For once, Frankie Boyle can be safe in the knowledge that he hasn’t caused a media storm with another “controversial” joke. The Daily Mail (the U.K.’s premier fear-mongering broadsheet newspaper) has today published an article about Jimmy Carr (Presenter of 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O’Clock Live), proclaiming he left an audience of 1,000 people “aghast” when he cracked a joke about Sunshine Variety coaches:
“Why are they called Sunshine Variety coaches when all the kids on them look the fucking same?”
This is just the latest in a string of incidents over the past few years, which has seen the British media lash out at funny men and women over any joke that pokes fun at anyone.
This all begs two questions: Are they any taboos left in comedy? And, if so, who is deciding what is taboo and what isn’t?
Frankie Boyle (Formerly of BBC’s Mock the Week and Channel 4′s Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights) is possibly the biggest comedic offender of the 21st century, if column inches are anything to go by. Not just because his Channel 4 show was god-awful, but because one of his jokes within it caused a sensational amount of offence. The target – Katie “Jordan” Price’s son Harvey:
“I have a theory that Jordan married a cagefighter because she needed someone strong enough to stop Harvey from fucking her…”
This one-liner drew around 500 complaints for Channel 4, who refused to apologise on-air.
Is making jokes about disabled children the line that none of us must cross? Or is there no subject that you can’t make a joke out of?
In a recent interview on Absolute Radio, Jimmy Carr stated:
“You go, well you can’t joke about race. Well if you’re from a different race and that’s your experience of the world and you want to talk about that, then fine. Or you can’t talk about disability, but disabled comics can talk about that. Well okay that’s … I think anyone can talk about anything, anything’s kind of up for grabs.”
With regards to disability, perhaps the most absurd outrage came in the form of complaints made in the light of Little Britain’s Lou and Andy sketches. People said that the sketches made fun of the disabled and would lead to disablism amongst the more gullible viewers that watched it (gullible is my word, used in jest. I don’t indulge in gulliblism…often).
The complainers obviously missed the joke here. The joke being that Andy Pipkin wasn’t actually disabled – quite the opposite. He was just a lazy bastard that had a carer waiting on him, hand and foot.
As I write this, more questions appear: Do we sometimes feel offended FOR a group of people, rather than we ourselves offended?
I think that ‘taboo’ is relative to the individual. Each human being has a different set of rules that they live by and what is defined as offensive will change from person to person. The media will try their damnedest to suggest to each individual what they should find funny and what they should find offensive, but anyone who is remotely level-headed will – ultimately – come to their own conclusions. (See the Brand and Ross “Sachsgate” debacle for a masterclass in how to cause uproar without actually finding out what the joke was in the first place).
The simple fact of the matter is this: if you don’t like something, don’t go thoroughly out of your way to bombard people into not liking it either – complain if you must, but don’t tell everyone else what it is that should be found funny.
“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”
- George Bernard Shaw