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How far should TV shows push humour?

09:45 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

The BBC has apologised for remarks made on the television programme, Top Gear, that caused outrage in Mexico. Have you ever complained about a TV programme?

In a letter to Mexico's ambassador in London, the BBC said it was sorry if the comments had offended some people, but said jokes based on national stereotyping were part of British national humour.

Stephen Fry has also courted controversy and had a documentary series in Japan shelved after complaints about nuclear bomb jokes in his quiz show "QI". The Japanese Embassy accused the BBC of making light of the attacks, which killed up to 250,000 civilians.

Is there a line that humour just should not cross? Are there subjects off-limits for humour?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    Humour is OK as long as it is not belaboured. Therein lies the problem, as such, with Top Gear.

    A snappy joke about national stereotypes is one thing. But the three of 'em went on and on and it became very unfunny....... like the rubbish spouted about the Sky Sports Toxic Duo.....

  • Comment number 2.

    Humour is very subjective and in these cases I don't feel a line was overdrawn. We sometimes forget that not all people have the same sense of humour as ourselves but if I find anything I don't like, I switch off - thats my option. These people who are making negative comments about the humour (and now flouting legal challenges to the Top Gear comments) should just learn that it was banter and that they should just grow up and ignore the comments, not behave like spoilt brats!

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem is comedy stretches the boundaries at times and it is not easy not to cause someone offence. I saw the episode by QI and I didn't find anything offensive. I remember they were actually commenting on how remarkable that the Japanese managed to get their trains running so soon after. If anything the joke was on us. I am certain that Stephen Fry would not wish to make light of others misery deliberatly. The BBC were wrong to apologise in this case. Do I commit a thought crime by suggesting that other nations(such as the Japanese and mexicans) do not share our sense of humour. I know that my Grans older brother John never received an apology from the Japanese after years of mistreatment in their POW camps. Britain is down and now the world wants to kick the carcass. Show a bit more backbone BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    Humour can take the tension out of a situation but if it is aimlessly dragging on about the same subject than it can be annoying, not only for the listener but for the people it is charactising.

    However PC has taken the fun out of even schoolkids jokes which are seen now to be demeaning, I heard loads of Scots, Irish etc jokes when I was younger and laughed at absurdities but I am not biased against any of the nationalities jokes stereotyped as it is humour not fact. I can tell the difference and do not need others to tell me otherwise.

  • Comment number 5.

    Free speech! Anything is permissable, so long as it is not deliberately or carelessly wrong and defamatory, and it is not gratuitously offensive.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    What about jokes at our expense?

    Lets here a bit more of the jokes johnny foreigner tell about us.

    I am sick of watching Hollywood films, usually Mel Gibson's, where we are the bad guy's, with no sense of humour - oh and we are all 'posh', (Note to film makers, there is only one Hugh Grant).

    We can take all the stereo-typing of the British stiff-upper-lip, monarchy, army types etc. so why does johnny foreigner get so uptight when we have a go back?




  • Comment number 8.

    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)

  • Comment number 9.

    Part of British humour involves laughing at ourselves. We sometimes do this by saying things which we know to be ignorant, stereotypical and tactless. It is part of our cringe factor humour.

    An example: When my son was at university, he told us that one of his housemates was German. His Dad's comment "don't mention the War, then" was facetious. It alluded to Fawlty Towers, to the British belief that Germans have no sense of humour, and to the view that the British and Germans could never get on. Nobody believes all this, so in effect we are laughing not just at a stereotype of Germans but at our own stereotype of ourselves as ignorant insular bigots. This is hard to explain to our friends abroad.

    On the other hand the Scots/Welsh/Irish/English jokes have echoes all round the world. Where I live in France the equivalents are the French/Belgian/Swiss ones. Humans have always feared and therefore joked about their neighbours.

    I saw the QI and Top Gear episodes. The first one could not have been offensive to the Japanese, surely? It must have gained a lot in the translation because I thought it was relatively sympathetic towards a man who had survived two atom bombs.

    The Top Gear situation was different. Here three silly overgrown schoolboys are allowed to play with big boys toys and show off about it on TV, while making silly jokes. The jokes about Mexico were just as I described above - laughing as much at British views as at Mexican cars, and while they did pile it on a bit I hardly think anyone who saw it would allow the Top Gear idiots to change their opinions of Mexico. Whether Mexico over-reacted is debatable, that any Mexican bothers to watch Top Gear is surprising.

    As far as I'm concerned, Mexico is free and welcome to retaliate by making insulting jokes about Britain, they have plenty of scope.

  • Comment number 10.

    According to inside contacts, the Japanese banking crisis shows no signs of ameliorating. If anything, it's getting worse.

    Following last week's news that Origami Bank had folded, we are hearing that Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank plans to cut back some of its branches.

    Karaoke Bank is up for sale and is (you guessed it!) going for a song.

    Meanwhile, shares in Kamikaze Bank have nose-dived and 500 back-office staff at Karate Bank got the chop.

    Analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank and staff there fear they may get a raw deal.

  • Comment number 11.

    First rule - if the joke you are going to tell, you personally would not find funny if it was aimed at you - don't tell it. (Thinking about Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand in particular here.)

