Tag Archives: abuse

In defence of rape jokes

(This piece was also published by the Huffington Post and y India’s We Speak News)

Tragedy/comedy masks, Hadrian’s Villa – but which is which?

A comedian phoned me yesterday evening, angry that another comedian was Tweeting trying to get comedy performers and promoters to sign up for a ‘No Rape Jokes’ pledge.

The idea is to ban comedians who tell rape jokes.

The first promoter to have ‘signed the pledge’ appears to be a club that only allows female comedians to perform, which seems a little ironic. I am thinking of opening a comedy club at which Jewish performers are banned but at which no rape jokes would be allowed. No problem there, then.

Trying to ban rape jokes is like trying to put sticking plaster over a symptom to hide an unsightly abscess, not cure the problem. It is the wrong target. The aim, surely, should be trying to stop audiences laughing at rape jokes.

Unless – in my opinion – they are funny.

Funny is funny.

I have known and worked with three women who were raped as children. All bore psychological scars. Obviously.

When I hear a comedian tell a rape joke, I cringe because of this. But also because the comedian is usually getting an easy laugh. He (seldom she) knows the audience will laugh in shock because the subject is in bad taste. They used to be able to get a laugh by just using the word “fuck”. That word’s shock value disappeared. Then it was the word “cunt”. Now that word on its own no longer gets a laugh.

But now you can get an easy laugh by telling a rape joke or a joke about (presumably) murdered little girl Madeleine McCann or her parents. It is lazy comedy. Knee-jerk comedy.

I do not like rape jokes. By and large. The comedians who tell them are bad comedians. By and large.

But Scottish comedian Jerry Sadowitz has told rape jokes. He is a brilliant comedian. The jokes were funny. I laughed. I enjoyed the jokes as jokes.

Fellow Scottish comedian Janey Godley (who was repeatedly raped as a child) used to tell stories around the subject of child abuse and rape. There is a fascinating clip on YouTube of her starting her act.

Normally, I do not repeat comedians’ routines. But this one is worth repeating because what is being said is in no way funny yet it gets big laughs because, as Frank Carson might have said: “It’s the way she tells ‘em”.

It is a masterclass in how to get laughs from an audience.

Janey says:

“When I was five, I was sexually abused by my uncle… Now, I don’t want you to all rush the stage and give me a hug, cos it’s OK… cos I got him killed for my birthday later on (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… Yeah (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… No, I did (BIGGER AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… That’s no a joke (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… Yeah (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… Got his cock cut off (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)… So… (AUDIENCE LAUGHS)…”

What is being said here is not funny.

At no point does Janey say she is joking. She says the exact opposite. She tells the audience a man was murdered and – five times – she points out to the audience that this is not a joke. She is joking about murder and sexual mutilation. But the laughter continues and heightens.

If rape jokes are to be banned, why not also ban murder jokes, incest jokes, adultery jokes and jokes about travelling salesmen, mothers in law and rabbits? All were certainly offensive to the ears of pre-War BBC Radio.

It is a short and slippery slope from banning jokes to burning books.

Lewis Schaffer, a Jew, has what I consider to be (currently) the world’s best three-part Holocaust joke, Should he be banned from telling it? He says on-stage that he is allowed to tell that joke. And not for the reason you might think. And that is part of the joke.

Blanket bans on jokes can never be a good idea. Let the audience decide. Or try to change audiences’ attitudes. But don’t try to ban the jokes.

I talked to comedian Bob Slayer about this last night.

“I’m thinking of blogging about The Rape Thing tomorrow,” I told him. “If I did, I could glide into the attack I have not yet launched in my blog on left wing neo-Fascism. That should get me spat at in the bars of Soho and the streets of Edinburgh… Love Bernard Manning. Hate Tony Benn,.. Something along those lines…”

I am old enough to remember the late-1960s and early 1970s when the Vietnam War was being fought. When people were booked at universities to speak in support of the War, demonstrations were organised by well-meaning left wingers who believed strongly in Freedom of Speech… to get the person banned from speaking.

In the real world, left wing irony has never been widespread.

