On air: Is it funny to be offensive?

The BBC has received more than 1500 complaints after two of it’s top paid radio presenters, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, left prank phone messages on the ansaphone of a guest who was meant to be on the show. They called veteran actor Andrew Sachs and claimed that Brand had slept with his granddaughter. The presenters also joked that the actor might kill himself as a result. Both have since apologised.

But is that enough? Did they step over the mark, or is comedy about challenging what is considered acceptable?

Of course Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand aren’t the only people to be accused of causing offence through comedy. Just a couple of other examples, Billy Connolly, Sarah Silverman, or should this be the answer? Bernard Righton

Is causing offence through comedy nothing more than bullying? Or does it depend on who tells a joke? Is there a difference between telling a joke on a mainstream TV programme and at a gig? Or is this lazy comedy, where self serving publicists forget the responsibility that comes with fame?

Amongst the guests on today’s show will be Ivor Dembina, a London based Jewish comic, who has tackled thorny issues such as the Arab Israeli conflict.

134 Responses to “On air: Is it funny to be offensive?”

  1. 1 parth guragain,Nepal
    October 28, 2008 at 14:44

    here in Nepal comedian generally don’t make bad sexual comment .but comedian make offensive comment.but we should ignore these things .but good comedy is that which makes fun of oneself.

  2. 2 parth guragain,Nepal
    October 28, 2008 at 14:49

    here in Nepal comedian generally don’t dare to make bad sexual,racial comedy.but what i think is best comedy is that which makes fun of oneself.

  3. 3 Steve
    October 28, 2008 at 14:52

    I think it’s time that we humans, start showing how we have a backbone, and show those jellyfish out there that we can take an insult without getting offended. If you think you’re going to get through life without feeling “offense”, then you are a fool. So, show those animals that lack a backbone the backbone you’re supposed to have.

  4. October 28, 2008 at 14:57

    Hi WHYS!

    Wow, Chloe! Now I am not even sure what my response is to the question, after reading the blurb! Apparently, it is okay to play a joke on someone, like those guys do on Scare Tactics on Sci Fi (US station), where the host Tracy Morgan claims: ‘scare is funny!’ However, there comes a point at which such forms pranks can have very deadly effects, especially when there are very sensitive issues at work. Not everyone will find them funny. Some ‘pranksters’/ ‘jokers’, also use their ‘humour’ to offend! No doubt about that! So, where is the middle ground? Not sure, I am just always uncomfortable with people who poke fun at someone else in a manner that does not reflect sensitivity! How do you be sensitive and funny? Well, that is the rub!

  5. October 28, 2008 at 14:59

    Comedy is all about pushing the envelope between what is acceptable and what is not. Take a look at George Carlin and his performance challenging the media about what would and would not be aired, he began to push against the censorship problem in comedy and has since been followed by nearly every other mainstream American comedian who has become a household name.
    Have a look at Comedy Central, the majority of programmes they put on will be found offensive by some, that doesn’t detract from the fact that they host some of the funniest shows on television.
    Heck, I’ve even seen people get offended by Family Guy….
    As Steve has noted, some people are just too sensitive.

  6. 6 Roy, Washington DC
    October 28, 2008 at 14:59

    You can’t please everyone. If comedians made a point of not offending anyone, their routines would all be bland and unfunny. That said, there is a difference between what is appropriate and what isn’t. Calling a would-be guest and telling them you slept with their granddaughter, for instance, isn’t funny…it’s just inappropriate.

  7. 7 1430a
    October 28, 2008 at 15:04

    Hello Everyone,
    Well its not a big deal making fun of celebrities.But usually making offensive comments about political leaders in any way can affect the outcome.Hence,I do believe there is a difference between gigs and a mainstream Television comment.We don’t mind the people from Last comic standing making fun of Obama,but making similar comments on the Comedy Central is not acceptable.The late Edition is broad casted in the CNN and thousands of viewers watch it everyday.Hence making offensive comments certainly affects the outcome here.
    Thank you

  8. October 28, 2008 at 15:05

    Furthermore, in relation to Steve’s point above, I am not sure whether being offended can, necessarilly, be equated to having or not having a backbone. There is a difference between being sensitive in the sense in which someone (usually the ‘joker’) else feels that it is excessive, finding the humour in certain situations and having a backbone; that is, if having a backbone means being made of sterner stuff so as to withstand the merciless, insensitive ‘humour’ of others.

  9. October 28, 2008 at 15:07

    Name me a popular comedian that isn’t offensive. Here is a list. Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, and the list could go on. These are people who have made it to some national and international recognition. They made their career out of being offensive.

    The funniest humor comes from taking a fact that is true and making a caricature of it. Poking fun at our weakness is one way that we learn to strengthen and address them.

    For example, a bomb on the head of Mohammed is the reality of how much of the world sees Muslims. Threatening to cut off the heads of the people who drew it or laugh at it only persist to strengthen that image. Laughing at it shows that you too find it unacceptable.

  10. 10 Julie P
    October 28, 2008 at 15:09

    Andrew Dice Clay was a comedian who pushed the envelope. His comedy targeted everyone and any group, including people paraplegics. He definitely offended a lot of people. I saw one comedy show of his and never watched or listened to him again. In the end, he had a short career. The audience is going to determine what funny and what is acceptable. They will either have a short or long career, or develop a niche following.

  11. October 28, 2008 at 15:09

    @ Roy in Washington,

    Agreed! There is a feeling, I think, that we can offend or say what we like under the guise of ‘comedy’. It cannot be that because we are aiming to push the boundaries that anything and everything becomes fair game, at least in my book. As you noted, I am not even sure why if either of these gentlemen had slept with the guest’s granddaughter why he would need to hear that from them. Good taste is such a rarity these days!

  12. October 28, 2008 at 15:11

    It depends on who says it and in what context. If I as a black called me a crazy N word in a joking way and he is black, I might let it slide. But imagine if Don Imus remember him, the rogue shock jock calling me the N word. Like hell I could have a go after him. That said jokes especially sexual in nature can go either way and the best way to avoid offence or being offended is not ot make them.james kenyan

  13. 13 Kelsie in Houston
    October 28, 2008 at 15:11

    Individuals are ultimately in control of what they choose to consume—what is or is not offensive is in the eye of the beholder, and people (should) reach a point at which they’re mature enough to either laugh and move on, or avoid humor deemed “offensive” in their own views.

  14. 14 Bob in Queensland
    October 28, 2008 at 15:12

    Good topic, Chloe…though I’m not sure if the Bernard that Mr. Righton is taking off is all that well known outside the UK!

    If you analyse it, virtually all humour involves cruelty to an individual or group. To ban everything offensive would be to ban humour.

    “How many radio presenters does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one…but with a room full of researchers and scriptwriters providing backup and typed instructions.”

    See? Cruel to presenters!

  15. October 28, 2008 at 15:21

    Unless I’ve missed it, no one has mentioned Borat – and that character, and the movie, were all about offensive behavior. Personally, I find SBC completely droll and lacking in humor, and I found the Borat character, and the movie especially, just painful, stupid, and, ultimately, boring and boorish.

  16. October 28, 2008 at 15:24

    @ Bob in Queensland,

    I am not so sure that the comment about the presenters whould, necessarilly, be classified as ‘cruel’. I would say funny – mildly, even. Cruelty is to cause harm, often intentionally, to achieve devious ends. If humour is intended to cause harm as well as to hurt, then, I am not so sure I will agree with your premise. In fact, I think the best humour I have heard on TV is that which pokes fun at the self – mand and woman relationships, etc., in which the woman, or the man gives a list of instructions on what to do when engaged with the opposite sex, by telling us of their own moments of insight. The other stuff, it all depends on who is doing the poking (LOL!) and in what context!

  17. 17 gary
    October 28, 2008 at 15:30

    Humor is certainly subjective; but defaming a loved one and then suggesting suicide as a remedy for a person’s diminished regard for their loved one isn’t humor. These acts are criminal. Outside of the current context, no ordinary, reasonable person would consider them otherwise. Further, crime is unacceptable in any context. Messrs. Brand and Ross should be dismissed, and prosecuted.

  18. 18 Jon Kiparsky
    October 28, 2008 at 15:35

    All humor is cruel? What about “what’s brown and sticky?” “A stick!” Or listen to Stephen Wright – who does he offend? Heinlein’s analysis (as presented by Bob above) is simply lazy.