    Second - this is the problem with multi-culturism and shows going worldwide. Different peoples have different issues over which they will take offence, and quite acceptably so in their own culture. So it doesn't work.



  • Comment number 12.

    Its fair enough, we don't really believe what they said was true. It was just funny.

  • Comment number 13.

    Neither of the jokes seem to be overly offensive and I think there has been a mass overreaction to them.

    People need to lighten up and be able to laugh at themselves a bit more. Maybe then the world would be a better place!

    For me, any subject should be riduculed to comedy if people find it funny. If you don't like it, switch off, walk out and get on with your lives.

  • Comment number 14.

    8. At 10:39am on 04 Feb 2011, Space Dust wrote:
    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)

    =================================================

    I could probably out-eat you on the ice-cream bit!


  • Comment number 15.

    I must confess that I do not actually know what was said on Top Gear.Even so,I would have thought that the Mexicans had more important things to worry about....now where did I put the telephone number for that Mexican drugs cartel bloke??

  • Comment number 16.

    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash

  • Comment number 17.

    PC gone mad.

    Hummour for adults will always offend someone if it lets them and every country has it's stereotypes.

    How often do foreign ambassadors appologise to the UK for jokes about us British? Never I suspect.

  • Comment number 18.

    In todays Brave New World humour is an outdated concept and should be punished with the utmost severity.

    The PC brigade must be obeyed, humour is NO laughing matter.
    Print that Mr/Ms Beeb moderator.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    "I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)"

    this exactly the point, we shouldn't care. All nationalities take the P out of each other, so what, beats shooting each other.

  • Comment number 21.

    We Brits have a sense of humour that is unique, though the Aussies are pretty good as well (Kiwis included in this). It is about all we seem to have left as a national identity. I am of the opinion that we are slowly being subsumed by P.C. (I am leftie and I find P.C. has gone too far) and there should be roll back so our humour, our voice is heard.

    One thing I will say and I do hold a strong view on this. Religion should not seek nor have any special protection from humour.

    Humour is the one route whereby truth can be brought to the fore and make people question and think and it should not be stifled by political correctness.

    I cannot understand some American Humour, it just does not resonate with me. Though there are some American comics Robin Williams and the series M.A.S.H that are superb, high quality and extremely funny.

    If others find the British sense of humour offensive, then I say tough it's ours and until you come up with something funnier we will carry on as usual and be content to know we enlightened and entertained by the likes of Fry and Clarkson.

    And no I have not complained to any broadcaster. I do find Frankie Boyle a bit too near the knuckle for me, but I do not feel it is right to complain as I am a very strong believer in free speech.

  • Comment number 22.

    I don't know why anyone gets worked up about what these three sad middle aged boy racers say like Key and Gray they should sent back to the 70s where they would feel at home.

  • Comment number 23.

    The rest of the world makes plenty of stereotypical jokes about the British. If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

  • Comment number 24.

    "Don't mention the war/women/Mexicans/gays/Irish/muslims/disabled/ black/asian/British/anyone"
    I mentioned them once but I don't think I got away with it, as I had to attend a minorities awareness and cultural empathy equalities training seminar, arranged by Harriet Harperson"

    Somehow, John's Cleese's original was much better.

  • Comment number 25.

    Whilst I agree Top Gear did labour the point a bit too much, it was Top Gear so what did they (the complainants) expect, unless of course they weren't watching it and only complained because some one told them, in the which case their complaint should, mostly, be ignored.

    As for QI - Methinks the Japanese do protest too much. QI is famed for its gentle humour, unlike certain Japanese programs.

    That they saw fit to object to Dr Fry filming in their country can only be regarded as their loss.

  • Comment number 26.

    Space Dust wrote:
    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)


    According to Handsome clever witty slim attractive English males all Italians are in the Mafia, Bunga Bunga is compulsory - especially for politicians,who re-write the rules so common laws no longer apply to them. (that law point applies to other countries including the UK and Politicians)

    All Italian women ARE indeed beautiful but only until they are 18, after which point they resemble whales (in black, with beards)

    I however am Scottish, and all of this (after a lifetime of Scottish jokes) washes over me.

  • Comment number 27.

    Space Dust wrote:
    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)


    Ah, shuddupayaface.

  • Comment number 28.

    Storm in a tea cup, will all be forgotten in a few days time. Be interesting to see what is said on this Sundays show.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    8. At 10:39am on 04 Feb 2011, Space Dust wrote:

    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)


    ----

    yes but at least we can fight :)

  • Comment number 31.

    17. At 10:54am on 04 Feb 2011, Nakor wrote:
    PC gone mad.

    Hummour for adults will always offend someone if it lets them and every country has it's stereotypes.

    How often do foreign ambassadors appologise to the UK for jokes about us British? Never I suspect.

    ---------------------

    Yeah, but how many people in the UK watch foreign TV shows? Not many!

  • Comment number 32.

    The Mexican ambassador is being a bit over-sensitive. True, the jokes were clumsy and badly told by people who just car nerds, not comedians. Clarkson couldn't funny his way out of wet paper bag.

  • Comment number 33.

    6. At 10:32am on 04 Feb 2011, Magi Tatcher wrote:
    How many mexicans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    Juan.