Nowadays, freedom-promoting left wingers sometimes say candidates from the right wing BNP should not be allowed to promote their views in TV programmes or on the streets. But the BNP is not an illegal political party. If their views are so appalling, a law should be passed to ban the party. But, if what the BNP believes is expressed in a perfectly legal way, then trying to ban them from speaking is, in my view, Fascistic.

I personally agree that the BNP is abhorrent, but that is irrelevant.

I blame the French.

We say ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ because of the seating arrangements in the Estates General during and after the French Revolution.

The reality is that political extremism is part of a circle, not a horizontal line.

Hitler’s political party was correctly called a (national) Socialist party… Because extreme right wing views about a strong centralised state overlap into extreme left wing views about ‘the people’ controlling everything via a strong centralised state.

Wanting to ban jokes about rape is indefensible if you do not also want to ban jokes about murder. And, if you ban talking about certain things at live gigs then, logically, you have to ban the same things on television and in print.

It is a short and slippery slope from banning jokes to burning books.

Bob Slayer disagrees with me. He supports attempts to ban rape jokes in comedy clubs.

“Of course,” he says, “all of this will require a comedy police force to ensure that these rules are adhered to. Someone will have to vet every comedian, judge them before they even do their first open mic gig and award them with a provisional licence to perform clean, pre-approved jokes. They can then work towards proving they are capable of a full comedy licence to make up their own jokes.

“A comedian licence would work along similar lines to the one for buskers on the London Underground. It used to be that buskers who were homeless and looked like they were only busking in order to keep in the dry were driven outside to think about their lives while they slowly died of cold.

“Thankfully, they were then replaced by college students and trustafarians who had achieved at least grade 4 on their chosen instrument. These approved buskers were then given a laminated badge and allowed to entertain commuters with officially sanctioned playlists.

“I look forward to comedy being ordered in the same way.”

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Politics, Rape, Sex

Jimmy Savile: the infamous “Have I Got News For You” transcript from 1999

This is allegedly a transcript of an un-broadcast section of an old Have I Got News For You TV programme recorded when Angus Deayton was presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile was a guest on the show. Regular team captains were comedian Paul Merton and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

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Out-take 3:09’36

During the headline round:

DEAYTON: You used to be a wrestler didn’t you?

SAVILLE: I still am.

DEAYTON: Are you?

SAVILLE: I’m feared in every girls’ school in the country.

(Audience laugh)

DEAYTON: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.

SAVILLE: What have you heard?

DEAYTON: I’ve…

MERTON: Something about a cunt with a rancid, pus-filled cock.

(Huge audience laugh; Awkward pause)

SAVILLE: I advise you to wash your mouth out, my friend…

MERTON: That’s what she had to do! (Audience laughs)

HISLOP: Weren’t you leaving money in phone boxes or something?

(Saville glares at him) Or have I got completely the wrong end of the…

SAVILLE: (To Deayton, heavily) The question you asked was about wrestling.

DEAYTON: Yes. And then you mentioned girls’ schools. I don’t know whe…

SAVILLE: Well I understood this was a comedy programme. I realise now how wrong I was. (Audience laugh)

DEAYTON: So were you a professional wrestler?

SAVILLE: Yes I was.

DEAYTON: (To audience) Glad we got that cleared up.(Pulls face; audience giggles)

HISLOP: Feared by every girls’ school in the country…

SAVILLE: That’s right.

MERTON: Due to having a rancid, pus-filled cock.(Huge audience laugh)

DEAYTON: Erm…

HISLOP: You’re on top form tonight, Paul…

SAVILLE: (Strangely) I’m…this is not what I…

FLOOR MANAGER: (OOV) OK, do you…(inaudible section)…shall we, for pick-ups…

MERTON: I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what came over me.

SAVILLE: A pus-filled cock, I imagine. (Shocked audience laugh)

MERTON: Oh, it’s nice to see you joining in. We’d been waiting for you, you sad senile old shitter. (Audience appears to do double-take)

DEAYTON: I think we…d-d-you you want to apologise to our guest, Paul?

MERTON: Sorry, I do apologise. Sir senile old shitter, is what I meant to say.

(Audience laugh; pause) Sir senile old shitter…who fucks minors.