    Humor (to simplify) relies on setting up an expectation and meeting it in a surprising way. Offense is often surprising, and thus produces a humor-like response. Some comedians, like Bruce, Carlin, Pryor, etc., are able to produce actual humor which is at times also offensive (Pryor’s Noah routine probably offended a lot of Christians, but it was also genuinely funny), but that is a very different thing from someone like Clay, who occasionally shows a talent for humor, but relies primarily on getting a rise out of his audience.
    So: is it funny to be offensive? No, but people will laugh. Can something be both funny and offensive? Absolutely. Is there any “mark” to step over? (ie, should giving offense be banned or censored or censured in some fashion? No. Full stop.
    -Jon in Somerville, MA

  19. 19 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 15:39

    I don’t see anything wrong with people pushing the envelope with being funny. What one person finds funny another person will not; so it’s not possible for something to be funny to everyone all the time.

    One example was the link I posted yesterday which I found funny; not because it was Michelle Obama, connected to the upcoming election, or fact but because it was very much what politicians do. I found it funny because of what it represented to me whereas some other people did not find it funny because they attached it to some political agenda.

    I think it’s important that people realize that just because someone else chooses to laugh about something you wouldn’t isn’t changing your beliefs. Especially if you have delicate sensibilities, you will more than likely be offended at some time especially nowdays. It’s in a person’s best interest to realize that people can laugh about things you wouldn’t….it doesn’t make or break you or your beliefs. Just don’t look/listen.

  20. October 28, 2008 at 15:42

    @ Gary!

    Hear-hear! (or is that, here-here?)!

  21. October 28, 2008 at 15:44

    there is a phrase in our state kerala of making fun of others.”arantemmakku brandanannannu parayan elavarkum santhoshama”..means other persons take the first oppurtunity to say others mother is insane.
    the comments made by the presenters for sure comes under this calling others mother insane?

  22. 22 DENNIS@OCC
    October 28, 2008 at 15:45


    NO, It is funny to enjoy yourself and offend the others! But offensive behaviour continues to happend..


  23. 23 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 15:56

    Offensive humor is THE BEST HUMOR!!! I think because most people are trying not to be offensive, when someone is it’s kinda like “OH MY GOSH!! I Can’t believe they said that!!!”. But being offensive is like eating lobster, sure its INCREDIBLE once in a while, but every day it loses it’s luster.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    p.s. The “Aristocrat Joke” is AWESOME, but you can only hear it so many times.

  24. 24 Asiya
    October 28, 2008 at 16:00

    I don’t see what is so funny about offending people. If you can’t distinguish between humor and insults then you might as well keep your mouth shut. And why do people have to be coarse in order to be regarded as entertaining? There is either something wrong with these punks or with the people that laugh at such garbage.

    Apologizing was not enough, they should have been suspended.

  25. 25 selena in Canada
    October 28, 2008 at 16:03

    They called veteran actor Andrew Sachs and claimed that Brand had slept with his granddaughter. The presenters also joked that the actor might kill himself as a result.

    There is humor and offense and then there is stark raving madness. This is not humor and it is not simple offensiveness. One has got to wonder what darkness lies in the hearts of (hu)men.

    As an aside, it is amusing to see the very people who are personally offended at everything they imagine is directed at them tell us to lighten up.

    Oh me nerves! 🙂

  26. October 28, 2008 at 16:09

    @ Selena in Canada!

    Excellent post! Excellent! I love this discussion!…Thanks, again, Chloe!

  27. October 28, 2008 at 16:11

    @ Asiya,

    Agreed! I thought so too! LOL! Good!

  28. 28 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 16:18

    @ Christopher

    Re: Borat

    That movie had me closing my eyes and plugging my ears! haha I did laugh a few times though. It was much too much for me in some ways! I have a Borat/Obama magnet on my fridge! 😀

  29. 29 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 16:20

    @ Asiya

    Oh, so people that laugh at things like that are punks??? That very offending, and I’d like an apology!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    p.s. Oh ya, the Ali G show was the funniest show ever!

  30. 30 steve
    October 28, 2008 at 16:26

    “offense” is so subjective, and some people are so thin skinned, or some people are on a mission to get offended, that all speech would have to be banned if we’re not going to offend anyone.

    An example is this “I’m glad Israel exists”. This statement by me would likely offend most of the muslim world. But they’re just going to have to deal with it. Show backbone.

  31. 31 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 16:44

    @ steve

    Yes, exactly. It’s funny because blacks (in the U.S.) get ofended when I say “blacks”, but I get offended because they say they are “African Americans”, and I’m thinking, how dare they put Africa before America, plus they are better off here than in Africa, ingrates.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  32. 32 Jessica in NYC
    October 28, 2008 at 16:47

    Let’s face it, for the 1500 people who complained 3000 people found it funny. If enough people stop listening to whatever they find offensive it will have an impact, but the majority are not willing to boycott anything that is inconvenient. Remember all comedians, radio personalities, celebrities are as successful as we allow them to be.

    Mainstream media is regulated and must abide by a set standard. If the public has a problem with it take it up with the politicians who regulate the industry and with the sponsors who finances the program. Most won’t do it, because it’s more fun to [—] than do something about it.

  33. 33 Ogola B
    October 28, 2008 at 16:48

    When the “fool “apologises(comedian), he really means it. He and she uses words such as ” Am really sorry , please forgive me for my mistake. But when does a comedian apologise? as his or her role is to intertain the audiance. However when the aggrevied party or their agents assent to the apology, then the comedian is done. I have never heard of a comedian being accused of slander or being sluggish anyway?As known to me,a comedy is a show based on public demand especially for a radio show,Television amd what so ever!
    meanwhile there is a hell of comedy in india as they celebrate their dewali frestival. Fire cracker’s flying over the air with each and every “category”of sound as if in a war zone and perhaps as if there is No tomorrow! what a hell the comedy?

  34. 34 Rashid Patch
    October 28, 2008 at 16:48

    – Is it funny to be offensive? No, there is nothing about being offensive that is inherently funny.

    – Is it necessary to be offensive in order to be funny? No, not at all.

    – it is boring to be inoffensive? No – why should it be?

    So why the question?

    It seems the real question is, is it permissible or acceptable to be offensive in an attempt to be humorous? Well, it seems to be sometimes acceptable; however, those who assert an inherent right to offend are often – and sometimes violently – surprised by the results of their attempts at humor. Those who assert the right to be offensive, should also recognize that if there is such a right, then an entirely proper response to, “Don’t be so thin-skinned” would be, “Shut the f*ck up!”. Being offensive and expecting reasonableness in response is over-optimistic, at best.

  35. 35 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 16:55

    @ Anthony

    “Offensive humor is THE BEST HUMOR!!!” haha

    That’s true but what offends one person may not offend someone else.

    Steve makes a good suggestion about having a backbone! 🙂

  36. 36 ZK
    October 28, 2008 at 17:04

    It certainly was bad enough for OFCOM to get involved…

    Russell Brand has just gone too far this time. Not the first time, he also messed with the law recently when he prank called the police to report a fake crime. He should be thrown in jail, that’s what.

  37. 37 Jessica in NYC
    October 28, 2008 at 17:06

    @ Kelsie and Brett

    Exactly! “Offense” is extremely subjective and the thrush hold varies around the world, since comedy exist to “push the envelope” and mock reality. As an advocate of free speech, I would not place restrict a comedy routine, because it offends some.

    The ones who enjoy it, laugh. The ones who don’t, turn off the radio, change the channel and don’t read it.

  38. 38 steve
    October 28, 2008 at 17:11

    This isn’t Russell Brand’s first controversey. I recall him hosting the MTV video awards, telling Americans who to vote for. That’s not “offensive” but he had no business doing that. Actually, the stuff I find most “offensive” to me, I find the funniest. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live life without a sense of humor. Laughter is good for you. Learn to laugh at yourselves for once. You might prevent a heart attack.

  39. 39 Muhammad Asim Munir
    October 28, 2008 at 17:18

    Offensive jokes are never good. However, their use depends totally on “situations plus environment”. In a public show where your viewers could even be children, religious people and serious old people who could affect in either way, it’s not good. In some limited gathering or party such jokes may work for fun. If BBC presenters apologized then they accepted their joke as their “wrong doing”. Should we debate to prove it not a wrong doing?

  40. 40 John in Salem
    October 28, 2008 at 17:23

    If simply being offensive were funny I would have been laughing for the last 8 years.

  41. 41 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 17:25

    Remember Michael Richards (aka Kramer from Seinfield). At first I thought it was a joke, but then I wasn’t sure. I’m still unsure if he was seriously being racist, or just messing with those guys.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  42. 42 Robert
    October 28, 2008 at 17:42

    You can’t set a concrete rule but you must think of your relationship to the ‘victim’. as offensive for humour involving strangers is very dangerous. If you know the person very well and how they will take it then its fine, I used to work with a colleague for whom half our dialogue was one form of abuse aimed at each other (always with a smile in both directions though).