    ---

    Are you suggesting all Mexicans are called Juan? I find that deeply insulting and am very tempted to complain about this comment.

  • Comment number 34.

    Is there a line that humour just should not cross? Humour should be funny and not offensive.
    Are there subjects off-limits for humour? Yes there is a line that shouldn't be crossed and that is not using protected characteristics such as disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender re-assignment, age etc as humour because it isn't funny. For example, I was offended for former PM, Gordon Brown when Jeremy Clarkson used his disability to make an offensive remark about the PM's eyes. That immediately put me off his programme Top Gear which my husband and I stopped watching. I don't pay money to watch people who insult others just because they are in a position to do so without check. Same with the comments by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Thereafter, I completely lost interest in Jonathan Ross’s programme. There are many other examples and it seems to be the same individuals who try to be obnoxious like the two Sky Sports Reporters because they feel they can say anything and get away with it because they have been engaging in acts like that before it became public knowledge and also earn an awful lot and think they are indispensible. Now they know that they are not!

  • Comment number 35.

    I think this better teach TV presenters a lesson that making a joke out of sensitive issues is not a good thing for the sake of having a laugh & boosting ratings. I liked top gear due to its way of making a mild joke about something but appearing serious at the same time & its was its niche. Now it seems anything centred around a highly sexually based joke is the name of the game, its just too obvious they are trying too hard to make a joke with the words they are using and the way they are behaving and at times its not funny or amusing, makes them look immature amatuers. Reading Jeremy's news articles on certain topics makes him seem like a highly literate and educated professional and making pathetic obvious sexual jokes or jokes on a national scale does not fit his style - so Jermey just grow up and act your age! Stephen fry's joke about the A bomb is just unforgivable and i hope he learns his lesson. what happened in Japan was bad and its affected a lot of inoccent people and left memories hard to wipe away and forget so show some understanding and respect. Its ok to joke amongst your friends and family but this is broadcasting and it will be shown on a international scale so there must be some restraints. think the high pay and high life has got to their heads and they are starting to behave a bit thick!!

  • Comment number 36.

    Again.
    Is the BBC a good or bad parent ??

    Top Gear has offended and humiliated a whole country.

    If the comments/jibes/jokes were made on HYS, would they have even passed the moderators given the experience of many HYS contributors ??

    So, is this hypocrisy and running scared of true free speech at the BBC good or bad parenting ??

    It seems the BBC says ''it's just JC''/TopGear/ now,
    unbelievably the excuse of ''our style of humour''.

    Not In My Name does Top Gear call a Mexican ''la*y, f*ckless, flatuent oaf''.

    Is it because that ''I'm(Top Gear) In The Black'' that the BBC persists with Top Gear ??
    Is it simply because of the money generated.

    what now then of lost Mexican tourism ??
    what now of lost Mexican investment ??
    what now of lost Mexican spending on British goods ??
    what figure does the BBC put on this ??

    Doesn't TopGear constantly lament the demise of the British Car Industry ??
    Isn't it also the case, that the lazy, stupid and arrogant views/comments/jokes expressed on Top Gear the same attitude that lost the British Car Industry in the first place ??

    It seems the BBC is Condoning Offensive Remarks By Excuse, leading the way in bad parenting and thus generating a nation of hypocrites.

    The foolocracy remains...

    [butter-would-melt-in-ones-mouth-smilieproductionsfeb2011]


  • Comment number 37.

    So this HYS comes out one day after the esteemed Beeb has a story on a French comedy which mocks the Belgians. I don't see the French falling over themselves to apologise - why does the BBC think it has to?

    You can't please everyone.. "Get a grip. Lighten up." would be a refreshing position for the BBC to take once in a while.

  • Comment number 38.

    Strange how the Left consider their beloved Stephen Fry as being taken 'out of context' and that the crass abuse of the poor Japanese chap was a 'misunderstanding' yet the same Left have a real pop at the Top Gear chaps, presumably because they aren't gay, left wing luvvies. It's the same with the vile Frankie Boyle. The Left consider him some kind of hero whereas I would consider him a foul and vile individual. Each to their own taste. I do believe however that the most irritating aspect of the Left is when they are 'offended on the behalf of others'. What utter and complete tripe. These people need to get a life (or reach for the off switch like I have to do with the TV filled with very poor Left wing so called comedians).

  • Comment number 39.

    16. At 10:53am on 04 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Use the off switch or change channel!

  • Comment number 40.

    looks like the only form of acceptable humor now is statistically proven jokes!


    ive got one!

    british women eh? fat, useless and lazy!


    and the proof came out today :)

    british women - fattest in europe
    2nd fatest in world


    is that the future of humor now?
    unless its a proven fact you cannot make a joke about it?

  • Comment number 41.

    31. At 11:20am on 04 Feb 2011, Fitz13 wrote:

    17. At 10:54am on 04 Feb 2011, Nakor wrote:
    PC gone mad.

    Hummour for adults will always offend someone if it lets them and every country has it's stereotypes.

    How often do foreign ambassadors appologise to the UK for jokes about us British? Never I suspect.

    ---------------------

    Yeah, but how many people in the UK watch foreign TV shows? Not many!


