Channel 4 has been condemned after comedian Frankie Boyle used both the terms “Nigger” and “Paki” in his comedy programme Tramadol Nights.
An episode of Tramadol Nights, which was aired this Tuesday on Channel 4, included comedian Frankie Boyle using racially offensive terms such as “Nigger” and “Paki” in his comedy sketches.
The comedy programme is already being investigated by broadcasting watchdog OFCOM after Boyle mocked model Katie Price’s disabled son, however Boyle’s so called race satire is merely one of a number of offensive race incidents to occur on television lately.
Satire or racism?
Controversial comedy and comedians has always involved sensitive cultural, political, racial and religious issues but certain groups it seems are favoured by comedians over others.
You will find it difficult to find a single British comedian who focuses on Jewish people, or use anti Semitic terms in their humour on British television but it seems black and ethnic minority groups have become regular fodder for comedians; and what is described as ‘satire’ by television bosses can be racism disguised as comedy.
In 2004 Pan African Human Rights organisation, Ligali complained to the BBC about a drama broadcasted on Radio 4 called Alison and Maude on Radio 4. Written by Dave Lamb, the character ‘Ethel’ played by June Brown, known to many as the famous ‘Dot’ in Eastenders says, “African children, Well that’s different, there’s far too many of them horrible little things in the world, we ought to strangle them at birth [to] stop them coming over here in their thousands when they grow up. [They] look like horrible little monkeys the lot of them. Little chocolate monsters, munching on bananas all day, make my flesh crawl.” (Ligali: September 1, 2004)
This was suppose to be a comedy and ‘Ethel’ says this despite describing children as “…the most precious thing in the world.” Apparently, she meant white children in the context of the drama.
When Ligali complained to the BBC, the BBC responded with this statement, “And in what “Radio Times” said about the play you mention, the unacceptable nature of Ethel’s views was made clear; she was described as “lovely but racist”, and I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t also made clear in the drama itself.”
Imagine if the BBC had wrote this about a Nazi who wanted all Jewish children strangled at birth? Would that be comedy? Have you ever seen a Nazi character described as “lovely”?
The racially offensive comedy of the late Bernard Manning and programmes like Love thy Neighbour with the famous racist character “Alf Garnett”, expressed the racist attitudes of British people through humour and today’s comedy is no different.
In February 2009 Carol Thatcher, daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was sacked from the BBC after referring to a French mixed race tennis player as a “golliwog”. She claimed it was a joke.
In October 2009 anti racist campaigners called for Anton De Beke to be sacked by the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show after he referred to his dance partner Laila Rouass as a “Paki” and a terrorist.
Du Beke was overheard by at least 15 other people referring to former Footballer Wives’ actress Laila Rouass as a “Paki” when she had put on a spray tan. De Beke claimed that his comment was said in jest and apologised for any offence caused.
There seems to be a pattern of racist comments being referred to as humour and this is simply unacceptable.
When comedy challenges inequality and racial stereotypes it brings out the best of the genre but when it is used to merely reinforce existing inequalities and racist stereotypes comedy suffers in general.
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