    If you don’t know them then you can cause unnecessary harm and it is completely irresponsible. If somebody phoned up a stranger and made those comments about a grand kid like Brand did, then it is quite possible they could be arrested for making obscene phone calls. To the victim it makes no difference if its real or not. If the humour involves complete strangers who has not knowingly volunteered to the comedian then they should stop and think first.

  43. 43 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 17:59

    Re: Russell Brand

    I remember him hosting the MTV awards. In my opinion, I don’t think he’s very funny but it was funny that he was trying to sway voters considering he is not American! I think he also stuck his foot in it regarding the Jonas Brothers purity rings. Together with Jordan Sparks comment about that. I thought he was funny….I don’t know if I was laughing more at him or with him. Either way I laughed! I am not so sure he should be prank calling the police though….. that interferes with people who have true emergencies.

    Re: “In a public show where your viewers could even be children, religious people and serious old people who could affect in either way, it’s not good.”

    I do think there should be some discretion used when children are around….little eyes and ears are ready to mimic and do what they see/hear. So, don’t take your child to see something that would not be appropriate for them. As for religious people, I’d be offended but I’d just move on to something else, as for old people, my grandma gets offended by things sometimes that are not even offensive….because when she was such and such age “things weren’t that way”!

  44. October 28, 2008 at 18:01

    Comedy becomes tragedy when it is overkilled.
    It is unfortunate that some of the reputed BBC hosts were involved in, what is called “Abusive” comedy.
    It has resulted in a tragedy of sorts.
    They had to apoloize (although the damage done to BBC and to well-intended comedy is irreversible) and if need comes they may also have to pay both legally and money wise for their deed.

  45. 45 John in Salem
    October 28, 2008 at 18:06

    Seriously(?!?), being offensive can be funny but it’s cheap and gets old fast. Even the best comedians lose my interest when they start falling back on “potty humor” to get a laugh.

  46. October 28, 2008 at 18:10

    You want funny? Roy “Chubby” Brown is one of the funniest people alive, there is no envelope big enough for him to push.

    Al Murray – has you falling about on the floor!

    Comedy is something that makes us look at our own prejudices – and we all have them no matter what or who we are. A good comedian can not only make you look at them but break the barrier that you have.

    This post could well be an essay about how British comedy has shaped British society – from the “Carry on…” films to Billy Connelly. Each broke barriers and each made people cry laughing. All I can say is those 1500 complainers need to get a life!

  47. 47 Jessica in NYC
    October 28, 2008 at 18:16

    @ Will Rhodes

    LOL I agree. There are many comedians and radio personalities here who cannot find an envelope big enough to push.

    Jon Steward was not always so “beloved” by politicians until his popularity grew. Now, there isn’t anyone who would turn down an invitation to the Daily Show.

  48. 48 Katharina in Ghent
    October 28, 2008 at 18:17

    Generally speaking, there’s a difference as wide as the ocean about whether a comedian makes an offensive joke on stage or whether – as in this case – somebody calls you and leaves silly or nasty messages on your phone. To me, the two BBC presenters totally crossed the line. If you go to a show, then you can be sure that there will be plenty of men/women/children/black/white/ethnic group/whatever else jokes, and you may feel offended but, basically, you paid for it. If someone called me and pulled a prank on me over the phone, that would hit much closer to home. Adults should be smarter than that.

  49. 49 John Reeves
    October 28, 2008 at 18:26

    I can’t believe this issue is actually being discussed. Comedians say things that offend some people! That’s what they do! If you don’t like the comedy don’t listen. If you don’t think it even IS comedy, thats your opinion. Its not anybody’s place to say “shame on you, you shouldn’t do that” to these radio hosts. Except their fans and the station itself.
    If you want only clean comedy, that’s fine. You can do that. But there are people that don’t.

  50. 50 Kathleen in the US
    October 28, 2008 at 18:26

    What these “commedians” did is called social aggression–bullying, if you will–and it appalled me to listen to their lazy, pathetic attempts at humor. Just because people find them funny it doesn’t mean what they did was acceptable. Watching someone have the stuffing kicked out of someone causes some people to laugh. Doesn’t make it any healthier. They’re pathetic.

  51. 51 Venessa
    October 28, 2008 at 18:28

    Choose to be offended or not. Humor is subjective and what one person finds funny another will find offensive. You don’t have to listen so get over it and walk away or turn the dial. It’s really that easy.

  52. 52 Ibrahim in Uganda
    October 28, 2008 at 18:32

    Aye the entire team,
    its really fascinating but somemtimes leaves one out in the cold to think about it!
    It’s sweet to make a comedy for/to someone who likes it and enjoys it well.for example it would be outmost wrong to make a comedy where people are dying,yeah! in literature,it can be a way of delivering information as riducule metamphorsis but compare to the guest of the night if he ridicules the deaths of Isreali-palestinian conflicts,its misery indeed,if becomes sidelined,it creates more tension and rankle on the affected side.
    it s worth however worth noting that for cases like religion ,it should majorly exclude the hurting of others regardless of their beliefs, fo so i oppose it.
    Much as i dont want some one to make fun of my religion-ISLAM,thats why iam too cautious in not tryinig to offend others.
    in any case,if the spectre of the person the presenters were making fun at is a celebrity,then its okay,i believe they fancy it and like to be boosted about in every news pages but an ordinary urbane person would go critically offended when he/she is let to go out with ridicule/making jokes or fun that may not apply.

  53. 53 John de le Souza
    October 28, 2008 at 18:36

    Very good and timely question.
    The behaviour of Brand and Ross is absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable! They joke with impunity and leave others to apologize on their behalf.
    Today, ‘I am sorry’ and ‘I / we apologize’ have lost their value – because they are offered cynically after the damage has been done to individual, group, community, religion.
    Definitely a form of ‘bullying’ – the powerful do they want and the weak or helpless or ordinary person in the street has no recourse.

  54. 54 Lea
    October 28, 2008 at 18:37

    I think the only ones who really have the right to make comedy out of dire circumstances are those who experienced the situation themselves. At the same time. How can we really be diplomatic when there are so many opinions? WE each need to be respectful of each other’s sensitive issues and other people’s sense of humor. how can we strike a balance? I’ve never liked to be the brunt of some one else’s joke. Why should I suffer the consequences of some one elses practical joke? If you are aware it’s okay, if it takes you by surprize, I don’t think it is fair or funny.

  55. 55 Robert
    October 28, 2008 at 18:37


    Your advice is great for a routine stand up type of comedy, and I on the whole have the same philosophy. But the victim of Brand received a call out of the blue. He didn’t have a choice that you suggest that he used. He was personally spoken at in an offensive manner without volunteering for it in the name of comedy.

  56. 56 kate
    October 28, 2008 at 18:38

    I think that the holocaust joke hits a different nerve than the phone calls. The second seems to be mean and bullying to me, and there are always people who think that sort of thing is funny, hopefully for us all, not many. The second hits a deep and personal chord for some and humor is not appropriate for them.

    Personally, based on the news and the state of the world today I would change the punchline to, “Which holocaust?”

  57. 57 kate
    October 28, 2008 at 18:39

    I think that the holocaust joke hits a different nerve than the phone calls. The second seems to be mean and bullying to me, and there are always people who think that sort of thing is funny, hopefully for us all, not many. The second hits a deep and personal chord for some and humor is never appropriate for them. Especially because humor is often the first step toward lessening the impact of an issue or event.

    Personally, based on the news and the state of the world today I would change the punchline to, “Which holocaust?”

  58. October 28, 2008 at 18:40

    A joke is an epitaph on the death of a feeling. ~Nietzsche

  59. October 28, 2008 at 18:50

    The biggest comedians on air are the politicians.
    If only they could generate 1500 complaints, we might be getting somewhere.
    You can add Bankers to that list.

    J.Ross and partners in mick taking… good on you, shame there are so few who join in.

    It’s about time these pompous idiots looked in the mirror.
    J.Ross et all… do not apologise! Words meant and well said.
    It is such a pity people like J. Ross and G. Ramsey are not running the country instead of the the boring items in place at the moment.
    It would be more fun.


  60. 60 Maureen in UK
    October 28, 2008 at 18:51

    Hello WHYS

    Being offensive in the way the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were, was disgraceful. It also broke several UK laws. The Harassment Act 1987 is an example, and the Broadcasting Act another. It usually shows a shallow mind, a lazy person who cannot think about stuff that is instantly recognisable by many as funny. I was dragged by my sister to see Russell Brand in concert in Edinburgh. He was vulgar, offensive, based his act on reading sories in the Sun newspaper, had to cut it short when his brain couldn’t work out anymore to say. During his ‘act’, many people walked. He just wasn’t funny.