    I suspect that a lot of people in the UK watch American and Australian TV shows or do you not count them as "foreign" as they are broadcast in English?

  • Comment number 42.

    There is a simple solution.
    Send Dr. Fry (yes he is now a honorary doctor) over to Mexico to appease the Mexicans. He is normally such a smoothie that I am sure he would be able to unruffle a few feathers there.
    In the mean time, arrange a Top Gear Japanese Special with a race up or down the islands - or just between Nagasaki and Hiroshima. By the time Messrs. Clarkson, May, and Hammond were done, the Japanese would be most grateful to allow Stephen Fry to film there, provided there was a lifetime ban on Top Gear and its presenters ever returning to the Land of the Rising Sun.
    (I suspect that this comment will probably be canned after all my efforts to re-register but que sera sers.)

  • Comment number 43.

    16. At 10:53am on 04 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:

    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash


    ---------------

    Hmmm... This comment appears to be ageist and petrolheadophobic. Both very serious ThoughtCrimes. Very serious indeed. It's a wonder this comment hasn't been deleted by the BBC.

    And if the Mexican ambassador has woken up yet, I would say to him surely he has more important things to worry about?

  • Comment number 44.

    How about all the years of British cars being negatively portrayed in films, used by badies and always crashing etc, maybe there is MORE to the destruction of British manufacturers than just incompetance.

    Personally I think Japan should completely shut up about any suffering from the 2 bombs, because the suffering they inflicted upon MILLIONS of people was MUCH HARSHER and the event of bombs FACTUALLY prevented FURTHER loss of life of both allied forces and Japanese military and civillians.

    Its all very well stating supposition, that Japan may have surrendered anyway but that is NOT the factual reality with much evidential information showing that many Generals were looking to carry the fight on as Germany did, until EVERYTHING was annilated, resulting in many many more victims on both sides.

    Look at the attrociousness the Japanese did to nations they conquered then look at what USA did to Japan, turning it into something far better and the nation it is today.

    If Japan had acquired the bomb, do you really think they would have just stopped at bombing 2 USA citys.

    Yes people in Japan died from the 2 bombs, it was attrocious, but ultimately THOSE PEOPLE DIED AS A DIRECT RESULT & CONSEQUENCE OF JAPANESE BEHAVIOUR, NO-ONE ELSES, hence to continually complain about its insensitivity just re-inforces Japans CONTINUED REFUSAL to COMPENSATE the VICTIMS IT CREATED.

    Japan was FULLY compensated by having its country turned into a PROSPEROUS MODERN SOCIETY, of which its gains, far far exceed the price/cost losses experienced by the 2 bombs.

    If Mexico does not want to be held in contempt by many and the target of ridicule, then it needs to do MUCH MUCH more to change the endemic corruption and crime and CREATE a NEW vision of its country COMPARIBLE to FACT.

    Just as particular regions in UK are made fun of and the mentality and behaviours of UK regions are made fun of is NO DIFFERENT to that portrayed on Top Gear about Mexico & Mexicans.

    Are Mexicans saying that they do NOT have similar regional or national targets which are made fun of etc and portrayed in the same way as Top Gear targetted them.

    I doubt it, as far as I am aware EVERY country has its own HISTORICAL targets of fun, including regional differences within itself.

    So much, the UK laughs AT ITSELF, ONLY the MOST ignorant and STUPID would believe that figures of fun are the predominant reality, maybe this may be a problem in Mexico due to a bigger number of population of lower education!!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Can't comment on Fry's 'joke' as I don't know what he said.

    Re. Clarkson et al. Would they have got away with what they said if it was about Pakistanis, Afro-Caribbeans etc? No, thought not. So why should they get away with it with Mexicans - or any other nationality or ethnic group?

    I used to watch Top Gear when it was a half hour show. Clarkson was a silly prat even then with gems such as Ferraris snapping knicker elastic - not funny then not funny now. However, the informative items by the likes of Steve Berry and Quentin Wilson tended to negate Clarkson's so-called 'contribution'. I watched the first few episodes of the new one hour format when it started and gave up in disgust. The few glimpses I've seen since aren't going to change my mind.

  • Comment number 46.

    Chubby Brown, considered one of the rudest most objectional comedians is quoted as saying that there are no 'types' of humour. He says there is no 'blue' 'clean' 'alternative' or even 'PC' humour.

    He says it's either funny or it's not humour.

    Jeremy Clarkson couldn't tell a funny joke if his life depended on it, same goes for Jonathon Ross.

    I heard the late and gladly not missed Bernard Manning doing his diatribe against asians, totally un-funny. Saying something offensive without being witty does not a joke make.

    Example? My favorite:

    Asian goes on MasterMind, his chosen subject?











    Anoraks 1699 to 1999.




  • Comment number 47.

    Funny thing is, co-written with Mick Jones, Joe Strummer sang it so long ago..

    a 1-2-3-4

    ''All over people changing votes,
    Along with their overcoats,
    If Adolf Hitler flew in today,
    They'd send a limousine any way.''

    [''White Man In Hammersmith Palais'', June 1978]

    ...and Still* we have ''institutions'' like the BBC who haven't learned a thing.

