator, wondering if there's any chance of reconcilement – perhaps it was a source of inspiration in 1993? Though his original radiance is diminished, with Gabriel observing his "regal port but faded splendour wan", he remains "star-bright" just like our tired old pop star in platform shoes. (Milton also notes that the devils are amazing singers, whose harmony "suspended Hell, and took with ravishment the thronging audience".) We meet various other members of his infernal crew, who seem to share MacPhisto's sense of humour, pausing in the middle of battle to stand around cracking terrible puns! Aside from some pacing issues, the book is enthralling and surprisingly funny in places. Its much shorter sequel, Paradise Regained, is largely a two-hander focusing on Satan's temptation of Christ in the desert, with some very entertaining sarcastic banter! Should you wish to read them online, they are both available for free on Wikisource.

Another account of the war in Heaven can be found in Anatole France's 1914 novel The Revolt Of The Angels, in which a motley crew of rebellious angels living in Paris plan a new uprising in the early 20th century, hoping that Satan will lead them to victory this time. The book gets off to a rather slow start but it's worth sticking with it for some thought-provoking messages and lots of great comedy. (Why has no-one made a film version yet?!) The angels choosing to live as humans reminded me of Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire and Faraway, So Close! so it may appeal to fans of those films. A free online copy can be read at Project Gutenberg.

"Meet Mr Lucifer"

Mr Lucifer Satirical comedy film, released in 1953 when the coronation of Elizabeth II had sparked a boom in television ownership. With this new entertainment medium causing a decline in theatre and cinema audiences, the film attempts to paint television as an "instrument of the Devil", pointing out the potential dangers of its addictive qualities. When an actor in a struggling pantomime is knocked unconscious, he finds himself in a hellish dreamscape where Mr Lucifer has a job for him: use his latest ingenious device to make a few more people miserable, which might also drive them back to the theatre. Thus with Satan's little helper nudging things in the right direction, a television set is passed from one household to another, causing trouble wherever it goes – the financial difficulties of entertaining half the neighbourhood, emotional dependence on a favourite programme, and even marital strife. It's not a film I loved (and be warned it briefly features an offensive racial caricature), but the title character is a delight, played with relish by Stanley Holloway and voiced by Geoffrey Keen. Though Lucifer has relatively limited screen time he is easily the highlight, and one has to smile at the Devil encouraging people to Watch More TV and taking the credit for inventing the telephone! The film is available to watch at the Internet Archive.

"The Devil and Pierre Gernet" by David Bentley Hart

The Devil And Pierre Gernet Ahh, who doesn't dream of hanging out with an eloquent devilish raconteur? The lucky narrator of this 2005 novella (published by Eerdmans in 2012) gets to do just that, being regularly invited to his friend's fancy club for drinks and stimulating conversation. While less decadent than some literary devils, he is stylish and dignified, and at times a little sinister. I would love to read more books like this! The collection also includes four short stories: The House Of Apollo, A Voice From The Emerald World, The Ivory Gate and The Other. Hart is perhaps best known to U2 fans for his quote "Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience" which was spoken by MacPhisto (or one of his associates) in the EI Tour intermission video.

The author admits to a bit of subconscious inspiration from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, in which Book 11 Chapter 9 ('The Devil. Ivan's Nightmare') sees the feverish Ivan Fyodorovich hallucinate that he is visited by the Devil in the form of a somewhat old-fashioned gentleman. Among other things, the visitor describes what he likes about Earth and his dream of an incarnate life (reminiscent of the film Faraway, So Close!), and comically explains how the Devil can catch a cold but can't get a letter printed in the papers. They also repeatedly discuss whether he really exists or is merely a personification of Ivan's worst thoughts and feelings.

"The Devil" sketch by Rowan Atkinson

Toby the Devil Probably best known for the sitcoms Blackadder and Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson has also played various characters in live comedy shows. His hilarious sketch 'The Devil' (also known as 'Welcome to Hell' or 'A Warm Welcome') should delight MacPhisto fans everywhere, as his devil Toby has a very similar voice and mannerisms, and even a few overlapping jokes - I can certainly picture them as drinking buddies! The sketch has appeared in slightly different forms over the years: you can listen to an audio recording from his 1980 album Live In Belfast, watch a 1987 performance at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, hear a different audio version from the compilation album Just For Laughs: The Archives Volume 1, watch a 1991 performance in Boston featured on the DVD Rowan Atkinson Live, and see the sketch revived at We Are Most Amused And Amazed, a 2018 comedy and magic show at the London Palladium celebrating the 70th birthday of Prince Charles and raising money for his charity The Prince's Trust.

Care to recommend anything else from the worlds of literature, music or movies? Send me an email!

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