    It is not usually funny to be offensive, but It depends who is doing it and what is being said. Billy Connolly offends the sensitivities of some people. The difference with his comedy, is that he doesn’t write jokes about individuals. He makes observations about life, and finds the funny side. I have seen him many times over his career, and his comedy is clever, well thought out, and it shows. He sees the ridiculous in everday matters, and his audiences can identify with what he has to say. Many of his audiences have been in the situations he describes. He never chooses to identify individuals and then be offensive about them.

    I think I should have the right not to pay my TV licence, as it has gone towards the commission of a criminal act. If I do not pay it I can be fined or imprisoned, yet my money has helped these two break the Harassment Act 1987, and to break several other laws.

  61. October 28, 2008 at 18:53

    @ Kate

    Quite, which holocaust?
    The one the USA assminitration are engineering?
    I think we should be told.


  62. 62 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 18:57

    I was watching the Ali G show with my step dad and we were literally ON THE FLOOR laughing, so my mom walked in. She started watching, then got upset and asked “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, IF THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY!!!”, I laughed at her, and then she threw a shoe at me! Funny to me, offensive to her.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  63. October 28, 2008 at 18:58

    btw. I think it is really cool that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross use their status to break the rules. For what is a platform for? Good on them. Join in, the others. it will increase your ratings.

    It’s about time for a bit of honesty around here. I am fed upwithf the lies and the b***t


  64. 64 Carla St John
    October 28, 2008 at 19:00

    I’ve seen a huge outdoor inflatable toy for fairs that is called The Titanic… Basically it is a inflatable replica of the sinking of that famous ship, going down and creating a long slide for the kids to ride down (safely of course). I was struck by the idea that somehow a terrible tragedy had been turned into an amusement for children. How far in the past must a tragedy be in order to be funny? What about the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episodes?

  65. 65 Marija
    October 28, 2008 at 19:01

    Thank you for your email. This must be a specimen of English humour which I cannot understand.
    But knowing that telling a joke is the first step in a test of three steps which can assess one’s knowledge of a foreign language, one’s ability to answer the present question might be an analogous task.

  66. 66 Venessa
    October 28, 2008 at 19:01

    Robert ~

    Fair enough. I understand that this was not solicited but at the same time Brand is known as being a jokester just like Sarah Silverman (or insert any other comedian you find offensive). Also Sachs was scheduled to be on his program so he must know that kind of humor Brand subscribes to?

    This doesn’t make it right or mean that I agree with what happened but I just don’t think it’s a total shock when someone like Brand makes lewd prank phone calls. The BBC aired the pre-recorded program; what does that say?

  67. 67 Zainab from Iraq
    October 28, 2008 at 19:01

    Hi all,
    No it isn’t funny at all.
    If one gets offensive..what’s the funny matter in it. How does anyone feel happy and laugh on what makes other feels sad and offensive.. this is an utterly immoral act. People should respect each other, so that life can go on safely..

  68. 68 Monica in DC
    October 28, 2008 at 19:05

    It is so ridiculous how sensitive people can be. Sticks and stones baby… sticks and stones. If you don’t like it, turn it off, don’t watch, don’t listen. I for one get insanely bored with all this “I’m so offended” crap. Toughen up people!

    PS: Sarah Silverman is my hero.

  69. 69 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 19:06

    Whats the best is when people get offended when they shouldn’t have. i.e. when that golf channel host said that they were gonna take Tiger Woods to the ally and lynch him, and when those government (black) officials got mad because someone said “Black Hole” in which the black men responded “Why the hole gotta be black”. Hahahaha!!! Now THATS funny!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  70. 70 steve
    October 28, 2008 at 19:07

    @ Monica

    But people can’t whine if they follow your advice.

  71. 71 Monica in DC
    October 28, 2008 at 19:12

    @ Steve…

    pipe dreams my friend… pipe dreams

  72. 72 Jonathan
    October 28, 2008 at 19:19

    Are Brits really so adorably genteel and innocent and childlike? How adorable.

    This is the stuff of a slow morning on an American “shock jock” show like Howard Stern’s. It’s very funny. Some humor is wacky, some is cerebral, and some is edgy. The edgy kind has grown-up words and sometimes insults or teases people. I can’t believe the Prime Minister involved himself because ONE GUY was “offended very much indeed.” (That phrase is as far as I got befor my eyes wateredfrom laughing.) People get offended and injured and killed every day to no end whatever.

    The BBC needs to determine its role: Broadcaster, government agency, or national nanny. Alistair Cooke was fabulous, and the BBC does all sorts of noble things, but there’s another kind of radio too.

    Plus, never trust anyone named Jonathan. 🙂

  73. 73 gary
    October 28, 2008 at 19:24

    To clarify my earlier comment:
    Offensive humor is not necessarily improper humor. Witty insults, clever repartee and comic facial expressivenss are an integral part of public life. Successful politicians are almost always capable of very effective, and humorous, self-defense against almost any insult. Getting the audience to laugh at a heckler, and on-camera, is the stuuf of which political dreams are made. As for the working folks, many comedians appear in “off-limits to children” venues. In both these case: No harm; no foul. If a comment offends; leave the venue, or the arena. Because they are employed in industries regulated ” for the public good and convenience,” those working in the media have a more restrictive standard to which they must adhere. Only certain, public figures are “fair game,” and for these, only public aspects of their lives, or aspects of their privates lives relating to their public performance, are ligitimate targets. Even in these, insult must not stray into criminal assault. Most if not all of their private family members should be out of bounds. Insulting humor directed at their children, or sexually-oriented humor directed toward family members, is never in bounds.
    But then, this is just my opinion.

  74. 74 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 19:25

    @ Going far with Jewish Jokes

    Has anyone heard Borat sing “Throw the Jew Down the Well”. HILL-AIR-E-US!!! But if someone else said that it would be considered VERY offensive.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  75. 75 Kevin Doolan
    October 28, 2008 at 19:31

    I’m a bit astonished by the number of participants to your show who are addressing whether LISTENERS should be offended by such humor, rather than defending the unwitting TARGETS of such pranks.

    I believe in free speech and unrestrained antics, so long as they cause no harm. If something is offensive or unfunny, an audience can always tune out, exercising freedom of choice while driving down ratings and letting the market do its job.

    In today’s increasingly-competitive media environment, however, so-called entertainers keep pushing the boundaries not of good taste, but of personal decency and privacy invasion. For these two chaps to crack wise about the satirical possibility of an elderly actor having relations with a granddaughter is fine — but to actually ring his phone and cause him (or others who might answer) grief and explanation are patently unfair to HIM.

    Around the world, these practical jokes and “punk” stunts have grown out-of-control, including a situation in S. Africa where American comedian Chris Rock was “accused” of statutory rape, “arrested’ by false policeman and brought in front of a fake “judge” all for a television show — all without his knowledge. Though he knew he was innocent and kept his cool, what could be more frightening that being the target of a justice system with which you are not familiar?!

    This is where the focus should be — not how far entertainers can go without offending listeners who are free to turn away, but how far they should be allowed to go while invading and imposing upon the lives of other public figures.

    Kevin Doolan
    Chicago, USA

  76. October 28, 2008 at 19:33

    There are no universal standards as to what constitutes humour. These are all culturally conditioned by learned dispositions, etc. People who take the position that because they make utterances in public and for the benefit of others, on the premise that they are ‘jokes’, need to exercise the kinds of skill and professionalism required for such performances. If not, then, just about any one can get about calling him or herself a comedian and then using that as a cover to abuse us for all sorts of reasons, not the least among them – for practise (to test things out!).

  77. 77 Ed Tatton
    October 28, 2008 at 19:36

    I think comedy is an art form and just as in modern art there has been offensive work, however comedy should not just be funny but also provoke thought. These jokes were not funny nor thought provoking.

  78. October 28, 2008 at 19:49

    Jonathan October 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Are Brits really so adorably genteel and innocent and childlike? How adorable.

    No. The Brits controlled most of the planet for some hundreds of years.
    That little island has been a weapon of mass destruction from before you were born. From Knights Templar, to the Gun Boat regime. Now the brown nosing the Bush crew.
    Shame about George, Clinton was more fun.

    Shame about Brown, but there we go..

    They should be ashamed at what they are doing, and we should be ashamed about voting them them to do ‘it’.

    We live in troubled times, and it’s not your fault.