    [[for the 3r's, in order:
    *Track 9 Dead Souls,
    Track 10 Sister Ray,
    Track 11 Ceremony,
    Track 19 Decades,
    Track 20 Digital,
    Track 17 Disorder.

    Repeat medicine as and when required.]]

    The foolocracy remains...

  • Comment number 48.

    16. At 10:53am on 04 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash

    ----------------

    Strange then that millions of people watch it every week and the show is exported all around the world.

    The show is meant to be entertaining, and to the millions of people who watch it, it is.

    I don't find songs of praise entertaining, as a result I don't watch it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Don't like it? Don't watch it.

    No one is forcing you to.

    We all know what the humour is like on that show from all 3 presenters, if you are the type that is easily offended then simply do not watch the programme.

    Is there anything in this world that people won't be offended at? Answer - NO. So shrug it off, move on, grow up and get some thicker skin.

  • Comment number 50.

    31. At 11:20am on 04 Feb 2011, Fitz13 wrote:
    17. At 10:54am on 04 Feb 2011, Nakor wrote:
    How often do foreign ambassadors appologise to the UK for jokes about us British? Never I suspect.
    ---------------------
    Yeah, but how many people in the UK watch foreign TV shows? Not many!
    ---------------------
    An awfull lot more than you think! Usually America or Australian TV shows and the "British" character will almost always be stereotyped in some way. It's the nature of producing shows for a home market that then gets a global audience.

  • Comment number 51.

    I complained for the first time (through the BBC website) some weeks ago and I'm still awaiting a response. The program in question was the 'comedy' Come Fly with Me One of Matt Lucas characters (a policeman with a drug dog) commented on serving in Afghanistan and his previous dog blown up by an IED. I have many friends out there at the moment and we are losing real heroes every week - thought that was in very bad taste.
    Generally though I'm fairly easy going on this subject.

  • Comment number 52.

    I thought we lived in a society that allowed, and encouraged, free speech? Indeed, freedom to express ones self is upheld by law. It is a basic human right. So why then has the last few years seen a steady wave of crack downs on what can and can't be said?

    We should all grow up and see it for what it was. A joke.

    The only outrage is that people who never even watched the show when it aired are complaining. I'm outraged about that. Who can I complain to about my outrage at the outrage?

  • Comment number 53.

    Were these moaning Mexicans thinking of coming over here to sponge off our overstreched benefits system? I hope Jeremy and Co have changed their minds now

  • Comment number 54.

    Frankie Boyle would push humour well past breaking point at times, we all know the Richard Hammond "wedding day" joke and that was painful for people just watching.
    As for QI it wasn't offensive in the least, the jokes must've been completely lost in translation, so I think we have to imagine 5 people laughing and mentioning nuclear bombs, Japan and Tsutomu Yamaguchi whilst not understanding anything else and we may get the impression the Japanese got.

    Making light of the event is also a little odd considering we all make light of just about everything, including pretty much all of World War II, the royals, the politicians etc.
    Apologising was probably the right instance in Japan's case although it'd be vital to stress that there was not a shred of bad intent in the slightest and for Top Gear I haven't seen the episode in question although the quotes make it seem they lay it on a little bit thick. Saying that, they could have said a lot worse if they really felt like it, and there may have been a tiny amount of nastiness involved, but not enough to warrant any controversy. If any nation was so insulted they could just not watch, I mean there are plenty of shows that we avoid because we wouldn't like them, but are still fully aware they exist without complaining.

    On a side note we all love Asterix and it practically lives on stereotypes and still hasn't a bad word to say about any nationality.

    As for whether there is a line humour shouldn't cross... I say it depends heavily on the individual, some couldn't take personal attacks and those who could would be capable of laughing at just about anything.
    The only thing we should do is categorise the humour and by that I mean no adult or racist or whatever jokes on shows that are expected to be PC friendly and then varying between 1 and 5 on the nastiness scale for shows that aren't. QI being a 1, Top Gear a 2, Mock the week a 4(2 in the absence of Frankie), and 5 being an eviler show I haven't seen.

  • Comment number 55.

    Humour is a personal educational experience.
    Why we laugh is often not properly understood and can give rise to prejudice.

    So, the next time you laugh at a joke, ask yourself why.
    Then look down and think, which side of the "line" you are on.

    Ha ha . . . There is no line.
    Never will be.

  • Comment number 56.

    Anyone who watches Top Gear should expect non PC comments. I watched the episode in question and I'm with posting number one on this. A couple of one liners is fine, but in this case it seemed to go from joke to discussion, with each of the presenters trying to out do each other in the 'funny stakes'.

    Whether by joke or in general conversation, anything laboured becomes boring.

    I'm not PC, but I remember thinking at time that the BBC may well get complaints about the programme. Top Gear shouldn't change, but maybe the presenters should keep in mind that sometimes less is more.

  • Comment number 57.

    We seem to want absolutes in all areas of life. No-one should be criticised, offended or discriminated against, under any circumstances and to any degree, at any time. It is easy to say we should strive for this as a target (and morally one would find it hard to argue against). However one has to ask if it is achievable and what price we, as humans beings and a society will pay for achieving that target.

