This Week I headed down to Blackwells bookstore, where Matt Lacey was giving a talk and signing his new book. You probably don’t know him by that name but If I interject the two infamous words of ‘Gap Yah’, you probably have a better idea. Orlando, the Jack-Wills toting, drawling-globetrotter, whose proudest gap year accomplishment has been to ‘chunder everywah’ in several different continents, has released a new book, The Gap Yah Plannah. The upstairs room at Blackwells is packed with ‘gap yah’ fans, all gaggling for a glance of this YouTube phenomenon, and Lacey does not disappoint.
Orlando appears in all his middle-class glory getting his ‘chatnav’ on. He is, however, interrupted by a phone call from the equally notorious ‘Tarquin’. Orlando apologises but he just has to talk to this ‘chundermonkey’. The name ‘Tarquin’, Matt later reveals, came about from his time as an Oxford undergraduate. “I was standing outside the Carling Academy in Cowley and there was a gaggle of teenagers and I just heard ‘OMG TARQUIN JUST VOMMED, TARQUIN JUST VOMMED’ and I saw ‘Tarquin’ chundering into the front garden of someone’s house.” Matt compares his excruciatingly pretentious character to P.G Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, “and even in Chaucer you’ve got your knight, who is the archetypal posh idiot taking some sort of fourteenth century Gap Yah”. The popularity of his video, which has been a massive online hit, evidently took him by surprise as he says “I think I’d be a bit of an idiot if I thought I’d just sit on a bucket and pretend to be in Burma and it would get four million views!”
Matt is, happily, the polar opposite of the notorious Orlando, so there is no need to bring a bucket with me in case of any unexpected chunder disasters. As we sit down after his talk, he takes off his Jack Wills jacket, laughing at the brand name so revered by his character. His own gap year took quite a different form to that of Orlando’s. “I spent quite a large portion of my gap year living in Ireland working in a Chinese restaurant run by Romanians…so I know my Kung Pao chicken from my Schezuan beef!” I am, however, somewhat gratified to learn that he did undertake one quintessential Gap Yah experience. “I did actually go to Peru,” he admits, “so there is an element of self parody in it”. ‘Gap Yah’ has single-handedly changed the way in which people view the year out between school and university, and phrases like ‘Perahh’, ‘Vomcano’ and ‘then I just chundered everywahhh’ have become part of our urban vernacular. I am intrigued to know how Matt feels about having had such an impact upon today’s culture.
“When I was at Uni, the ‘gap year bore’ was a staple character,” he explains, “so hopefully this just means that people will frame their stories differently…and be a little less boring!” At this, I quickly think back to my first week at university and say a small prayer that I didn’t go on excessively about my own ‘gap yah’ antics in Australiahh. However, whilst Orlando falls under the framework of an ‘upper class twat’, a stereotype often associated with Oxford, it’s not something Matt feels is unique to this university. “I think it’s probably a bit unfair to tar Oxbridge with that brush…there is no shortage of Orlandos at other universities.”
The power of YouTube and modern media has propelled Matt into the limelight. “A friend of mine was reading Heat magazine recently, and told me that someone had quoted me. Apparently someone got really drunk at the ‘Inside Soap’ awards and said ‘vomcano o’clock’.” He laughs. “You know you’ve hit the big time when Heat magazine is quoting you!” In addition to his rise to fame through YouTube, Matt Lacey is no amateur actor. During his time as a history undergraduate at Oriel, he says, “I did two O.U.D.S tours to Japan and the last one was Romeo and Juliet with Tom Palmer (of Renaissance man fame…YouTube it), and he was Romeo and I was Friar Laurence and Tybalt.”
In some ways Matt has become a veritable version of Justin Bieber, although with an infinitely greater capacity for self-parody and certainly a better haircut. With regards to the future of Orlando, there is still hope for more spiritual/cultural/political insights into the exploits of a drawling adolescent. “I’m keen to do some new stuff, but I think it would be a mistake to throw away a character that has been so popular,” he concludes. For now, the notorious Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull lies dormant, but you can probably rely on Orlando’s vomcanoes continuing to erupt for some time yet.