  79. 79 Emma Goulart
    October 28, 2008 at 19:51


    I think a big issue which has been largely ignored, is that this “comedy” by Brand and Ross was on the BBC.

    The BBC is paid for by a compulsory tax on people living in the Uk, which is enforced in quite a robust (some would say unpleasant) way.

    Therefore I do think that ‘performers’ who are paid huge sums of money through this tax should be held to a higher standard than those on independent stations. The BBC should produce material that is not offensive to those who pay this tax. This was not an issue of ‘free speech’ it was a crude joke which had no point other than to belittle someone unnecessarily.

    All our other public servants are expected not to bully or act inappropriately – why should it be any different for them?

    Whenever the issue of the license fee is discussed we are told what an excellent and varied service we get – well, I am sure there are many license fee payers out there (myself included) – who wish we could vote with our feet and choose not to pay for BBC services when this kind of thing happens.

    If this had happened on an independent station, advertisers could react – if they wished to do so – by investing their money elsewhere. We as taxpayers don’t get that choice. So the BBC has a duty to hold Ross and Brand to account and to represent those who pay for it.

  80. 80 Darren
    October 28, 2008 at 19:54

    Ross and Brand did over step the mark.

    What they did was not comedy. It was a deliberate attempt to publicly humiliate and victimize a particular individual; in this case a 78 year old man who happens to be highly cherished in the British national psych.

    Similar outrages occur daily in school playgrounds, where bullies orchestrate highly public taunts and verbal attacks on someone unable to stand up for themselves. No one accepts bullying in school, so why should the BBC, Ross and Brand get away with it?

  81. 81 Oleg
    October 28, 2008 at 20:05

    Just a question: why is it OK for one of your guests not to mention on stage about her sex life in front of Iranian public, but it may be alright for her to make some fun of other issues which could be difficult to understand in the same way for a different audience? Thanks.

  82. 82 Jonathan
    October 28, 2008 at 20:07


    But surely for a broadcaster, the audience is exactly the proper subject of concern. Their many thousands of listeners are their constituency, not one guy.

    “Free speech and unrestrained antics so long as they cause no harm,” if “harm” includes mere ruffled feathers, means no antics at all, and probably no speech either. Somebody somewhere will always be offended by something. Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” might offend people with diseases that impair their walking. The only sure way to avoid offending is to be silent.

    I remember Chicago as a rollicking, irreverant place, especially its comedy, parody, and satire. Nothing was sacred at Second City, where comedians have been spawned for decades. I hope you guys aren’t playing it safe now. The phrase “comedy in Berkeley” is a little joke here in San Francisco, because of that town’s excruciating hypersensitivity to the imagined feelings of absolutely everyone. It ends up being pretty grim.

  83. 83 gokul,nepal
    October 28, 2008 at 20:21

    i felt ashamed that someone from nepal put forth such an aggresive view of nepal saying that someone joking about killing cow would be killed. I felt very sorrow for him to have such a state a mind.

    I personally feel that comedy with boundries wouldn’t be a comedy, but repitation of some silly banter may lose it’s comic value and may become offensive.

  84. 84 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 20:21

    @ Anthony

    I have heard it and it’s not what I consider funny. I would never play it in public around people I did not know for 100% certain would not be offended by it.

  85. 85 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 20:24

    @ Jennifer

    Hehe, it was funny, and what was funnier was that some of the people in the crowd were getting into the song (you could tell they were racist and anti-semetic). Watching the crowd made it even better 🙂

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  86. October 28, 2008 at 21:06

    To create big fun, there must be a scapegoat that well fits the fun to which he/she is subjected. making fun of a group or someone is to reinforce prejudices or to make one consider their own.

    But it seems the most successful comedians are the most cruel ones like Bill Maher who spares no one. He is remembered to have made fun of the 9/11 attacks just as they happened, forcing the ABC Network to cancel his show Politically Incorrect.

    Those targeted should have a thick skin and see the funny side rather than the offensive one, for them to join the party and to make their own fun of those targeting them.

    After all, life will be insipid without humour. Humour should have a target, which can be you and me.

  87. October 28, 2008 at 21:12

    Emma Goulart October 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm
    I think a big issue which has been largely ignored, is that this “comedy” by Brand and Ross was on the BBC.
    The BBC is paid for by a compulsory tax on people living in the Uk, which is enforced in quite a robust (some would say unpleasant) way.

    Emma, the BBC tax is the one tax I am happy to pay.
    Been listening to it for 52 years.

    Governments come and go but the Beeb is here to stay.
    Thank goodness.

    Reading between the lines on the Beeb is the best fun.

    The Beeb have had their ups and downs, but for goodness sake, is there another radio station like it?

    Not really.

    The On Line version.. the pod casts, who else does this?

    I can catch the BBC on a stupid little radio in the South African bush.
    And yes, it talks sense.

    You may not agree with it, but you can interact with it.

    WHYS is unique. Does Germany have such an interface? No.
    France, Holland Poland, Russia, Brazil, ? NO. The list goes on.

    The BBC has weathered governments and administrations and rocks on.
    It provides the very platform that you choose to complain

    Gillmore’s music, the crazy sport slots, for me totally boring, but so what, the WHYS…

    WHYS and the BBC for allowing it is a hard act to follow.
    If every country in the world had an equivalent we might live on a better planet.
    I could go on, but am running out of pixels.


  88. 88 Jack Hughes
    October 28, 2008 at 21:14

    @BBC apologists

    Fans of the BBC often talk about the BBC being somehow special, providing unique quality programmes that would not be made by commercial companies.

    Care to comment on these 2 juvenile morons ?

    Yes, I’m looking at you.

  89. 89 Kelsie in Houston
    October 28, 2008 at 21:17

    Yeah: I’m not judging one entire organization by the dumb actions of two morons—a bit like American conservatives don’t want and shouldn’t be judged by the dumb actions of two morons in Tennessee yesterday.

  90. October 28, 2008 at 21:18

    btw. If everyone integrated with WHYS gave the organisation ten quid, we could start an independent radio station! Think about it, but don’t lose sleep over it.


  91. 91 Thomas Murray
    October 28, 2008 at 21:26

    There’s a difference between being funny and being mean. Funny is usually self-effacing, a clever ruse, or, if directed to a foil, a backhanded compliment.

    But when you scare people or insult them, that can be viewed as harassment.

    Thirty-five years ago I worked as an usher here at the Oxmoor Cinemas. It consisted of two large screens and two balconies.

    One day after opening the theatre, an ashen-faced Bill Hochsteader, a fellow usher, emerged from the theatre to report that a man had hanged himself from the balcony with a make-shift noose.

    One by one, we entered the darkened theatre to search this grisly scene out with our flashlights. There was NOTHING THERE.

    We emerged into the lobby to the hysterical laughter of our co-workers. Bill really sold the prank. That is funny.

    This is mean: Recently, in Paris, Kentucky, a middle aged woman showed up at a chicken restaurant to find her boss lying in a pool of blond.

    Fake blood.

    She screamed, ran out of the building and called the police too late for him to stop her.

    He was arrested for filing a false police report.

    The difference between a Billy Connelly routine and a radio program harassing a celebrity is that we actively volunteer to see Connelly. The celebrity had no choice in the matter.

    Hate mean. Love funny. That’s the difference. At least the radio hosts apologized.

    –Unseasonably freezing in Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  92. October 28, 2008 at 21:26

    Um, J. Ross is not a moron.
    If he says something, pay attention
    It may be moronic, but … where are are you?
    Not in J.Ross land that is for sure.
    He at least has insulated himself.


  93. 93 Anthony
    October 28, 2008 at 21:26

    Ten quid? Is that like 10 dollars? Is a quid a pound? And if I had one pound (weight) of sterling, wouldn’t that be worth alot of money? If I had a pound of gold, it would be worth a whole lot, I could use it to buy a car!

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  94. 94 Jennifer
    October 28, 2008 at 21:43

    @ Anthony

    There is funny and then there is scary funny! There is also oh my funny and you will burn someday funny….But, yes, the crowd was very into the song!

  95. October 29, 2008 at 00:34

    In Jamaica, we have a saying which goes: “(the) frog says (that) what is (a) joke to you, is death for me!”. I think that about sums up the question of whether it is ok to be offensive in the context of a joke. Surely, there is room to push the envelope! However, one has to ask the question which objective and whose interests are being served when we engage in certain “jokes”, in the interests of “pushing the envelope”? I think if we can arrive at a consensus on that one, then, we will know what the answer is to the question as posed.

  96. 96 Jack Hughes
    October 29, 2008 at 00:36

    @Kelsie in Houston

    Do you know something that the rest of us don’t ?