    We need to decide if it is a price worth paying for a so called 'better society'. We also need to make a positive decision, that, if this is a route we want to take, rather than the slow march towards its ‘goal’ we are having at the moment where we don’t really see or understand the consequences until its too late, we just all get on with it and embrace it.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am not an advocate of political correctness and feel that we are these days far too uptight and quick to take offence. However, the acceptability of humour depends upon its context and this was tasteless and completely unacceptable. The joke was laboured and extended until it became toe-curlingly embarrassing to hear the middle aged presenters of what is ostensibly a programme about cars wittering on like three adolescent teenagers. Actually that is probably insulting to some of the teenagers I know!
    The incident was made worse by the BBCs subsequent attempts to justify what was done. Yes, certainly, we all like a joke about national stereotypes occasionally, but they should have had the courage and decency to admit that this incident overstepped the mark and they should have appologised properly instead of making a pathetic attempt to justify what was done.
    I think it is time that the BBC took Clarkson and company in hand and made them act a little more responsibly, both in what they say and what they do. It might actually enhance what is otherwise a very watchable programme.

  • Comment number 59.

    There's a simple solution to this problem - if people don't like a joke then they can simply change channel. Thank you. I'll have my nobel prize now please.
    Slow news day at the BBC by any chance?

  • Comment number 60.

    I saw the QI episode in question and can't see how it could be considered offensive to the Japanese in the least. I watch Top Gear from time to time, but didn't see this particular episode. Nevertheless, that sort of humour is what we come to expect from Clarkson, May and Hammond. Stereotypical, yes but not explicitly nasty.

    Oh and while we're here: Why did the Mexican push his wife off a cliff?

    Tequila!

  • Comment number 61.

    Remarks can be taken in different ways by different people. Whilst care needs to be taken not to deliberately offend it is important not restrict the freedom of expression unnecessarily.
    I personally was surprised that anyone could take offence at Stephen Fry’s recent references the man unlucky enough to be caught in both the atomic bomb attacks on Japan but lucky to have survived them both.
    As for Top Gear, I regard this as another example of the trios childish behaviour. Its about time Top Gear was pensioned off. Perhaps it could be replaced by a program with a motoring theme! Having said that its important to ensure this type of program doesn’t take itself too seriously – a bit of humour is essential for all the people who don’t regard cars as a particularly serious subject.

  • Comment number 62.

    it depends on where humour comes from, from england you get the deep sense of inferior plasma,compared to celtic wit the voyage of the swag man is sort lived and others wearing the british type flag for protection are ruled by adverts,what is amazing is the quiet and pleasant reponse from racing car drivers when being interviewed which is quite the opposite to the top gear team who appear to be noxiously led by the big bloke,not being unkind but big blokes are very child like,not their fault, but wanting to show their fearless character in the wide world they sometimes loose the value of being a visitor in some one else's country.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    A couple of years ago a resident Englisman in Australia complained over an advert for extra cold beer with the slogan: “A Pom’s Worst Nightmare”.

    If national stereotyping is part of British humour, how come that British people don’t understand national stereotyping?

  • Comment number 65.

    Presenters and so-called Comics these days think the only way to get a laugh is to insult someone or just be plain rude!

    Whatever happened to getting a laugh by a simple but well formed joke that has no swear words and is simply 'funny.'

    Think of Morecombe and Wise and other great comics like the two Ronnies who got laughs by what they did and a touch of innuendo which allowed the audience to work it out for themselves not shock tactics and insults.

    As for Top Gear it used to be a programme about cars, instead of a 'trip' for the three idiots who's only test for a car is 'how fast it can go.' They need to join the real world with the rest of us who have to obey the law and watch the pennies. Clarkson is not even funny even if he thinks he is and the audience he crams into HIS old aircraft hanger obviously respond to signals off camera to make him look good.

    Insulting people and races is not funny and never will be, full stop.

  • Comment number 66.

    It is not so much the humour as the exponents. Top Gear presenters, HIGNFY team, Jeremy Paxman and Gary Lineker and Stephen Fry are untouchable. THey are so-called national treasures so any amount of banter or even abuse will be tolerated. Gray and Keys on SKy were not and were unpopular with colleagues so they had deservedly to go. Ross and Brand pushed the boat too far and resorted to sexual abuse which along with racist language, abuse of disabled people, aggressively sexist language or repeated swearing is an automatic red card offence.
    That is the difference. Top Gear knew they could get away with it and incidentally expose a lack of humour in Mexico. Next week they will pick on another country and get away.

  • Comment number 67.

    46. At 11:39am on 04 Feb 2011, JohnH wrote:

    Chubby Brown, considered one of the rudest most objectional comedians is quoted as saying that there are no 'types' of humour. He says there is no 'blue' 'clean' 'alternative' or even 'PC' humour.

    He says it's either funny or it's not humour.

    Jeremy Clarkson couldn't tell a funny joke if his life depended on it, same goes for Jonathon Ross.

    I heard the late and gladly not missed Bernard Manning doing his diatribe against asians, totally un-funny. Saying something offensive without being witty does not a joke make.

    Example? My favorite:

    Asian goes on MasterMind, his chosen subject?


    thats a shame i think 10's of millions of people disagree with you!

    maybe you are just a sensitive wussy?

