Oct 29

Controversial Comedian Russell Brand Quits

For those of my readers outside the U.K. two performers Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross have been suspended today by the BBC for causing offence on radio last Saturday.

Here’s a quick lowdown of what happened…
Brand has a pre-recorded radio aired with guest co-presenter Jonathan Ross. They were due to interview actor Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel in the 70s sitcom Fawlty Towers .

Essentially when they call Sachs, they get his answering machine service. So they decide to leave four abusive phonecalls insinuating that Brand has slept with Sach’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, who is baroque dancer. It’s then suggested that Sachs might kill himself when he finds out that Brand has slept with his daughter. Although, Brand hasn’t, both he and Ross have joked about the idea of it.

With each subsequent phone call instead of just apologising they continually swear and make jokes. Sachs was understandably upset and wanted them to apologise to his granddaughter more than anything. Both Brand and Ross eventually did so and Sachs has since accepted their apologies.

The BBC have received more than 20,000 complaints. Even the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has stepped in saying “This is clearly inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour, as is now widely recognised”.

Obviously, this is something that should never have happened. What Brand and Ross did amounts to bullying. There’s no escaping that. But given that the show was pre-recorded the question remains why was it then broadcast at all?

If it happened live one could understand how accidents like this could happen. It wouldn’t make it any more acceptable, but gaffes frequently occur during live broadcasts.

Should comedians be allowed to verbally abuse anybody? I think that perhaps they should’ve chosen their target more wisely if they wanted to mock someone. Picking on someone like Sachs, who appeared in Fawlty Towers one of Britain ’s best-loved sitcoms and is essentially a national treasure, is really misguided.

Ross should’ve known better as he’s been a presenter and entertainer for more than 20 years and is much older than Brand.

But the flip side to the argument is that Brand and Ross are allowed to be free-wheeling with their humour because they are protected by the international law of freedom of speech. This is something I’ve written about previously. Brand has been fired from jobs in the past, so the BBC knew what they were getting themselves into. That’s Brand’s schtick, he’s a controversial comedian.

Ross on the other hand, doesn’t come from comedy. He’s a presenter first and foremost with a gaggle of sharp writers. So he’s never had to face a live crowd and potentially create a confrontational act like Brand has had to. The news now is that Brand has quit his radio show.

I also have to wonder how many of those 20,000 complaints lodged with the BBC were from people who actually heard the broadcast on Saturday, or are they now complaining since seeing it reported on the news? Some people just want to be outraged regardless of whether they actually heard a particular offensive comment or performance.

Was it really necessary for the Prime Minister to get involved? Shouldn’t he be more concerned about the recession that the U.K. now finds itself in?  And what about the media jumping on the bandwagon? They seemed to think it was hilarious when Brand mocked the Bush Administration when he was a presenter over there recently for the MTV Music Video Awards.

So has it all be blown out of proportion? Who are the real people at fault? Brand and Ross? Or is the BBC production crew at fault as well for letting the show be broadcast? Only time will truly tell.