    Before today I was totally unaware that the 2 morons in Tenessee had been selected and paid by American conservatives to be their public face – and had been acting under editorial supervision by said conservatives.

    Please tell us more about any parallels between these juvenile prats and the US criminals.

  97. 97 Kelsie in Houston
    October 29, 2008 at 00:40

    Sorry, Jack: you aren’t going to bait-and-switch here—I’m not holding anyone accountable for the foolish actions of a small cadre of people, conservatives, the BBC, the United States military at Haditha, no one.

    That was my point and I’m sticking to it.

  98. 98 Roberto
    October 29, 2008 at 03:53

    RE “” Is it funny to be offensive? ”

    ——- Howie Stern and Rush Limberger have made multi-multi-multi millions of bucks being not only offensive, but downright misanthropic.

    So, when the evolutionary boys start yakkin’ up about the ascension of man, I just point to those messy links as proof of de-evolution.

  99. October 29, 2008 at 04:26

    The one thing not mentioned is that this ‘prank’ by some of the most highly remunerated staff of the BBC (public funds, remember) now threatens to determine the future of the BBC to the detriment of what most of its audience would actually want. As the BBC battles to take the low ground of popular culture, more and more of its superior content especially on the world service, is being ‘mashed’ into variety shows fronted by ever bubbly hosts, and the emphasis seems to drift more towards entertainment and away from information.

    I am very upset to learn that the show was broadcast over the objections of Mr. Sachs. Why feel any concern for a 78 old actor whose glory days are long in the past, eh? What was particularly funny about the messages? What has happened to comedians who could construct a truly witty surprise, make us laugh at ourselves, and at the same time feel more ‘human’. Have we all become so base that humor is only to be found in making a mockery of others for no reason at all? Fawlty Towers was funny, John Cleese is funny and Monty Python was funny all of them in an impersonal way that worked with a large audience. Jonathan Ross leaves me cold, and to think, he costs the beeb only about 2 million pounds a year. Great value, i think not. But certainly, right now, very very funny.

  100. October 29, 2008 at 04:33

    Oh dear, so sorry, I see Mr. Ross, is actually a steal at only 6 million pounds a year. Now that’s a real joke.

    Jonathan Ross leaves me cold, and to think, he costs the beeb only about 2 million pounds a year. Great value, i think not. But certainly, right now, very very funny.

  101. 101 Jack Hughes
    October 29, 2008 at 05:26

    How to make … Friday Night With Jonathan Woss

    1. You are Jonathan Woss and you’re pwesenting your chat-show for which you are paid 18 million pounds. Wesult!

    2. Now mix unbeawable gwovelling with wemarks about your pwoclivity for masturbation and bweaking wind. Leer wepulsively over gorgeous female, telling audience it’s OK because it’s iwonic

    3. Abandoning any semblance of wesearch, ask any celebwity, “Do you have any kids? Do you like kids? Do you like your OWN kids?” For your Chwistmas special, disappear totally up David Tennant’s arse.

    4. Intwoduce Mewyl Stweep. Ask her if she likes Japanese comics or would she like to see a picture of your pug in bed with your kids and your wife. She wouldn’t.

    5. The main attwaction is Bwad Pitt. Say: “You’re from where in America, exactly, Bwad? New York! That’s the East Coast, isn’t it? Do you like it there? Have you been to London much? Have you seen the sights? It’s been a weal pleasure to meet you. Ladies and gentlemen, Bwad Pitt!”

    6. Bwing on the Ting Tings to wescue your cwedibility.

  102. October 29, 2008 at 08:11

    Surely, Jonathan has always been a boring self-amusing, self-absorbed, post-school-boy humour focused ordinary man trying to do an extraordinary job and not ever really reaching stardom. However, if anyone is interested in a NON-pc humour archive featuring two of the UK’s originators of dark/dry British humour – SEARCH – “Derek and Clive” or follow my site links to the url of a site dedicated to Derek and Clive (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). Totally NON-pc remember.

    Best wishes…

    …well maybe Jonathan could mature gracefully.

  103. 103 Jack Hughes
    October 29, 2008 at 10:22

    @Kelsie in Houston

    This is from the left-leaning Guardian newspaper:

    “if harassing a 78-year-old man with claims about his granddaughter’s sex life and joking about his suicide doesn’t bring the corporation into disrepute, what does?”


  104. October 29, 2008 at 10:55

    IN the midst of credit crunch and bank failures, nothing seems funny these days.

  105. 105 David Thomas
    October 29, 2008 at 13:55

    what did you expext from two adults that have minds of two twelve year old school boys. They had their little bit of fun, now let them pay the price. and make it soon please

  106. 106 Vijay
    October 29, 2008 at 15:36

    Sack them both,the BBC could save millions of pounds at a time of financial crisis by rightfully terminating their contracts of employment.
    Andrew Sachs is a much more respected performer then these two will ever be.

  107. 107 John in Germany
    October 29, 2008 at 15:55

    Offensive remarks made by comedians, are ideal for a cheap laugh-bust.

    Offensive remarks made in anger can hurt, but can be forgiven.

    Offensive remarks made about ones creed, colour, politics etc, are very offensive, and achieve nothing but resentment, and quiet often remorse on the side of the Offender.

    You dont need a lot of brain to be offensive. And to find such remarks funny is certainly an indication that something is wrong in the mental system of the laugher.

    John in Germany.

  108. 108 Martin, Amsterdam
    October 29, 2008 at 16:37

    I blame Basil Fawlty…

    All this fuss is hilarious.

  109. 109 jamily5
    October 29, 2008 at 16:51

    But, the only way that these guys will realize that they are not funny is for people not to laugh at them.
    I rarely find today’s humor actually funny.
    Commedy Central is not for me.
    But, some of the older humor is dry and boring. So, I won’t watch commedy central, because I know that I will be offended by its comments. These guys crossed the line because they drew an unsuspecting person into their web of commedy and had no regard to how they might respond and how personal that they might take their remarks.
    But, The commedians are giving the public what they want to hear. If many in the public rediculed the commedians for their insensitivity, I doubt that they would make the same mistake again.

  110. 110 Martin, Amsterdam
    October 29, 2008 at 18:01

    Precisely two people had complained about a tasteless lark by two renowned tasteless individuals before the Daily Mail took this up.

    I find the tasteless daily mix of reaction and xenophobia served up by the Mail far more offensive.

  111. October 29, 2008 at 20:54

    I find it sad that so many ‘young’ people find no harm in their behaviour; and this in itself demonstrates how far society has fallen. Since the 1960’s I have witnessed the ‘me’ attitude permeate British society – all the permissive society has given us is blockheads such as Ross and Brand.

    All media outlets must accept full responsibilty as they are the one’s who continue to shelter behind the constant excuse -‘breaking new grounds in entertainment’. The smug, self important idiot Ross and his moronic friend are not guilty – they are victims of the men, and women in suits who place the bottom line profit before everything else. Sadly, entertainers such as Ross are no more than balance sheets to the entertainment hierarchy; people who form profit and loss lines; no more no less.

    While I feel sorry for shallow self indulgant spoilt brats such as Brand and Ross, credit must be given to Brand, despite his infantile life style and habits has had the courage to accept responsibilty and resign – unlike his cowardly friend who no doubt is crying crocodile tears behind his lawyers and agent.

    Two naughty childish men who have never known a moments remorse, until they are caught. I just wish the overpaid, pampered BBc Manderins who appear to live on the planet Zog – sack Ross – with no golden handshake.

    Annoyed old soldier who is fed up of the downeard spiral of our once great country.

  112. 112 obiwan
    October 29, 2008 at 22:13

    What is more embarrassing: the offensive messages themselves or that we are reading about it worldwide now?? Bxl

  113. 113 Bryan
    October 29, 2008 at 23:46

    I gritted my teeth and subjected myself to the ten minute clip from a link provided by the Mail. It sounded like a couple of oversexed juvenile delinquents fantasising about being on a radio show. More disturbing is the fact that these two have a really big following among the youth. What does that say about the future of Britain?

    Well at least Brand has resigned. Hopefully Sachs and his granddaughter will bring charges, though unfortunately that looks unlikely.

    This is just the latest example of the culture of permissiveness at the BBC. It’s as if nobody is in charge and people can say and do whatever they want.

    Comedy is an art. These two certainly don’t have it. Neither does Marcus Brigstocke with his boring and predictable ‘jokes’ about Bush that elicit dutiful laughter from those who think comedy is having their political bias massaged. Are there any decent comedians at the BBC?

  114. 114 Martin, Amsterdam
    October 30, 2008 at 02:36

    What a farce…

    Front pages of all the papers – not just the tabloids, all the broadsheets too, apart from the FT which has rather more serious matters to report – devoted to this nonsense.