  • Comment number 68.

    From what I understand the only person to complain has been the Mexican Ambassador. It can't be the first time that he has heard these kind of jokes about Mexico or seen Mexican's potrayed in this stereotypical view on TV or by Hollywood. Maybe Mexico needs to relaunch itself to the world in general. How many Mexican products, innovations or companies do we know? What do we really know about the modern day Mexican lifestyle?

    As far as Stephen Fry is concerned, well depending on your view, the man that they were talking about was either the luckiest or unluckiest person in Japan at the time of the nuclear attrocities. Most people would be very unlucky to be involved in one nuclear attack in their lives nevermind two. There is an incredible sense of irony in the story that this gentleman should have sought sanctuary in a place that was also going to suffer in the same way. The irony was therefore the humour and not the attrocities.

  • Comment number 69.

    If the Mexicans had issued a message to Top Gear that the joke wasnt funny, was a desperate attempt to drum up controversy, and was all in all just pathetic, I would have tremendous respect for them.

    Instead they fall back on PC whining. An entire nation defeated by three middle aged blokes known full well for playing up to their "ignorant, childish and often stupid" characters. The show acknowledges that they are a bunch of buffoons virtually every episode.

    Now normally I would like to defend Top Gear, as they usually have reasons. This time though, I kept waiting for the so called "joke" to have a point, but it didnt. It was just slagging off mexicans. Top Gear are imbeciles for letting such an unfunny "gag" at someone elses expense on air without good enough reason, like being sufficiently witty or clever.

    But because the Mexicans response was to whine like babies, I have no sympathy for them either. If only they had attempted to respond with a bit of class that moronic "joke" about the Mexicans was lacking. But no, they fell back on the PC thought police mantra of "your right to free speech doesnt exist when you say something I dont like".

    What I have learned from this: I despise political correctness and political "incorrectness" in equal measure.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think it was Mae West who said 'People who are easily offended should be offended more often'. I agree. Providing the material is shown after the watershed, then I think, as adults, NOTHING verbal should be off-limits. I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.
    I think the only time I complained was when that media-obsessed airhead Sally Bercow was moaning on the Politics Show that people only saw her as the Speaker's wife... but the only reason such an empty, self-opinionated nobody was ON the politics show was BECAUSE she was the speaker's wife. Hardly worth complaining about really, but it just goes to show how subjective the whole thing of being offended is really.

  • Comment number 71.

    In the Channel 4 series "Caribbean Uncovered" a local likened cars produced by each country to it's stereotypical character.
    EG. Teutonic German, Stylish Italian, Unreliable Caribbean.

    No complaints.

    How come the complaints now?

    I don't like the programme "Top Gear", I think it has lost it's way.

  • Comment number 72.

    Its a well known fact that the British sense of humour is not understood around the world.

    Germany have only just conmissioned the showning of 'Allo 'Allo more than 20 years after it was first shown here. Ricky Gervais presenting the Golden Globes with the Americans calling him insulting are good examples.

    Top Gear's presenters do not claim it to be a serious programme & Clarkson has always been very opinionated.

    Of course we accept the bad guy roles and still upper lip tags from around the world and just laugh them off.

    Humour makes life more fun and if people don't like it there are plenty of other channels to watch instead.

  • Comment number 73.

    I'm sorry but the way this has been reported looks more like a justification for Clarkson's appaling lack of taste rather than an appology. This was not a slip but a carefully considered speach designed to get laughs at the expense of others. What makes this any different from the sky reporters comments about a femnale linseperson?

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm German, so you can imagine all the jokes that our made of my nationality.

  • Comment number 75.

    I would just like to add that QI is one of the best shows on TV and Stephen Fry is a legend.

  • Comment number 76.

    Judging from the blogosphere, people all over the world were helpless with laughter at the BBC allowing Sir Paul Nurse on the recent Horizon programme 'Science Under Attack' to make a hugely embarrassing gaffe. In the film, the President of the Royal Society asked a NASA scientist to quantify the relative contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere by human and natural causes. When the scientist replied that 7 gigatons (billion tons) are emitted each year by human activity while only 1 gigaton comes from natural sources such as the oceans, even the non-scientists among us were choking on our tea. Sir Paul, obviously unaware that this was so much tosh, then got the scientist to repeat the error.

    Most (proper) scientists agree that the 7 billion tonnes of CO2 due to human activity represent just over 3 per cent of the total emitted and that the CO2 given off by natural sources is more than 96 per cent of the total.

    Bafflingly, the BBC has not yet apologised to the public for misleading them nor has it invited a (proper) scientist - say Richard Lindzen, head of climatology research at MIT - to explain on prime time television what the true picture is.

    It's a real puzzle isn't it? Maybe the BBC thinks that the Horizon gaffe is not actually humorous per se, more just a simple matter of the BBC not acting in good faith and seriously misleading the public. So in those circumstances, obviously no apology is required.

  • Comment number 77.

    39. At 11:27am on 04 Feb 2011, Dr Prod wrote:
    16. At 10:53am on 04 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Use the off switch or change channel!

    Dont worry I did a long time ago!

  • Comment number 78.