(Audience unrest)

HISLOP: Sorry, I’m just looking at our lawyer again. (Waves) Hello!

(Audience laughs)

DEAYTON: Shall we get back on course with this, or sha…

SAVILLE: I do fuck miners, that’s quite correct. I have always done so. They can do the most wonderful things with cigars. The coal…

MERTON: What, they stick them up your senile, pus-filled arse?

(Audience laughs)

FLOOR MANAGER: (OOV): Come on…I’m getting an ear-bashing here. It’s…

MERTON: Oh they want to continue. Sorry, I’ll contain myself. Carry on…

DEAYTON: Right (Pause) You used to be a professional wrestler didn’t you?

(Huge audience laugh)

SAVILLE: (Calmly) I did.

DEAYTON: You didn’t have a nickname or anything?

SAVILLE: Yes – ‘Loser’. (Audience laughs)

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Out-take 4: 21’20

Following a discussion about caravans:

DEAYTON: Last month, Roger Moore sold his luxury caravan in Malta. Asked by the…

MERTON: I visited your caravan the other week, Jimmy.

SAVILLE: Did you really?

MERTON: Oh yes. Interesting what you can find, if you have a bit of a poke.

(Audience laugh)

HISLOP: He just told you, it was twelve years ago…

SAVILLE: No, I lived in it for twelve years.

MERTON: And fucked twelve year olds. (Audience laugh)

DEAYTON: Here we go again…I’ll be backstage if anyone wants me.

MERTON: (Indicating Saville) That’s what you said to the kids on your show, wasn’t it?

(Audience laugh)

SAVILLE: No, they never did want me.

HISLOP: Not even Sarah Cornley?

SAVILLE: She was an exception.

DEAYTON: Who’s Sarah Cornley?

SAVILLE: Sarah Cornley is…

HISLOP: About fifteen grand in damages, wasn’t she?

(Uncertain audience laugh)

SAVILLE: That’s right.

HISLOP: So if I was going to mention that you threatened to break her arm if she said anything…

SAVILLE: You’d be very wrong. (Pause) I said I’d break both her arms.

(Audience unease)

MERTON: Fucking hell. I mean, you’re just sitting there, all shell suit and cigar wearing those fucking…I don’t know what they are.

SAVILLE: Chrome-plated SC-700 sun-visors, these are. Sent to me by…

MERTON: We don’t give a shit. Ladies and gentlemen, Sir James Saville OBE. Jim has fixed it for me to have my arms broken. Meet this depressing old fucked up cunt of a fucker on television who’s riddled with cancer and fucking pubic lice.

HISLOP: (To lawyer again) Hello! (Audience laughs)

MERTON: Christ, I mean ha ha, big fucking joke – the fucking lawyers are involved, tee hee. It doesn’t change anything.

DEAYTON:  (Visibly out of character) Do you wanna stop, or…?

MERTON: No I don’t fucking want to stop. It’s all shit! You’ll expect a comedy walkout in a minute, won’t you? I mean, big bloody joke – I’m going to quote Shakespeare in a minute, how fucking out of character. And Ian knows about football – oh my fucking sides.

SAVILLE: You’ve never fucked anyone in your life, boy.

MERTON: Oh fuck off…

FLOOR MANAGER: (OOV) …About five minutes, just to…(Phil Davey enters)

PHIL DAVEY: OK, well top that as they say. You’re looking troubled by that, aren’t you mate? I tell you, I came back from Amsterdam recently…

RECORDING PLACED ON STAND-BY; CUTS BACK TO CLOSE-UP OF DEAYTON

AWAITING HIS CUE

DEAYTON: OK. Second time lucky. (Pause) Last month, Roger Moore sold  his luxury caravan in Malta. Asked by the New York Times about his relaxed acting style…

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After I posted this blog, always well-informed comedian Richard Herring told me he believed the above was written several years ago by SOTCAA, who describe themselves as “a sort of loose rebel collective of BBC sketch writers”. And, indeed, the letter below (supplied by SOTCAA) confirms this was an excellent 1999 hoax. The full background on how and why the spoof transcript was written is explained in my blog HERE.

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