    It’s like the McCann circus all over again. Have the mainstream media lost all sense of proportion?

    Who sets this agenda, apart from the tasteless unelected reactionaries who run rightwing tabloids?

    Junk culture for a junk economy.

  115. October 30, 2008 at 03:12

    Most of what is being said here is bulls–t as far as I can see.
    Russell Brand is an ok guy, and can be damn funny on occasion at other’s expense as can be Jonathan Ross and extremely funny on his TV show, again at others expense or when he elicits a spark of humourous invention snatched from the air that precisely fits the moment.
    This particular episode is not particularly funny and they both probably seriously regret it ever happening. It has and it came into the public light either by accident or otherwise.
    This is not the point. When you have the Prime Minister discussing this and David Cameron for the opposition debating it as an issue of national importance, then people have quite obviously and seriously lost the plot! What about the global recession then? We’ll move that down or off the agenda and divert attention elsewhere other than where we’ve created one helluva mess and are guilty of allowing the obscenity of untrammelled greed to take a seat at the back. Russell and Jonathan much more important than saving the economy and looking after people’s welfare, of course!
    Give them both a serious ticking off in private, not in full view of the lousy British media in the main.
    The BBC before and ever since the untimely and wholly unwarranted departure of Director General, Greg Dyke are running scared of the government and the overhanging threat to open up the whole TV license debate and force the BBC kicking and screaming into the commercial market place. This is another fine example of BBC management towing the government line and stepping back into line whenever it says so. Gutless!

    As for Sach’s granddaughter going to the Sun for an immediate interview shows her media savvy straightaway. That abomination of a newspaper save for the odd witty headlines and its ridiculous examination of the nation’s ills and its immediate remedies being served up as the answer, leapt straight into the fray, of course!
    Max Clifford, PR man, is straight on the scene grooming member of Satanic Sluts, Georgina Baillie, for media work and how best for her to suddenly make her mark out of nowhere into TV, radio and newspaper work. It’s going to work out very nicely for her. And Andrew Sachs will no doubt be receiving offers to do a tongue in cheek TV ad about the whole affair, and will very soon be doing a whistle-stop tour of all the UK TV chat shows. He’d do well to be very selective in what he accepts and how much he dwells on the issue during conversations. Both Sachs and Georgina can be expected to do very well out of this indeed!
    Fine Russell and Wossy by all means. Cut their ridiculous salaries by a massive amount, Ross’s in particular, but don’t sack them. BBC, you’ve seriously thought this one through haven’t you. Not a frightened rush to judgement and sweep it all under the carpet treatment at all is it? Who are you going to fall back on as presenters on TV and radio?
    I know, get Alan Titchmarsh to present the Friday night show in a G-string with sexy garden gnomes! Get Brucy Forsyth to do a porn version of the Generation Game. “All right my lovely love ins.” Nice to do you, to screw you, nice.” “Let’s have a look at the “Who Did you Score With Board?” You get the gist. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it! Don’t just read this one way for God’s sake!

  116. 116 Jennifer
    October 30, 2008 at 03:33

    @ Bryan

    I only listened to the phone calls today. I think they were horrible! I can’t believe that someone would step over that line. It seems like the line is continuously being crossed. It’s one thing when someone can turn it off, or leave, but when someone calls you up and leaves absurd disgusting messages on your phone.

    Glad you posted! 😀

  117. October 30, 2008 at 04:20


    Once again just curious as to why you continually side with partisan supporters upon any issue this one included.
    If you care to read what I said about Russell and Jonathan, I think it makes some highly valid points about the whole scenario. It woud be nice for you to counter or make some sort of comment as oppposed to just simply brushing over this or as to what I’ve said previously in certain other posts. Thanks

  118. October 30, 2008 at 06:55

    Bob in Queensland et al,

    Seeing as Jennifer appears to have shied away once more. Can I get your opinion of my earlier post October 30th at 3.12am? Would like to have an idea what you think about it all and my take on it as a whole. I think it’s a case of the BBC losing its bottle once more. I was involved with the BBC some years ago now in light entertainment/satire writing. This is not the first time I have witnessed this sort of nonsense. I hope one day someone is going to step in, front up and take on a cynical government with the support of the license payers, instead of running scared all the time. If as Director or member of Senior Management you believe in the institution of the BBC and will take on the “Barbarians at the Gate” then you will take a mighty leap forward in securing the BBC’s future as a corporation that takes the initiative, is afraid of no one, will take bold, necessary and sometimes controversial steps into no man’s land in order to secure a valuable and fixed direction as to where it wants to go. If you continually pander to the PC brigade you will only harm yourselves by allowing those who seek limitations at every turn and want to rein in a certain way every time they see the BBC dip its foot into hot water, will want to restrain and gag the freedoms the BBC has to its immense credit fought so hard to preserve for so long and when its at its best!
    The BBC has in recent years allowed itself to be checked far too many times. BBC stand tall and repel all boarders once and forever more! It can only stand you in good stead for now and the future. Time once again to reach the zenith of its achievements! Not to cower, fear and seek shelter from the storm! Go out break new grounds and take on all challenges. The public will thank you for it if you do and they won’t if you don’t! “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway until you find your final dream.” John Cleese for Director General of the BBC! All those who say “Ay” speak now or forever hold your peace!

  119. 119 Bob in Queensland
    October 30, 2008 at 09:15

    @ Matthew

    Well, I scrolled back to the post you mention and I’m only in partial agreement with you. I think you’re completely right that this is not something the politicians should stick their oar into. Their interventions smack of publicity-seeking “me-tooism”. The should leave it to the BBC BoD and the impartial regulator.

    Having said that, if there is to be a BBC vs. Parliament battle, this is probably not the fight they should choose. It’s pretty clear to me that something went seriously wrong with the programme vetting procedure and that the material was in breach of their own guidelines. Certainly the procedure for pre-recorded material used to be (and, as far as I know, this hasn’t changed) for the programme’s producer to fill in a compliance form, ticking off any instances where the show might be expected to cause offence. Such instances are supposed to be reviewed by management prior to the show airing–and I’m fairly certain the material I heard wouldn’t be approved for Radio 2 had it been reviewed.

    In this case I think the current frenzy we are seeing was whipped up by the popular press (who love BBC bashing) and Brown/Cameron just messed in for the free publicity. As I’ve said before, I don’t think there’s an absolute “line” for comedy to stay on one side of but, in this case, the prank was almost certainly not right for a typical Radio 2 audience and all the beeb can really do is fall on their sword and move on. I should admit that I’ve never been a fan of “Russell the love Muscle” and I was frankly surprised to hear he had a Radio 2 slot–I saw him more as Radio 1 late at night!

    Great publicity for Sachs’ grandaughter’s band though!

  120. 120 Bryan
    October 30, 2008 at 10:01

    Jennifer October 30, 2008 at 3:33 am,

    Good to see you still battling away here in the lions’ den.

    Matthew October 30, 2008 at 4:20 am,

    Perhaps you would like to point out what is not partisan about your comments here. If people don’t immediately come back to you it could be because they have a life and find it a little daunting wading through the thesis you present on any issue. And on toeing the line, if the BBC wants to demonstrate its alleged independence from this government, it should try on occasion to deviate a little from Labour’s political stance, rather than acting as the party’s publisher.

    Bob in Queensland October 30, 2008 at 9:15 am,

    I think you are perhaps mixing my post up with Mathew’s. And however weird the granddaughter is, that’s irrelevant. A couple of people, yourself included, jumped to immediate and furious judgement re a post I made on degrees of rape, and assumed I was trying to minimise the seriousness of the crime. You and Matthew should not do the same thing you accused me of doing. Whoever this girl is has absolutely nothing to do with the seriousness of the abusive attack on her and Sachs on the BBC. It seems to me that BBC staff, political or otherwise, do not have to have any talent to work for the corporation. They simply have to be in with the BBC, to be politically like-minded, and toe its line.

    Have a look at the latest post on The Editors blog for the BBC’s attempt to tell us that there is “another side” to this issue. There isn’t. It’s cut and dried and the BBC should not be going into damage control mode here.

  121. 121 Bob in Queensland
    October 30, 2008 at 10:15

    @ Bryan

    Er, sorry, but you’ve lost me on this one. My 9:15AM post was a specific reply to Matthew because he asked me to comment and I’m genuinely not clear what it is in my post that you’re disagreeing with.

  122. 122 Martin, Amsterdam
    October 30, 2008 at 10:17

    Ay, Matthew. Spot on (nice to get the famously inoffensive Basil Fawlty in, too).

