No, Twitter, @GailPorter Isn’t Like @RealMattLucas

I used to be a big fan of Shooting Stars, the comedy panel show that starred Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Matt Lucas, who would go on to greater fame with Little Britain.

In Shooting Stars, Lucas played the surreal George Dawes, and when I checked out Lucas’ profile (@realmattlucas) on Twitter I noticed his URL linked to Curiously, this is nothing but a holding page, but it reminded me of one of my favourite sketches from Shooting Stars – the baked potatoes song – and you can enjoy this bit of silliness here.

I watched the video on YouTube and then returned to Matt’s profile, read a few of his recent tweets, and then clicked on the follow button. Nowadays, when you follow a user on Twitter you get a prompt that suggests a couple of other people that you might like to follow. These users are meant to be similar to the person you’ve just hooked up with, with this likeness calculated by some fancy algorithm. Science, if you will.

I have to say: I was slightly taken aback when Twitter immediately suggested Gail Porter (@gailporter).

Let me explain. In the 1990s, Gail Porter was a family-friendly television presenter who went on to become a ‘lads mag’ favourite. In 1999, a picture that showed her naked from behind (NSFWish) was (somewhat notoriously) projected onto the Houses Of Parliament.

In 2005, Porter was diagnosed with alopecia, causing her to lose most of her hair. To her credit she refused to wear a wig, deciding instead to maintain her public profile and raise awareness for her condition, championing the Little Princess Trust. In 2010, most of her hair has grown back.

Matt Lucas also has alopecia, losing all of his hair when he was just six-years old. This connection between Lucas and Porter led to a series of bad-taste jokes about the pair, including one by Jonathan Ross (@wossy) at the 2005 British Comedy Awards.

I spent £20 on a Matt Lucas Little Britain doll.

Got home and found I’d bought Gail Porter instead.

Ross, of course, would go on to greater notoriety, but this remark was widely circulated on the internet and in the tabloid media. It’s a fairly well-known joke.

This leads me to believe that Twitter’s suggestion is far too abstract not to have been done intentionally. That is, somebody must have configured this by hand, because no ‘algorithm’ is programmed with a sense of humour. And, it has to be said, a bit of a mean streak.

Yes, it is true that Porter has tried her hand at stand-up comedy and there is the slightest of chances that Twitter takes a really, really basic approach to these ‘you might also like’ suggestions, but I’m not buying it. I think this was done on purpose.

And if true, it’s a bit of an eye-opener. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it’s actually funny.