    The BBC’s craven response reminded me too of the shameful Gilligan affair.

    But this time they seem more scared of the Daily Mail Group than the government – though they know that Gordon Brown is also more scared of Paul Dacre than anything else. Sort of, um, the Black Mail…

    As I wrote earlier, I’m far more offended by the Mail daily, than by an occasional over-tasteless prank by people whose job is to play tasteless pranks for the BBC.

    And the gross hypocrisy of Dacre and his pals…

    Not only do they give the original prank huge publicity (after it and any unfortunate insult had gone almost completely unnoticed) by making sure that everyone has every tiny detail of the offending remarked in print and online..

    …But this is the paper that often wrecks the lives of innocent victims (including friends of mine) by splashing tasteless intrusive bile and prurience across their front page to pander to their humourless reactionary audience.

  123. 123 Bryan
    October 30, 2008 at 10:27

    You sly fox. You’ve edited it. You initially had @Bryan.

  124. 124 Bob in Queensland
    October 30, 2008 at 10:57

    @ Bryan

    🙂 Yup.

    But, in my defence, you must have been sitting watching. I actually noticed the error while I was waiting for the message to upload and had the edit done within seconds!

  125. 125 Bob in Queensland
    October 30, 2008 at 11:19

    @ Martin and Bryan (and I do mean Bryan this time)

    I think you’re both going to far on this, in opposite directions.

    For Martin, to describe the BBC response as “craven” is way over the top. Somebody messed up on procedures and an unfunny prank, inappropriate for Radio 2 went to air. As I said in my previous, this is a mess up and hardly a reason to go to the battlements about political (or media) interference.

    For Bryan, the same thing in reverse. The is a mess up in the vetting procedures that let inappropriate remarks go to air. To make it into anything bigger or to use it to somehow “prove” a major problem or “culture of permissiveness” at the BBC is simply a “straw man” argument. Like him or loathe him (and I loathe him) Russell Brand was around on the British media scene long before his BBC contract and, from his following, strikes a chord with a large segment of the UK population.

    Just not you or me apparently!

  126. 126 Bob in Queensland
    October 30, 2008 at 11:36

    @ Martin

    One thing I meant to include in my previous was that I find it very wrong to compare this to the Gilligan episode. To me, the BBC collapse on that one WAS craven. Rather than a juvenile stunt, that was a serious news story with ramifications right to the centre of government. The so-call inquiry had such limited frames of reference as to be a white-wash from day one.

    The BBC should have had the courage of it’s convictions and stuck to its guns. History is rapidly proving Gilligan right and the BBC management (and the Blair government) wrong.

  127. 127 Paul B
    October 30, 2008 at 11:44

    Congratulations to the BBC for removing Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross from the airwaves, these two overpaid tv and radio presenters have been abusive, rude and offensive to a multitude of people for some time. There poor taste and bad language simply detail’s there own inadequacy’s and the poor broadcasting standards that we the licence payer have to tolerate. Now that Russell Brand has resigned, its time for the BBC to show its teeth and fire Jonathan Ross !. Clean up your act BBC…Parkinson worked for you over forty years and I cannot ever remember him using an abusive word in all those years.

  128. 128 Jennifer
    October 30, 2008 at 14:32

    @ Matthew

    I “brush over” to avoid confrontation!

    @ Bryan

    Yeah, I guess I am…. 🙂

  129. 129 Koko
    October 30, 2008 at 15:24

    In the good old days comedy was comedy.Bob Hope would make us roll even when the gag was taking a poke.And we learnt to learn from comedy and because we laughed we imputed goodwill even when it wasnt so true.But comedy was it!!!Life felt easier to go through because soemone made us laugh even if it was at our own selves.This was freedom,western style.

    Then the muslims came.And a cartoon sent them blitzkrieg style flaming through Europe,stabbing nuns and burning down churches.And a joke was no longer a joke.Well,what can I say but that ours is the loss.Things will never be the same again insofar as people who couldnt tell the difference between an aircraft and a low flying duck are allowed to do our reasoning for us.

    Granted there is a joke in goodtaste and the rest,I still believe we musnt lose goodnatured humour for anything’s sake,pleeeaasse!If the Beeb journalists went too far it should be calmly noted but let us not take an iota out of good old rib-tickling laughter.This world is too sad a place to lose that as well.

  130. 130 Martin, Amsterdam
    October 31, 2008 at 02:36

    @Bob Q:

    ‘Craven’ in this case in that the Governors or Trustees or whatever they’re now called are so afraid of Paul Dacre because they know Gordon Brown is so afraid of Paul Dacre that if he (PD)isn’t placated they might lose the license fee.

    With Gilligan they were just afraid of Alastair and Tony and the rest of the ‘establishment’ to which they themselves belonged.

    It was ridiculous in the Gilligan case to lose Greg Dyke, and it’s ridiculous in this case to lose the controller of Radio 2. There’s a lot of difference between the two cases, but unpleasant similarities too.

    Oh, and did I mention that I loathe the Daily Mail and all it represents?

    And that I despair at the decay of mainstream journalism in the Internet Age?

  131. October 31, 2008 at 11:11

    Martin, Amsterdam,

    First of all thanks very much. And as for the Daily Mail better known as the “Holy Grail” in media circles, you’re bang on the mark. I can’t stand those sanctimonious readers and prurient bystanders who think because their beloved rag holds up so called “Freedom’s Torch” (maybe Daily Republican would be a better name) for all its readers and supporters, that they’ve got a real insight into events of any kind. Theirs is true blue Tory bias, but is sufficiently two-faced enough to support Blair and Brown when it saw and sees wise to do so and just follow the media crowd like sheep. Similarly the Sun, Daily Express, The Times, Daily Telegraph etc, all follow a similar model, and don’t report the news as it is, but invent it for consumption of a pre-ordained readership. That’s not journalism, for god’s sake!
    Koko that is far too far a broad statement. There is some truth in it, ok, but a blanket truth, come on!
    It’s the fundamentalist and Christian right aka Sarah Palin and her ilk, that are the hidden problem. They just whisper it in dark and hidden circles. Occasionally they let their true feelings to be known and the cat is out of the bag. I was party to and I am pretty damn sure I’m not the only one, to this comment from a couple of Southern hicks and hillbillies – “You know it’s just a pity that Hitler didn’t get the chance to finish off the job,” reference wiping out and eradication of the entire negro and black population anywhere it could be found in the world. When pressed upon the supposed meaning of their comments, they said “a lot of folks think the same thing” they just don’t do too much about it. But the day will come my friend, the day will come.” I find that chilling as to the supposed integration and acceptance of all races and cultures within the American nation. I know the face they try to portray to the rest of the world is a false one, see Hurricane Katrina and the fall out from that, but even still, there’s a real ugly face of right wing Christianity pervading the inner sanctum of the nation.
    Anyway, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran as is the global economy and recession further down the agenda. Now that can’t be a bad thing can it Gordon, Georgy boy, and all the others, you know who you are. This is a useful diversion for all politicians, one track media and all their kind. Get real people!

  132. 132 Nohamin
    October 31, 2008 at 13:48

    We have to know when and where to say funny stuff. Once our-Ethiopian commedian went to an Arab nation he put his mobile in his belt and he was amazed by the big buildings he way gazing at them. One police asked me who he is and what he has put round his belt he said “it is a BOMB!..” guess what will happen. Plenty of slaps…OH! we have to know when and where to be funny!Our famous comedian acted like Borat-a movie that makes Kazakistan well known.

  133. 133 Philippa
    November 3, 2008 at 11:10

    A couple of you have mentioned John Cleese in a positive manner, and one of you has complained at the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons.

    In the wake of the Danish cartoons controversy, Cleese traveled to the Netherlands where he commented that one really wasn’t allowed to say anything anymore nowadays. As part of the Fawlty Towers team, I would now have expected Cleese to make a similar comment on the Sachs (Manuel) / Ross / Brand affair. To my knowledge he hasn’t, which is inconsistent, and therefore, disappointing.

  134. 134 Blackie Ray
    November 7, 2008 at 11:27

    Funny is subjective. It is one thing to make fun of people with their knowlege, or to malign someone in a group where one is physically present. On the phone, by email, on the air, it is too easy to regret because ones power is in direct proportion to being removed from the presence of your subject of derision. Those two were just being rude and nasty.
    Borat is not funny nor is Bevis&Butthead. Funny is Larry David, Funny is Sarah Silver man comparing herself to her mother or making a cutting observation about a any number of groups, not insulting one individual in front of the world, not only not funny but tactless. Funny is having Nicholas Sarkozy phone Sarah Palin….and she believes it!

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