    These attempt-at-being-humorous remarks were made on a programme categorised by the BBC themselves as being 'Factual', so their already dubious defence that 'comedy' standards/rules (re national stereotyping) apply is both defunct and disingenuous.

    What is also disingenuous, from a meaningful feedback point of view, is the BBC conflating the 2 (Mexican and Japanese) cases on this comment-thread).

    No more bigotry on any BBC programmes please, especially 'factual' ones.


  • Comment number 79.

    Humour is far too much of an individual thing to start complaining about what someone else finds funny. When I'm not amused, I just find something else to watch, and perhaps avoid the particular show or performer in future.

    It's high time that people stopped taking offence when nobody is setting out to give it.

    If I actually WANTED to give offence, you'd be darn sure that that was my intention.

    Oh, and I shall be watching Top Gear next Sunday... despite rumours, I AM NOT THE STIG!!!!

  • Comment number 80.

    Well done the BBC for allowing this to go on Top Gear. Offending people is part of comedy. But of course, the race being offended is a white Christian one which is always fair game on the BBC. Can't see Clarkson making jokes about Islam, can you? Mind you, the funniest thing about Top Gear is their haircuts.

  • Comment number 81.

    I always thought of humour as something funny? Perhaps being offensive is considered funny these days. If it wasn't offensive then the BBC didn't need to apologize, if it was offensive then it wasn't funny.

    On a slightly worse note - I saw top gear won a prize as a 'top factual program' - interesting when they clearly were NOT factual about the electric car, when JC is so anti Vauxhall it makes all his comments seem stupid (I did notice that one of their 'challenges' had a clapped out old vauxhall as the back up car - it was actually the only car that didn't need constant maintenance and bodging to get to the end of the challenge), the whole team is anti-British to a point which just seems bizarre (another challenge showed them filling old British cars with water to see if the 'panels fitted' - not surprisingly - as cars aren't designed to be buckets - they leaked - I would love to see the performance of similar aged cars made by vw, audi, bmw, renault, citroen, mazda... if the team can find any survivors!)

    If this really is a 'top factual program' for the BBC it really says more about the lack of factual programs on the BBC than it does the quality of top gear.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    This type of schoolboy humour is only funny if the victim thinks it's funny - it would only be good manners when in a foreign country to respect the feelings of the local population - this episode just reinforces the childish aspect of the trio's personality - they apparently think they are still in the upper fifth form ! Fame surely carries some responsibility to behave in a civilised way - "Role Model" ? --I think not !

  • Comment number 84.

    Top Gear, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn. Childish programme with presenters full of their own self importance.

    I would class those remarks as bordering on racist, therefore, the BBC have no option but to sack those responsible.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Has anyone watched BBC3? If you want an indication of how stretched the word 'humour' can be just have a look at some of the cringeworthy stuff that's shown on there, it makes me embarassed to be British.

    As for QI, I saw that episode and can't figure out what part they were offended about! Especially since the editors remove a large chunk of the show (it's over an hour and a half long when recorded) to make sure that nothing offensive is screened.

  • Comment number 87.

    Things only become offensive if you allow yourself to be offended by them. If you can keep your sense of humour when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you then you are a man my son. A child of five could understand this. Fetch me a child of five!!

  • Comment number 88.

    "The BBC has apologised for remarks made on the television programme, Top Gear, that caused outrage in Mexico"
    "Remember the Alamo" is all I can add to the debate. . .

  • Comment number 89.

    8. At 10:39am on 04 Feb 2011, Space Dust wrote:

    I'm Italian, so, according to most uneducated British, all I do is eat ice-cream, pizza, and pasta; live on a farm; my mother wears black, and has a beard. I don't care. You should hear what the British male stereotype is from an Italian perspective. :)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Do tell I would love to hear it...


    Bet its not original tho...

  • Comment number 90.

    So why all the fuss over Top Gear's treatment of Mexicans, followed by a grovelling apology, while the same programme's treatment of Aussies sails past without a blink of an eyelid? If anything, the Aussies got much rougher treatment than the Mexicans and they took it in good humour. There should be equal treatment for all: either tell people to accept Top Gear's schoolboyish humour or sanitise the programme entirely so as not to cause offence to anybody (although that will probably cause offence to those who'd find it boring!).

  • Comment number 91.

    Aren't some of us getting just a little thin-skinned?

    When I lived in Wales, there were plenty of snipes at me for being English, but they were all in good jest. There was nothing malicious about them, and I hear as many derogatory remarks made about Poms by the Australians etc.

    Come on, people, grow up! If we can't recognize which side of the line a humourous comment falls, then we are overly sensitive and need to loosen up a bit more.

  • Comment number 92.

    Humour differs according to nationality and culture. We, the British, are well-known for being able to laugh at ourselves, and I, like most people, love a good laugh and banter. Caution is advisable when making jokes about other nationalities, because acceptable standards of humour vary so widely.
    However, I surprised myself recently at how angry I became while in the Netherlands, when a Dutch TV show made jokes about the British.
    Therefore, it would seem that, I'm allowed to poke fun at myself, but foreigners aren't ...

  • Comment number 93.

    48. At 11:40am on 04 Feb 2011, Fitz13 wrote:
    16. At 10:53am on 04 Feb 2011, EUR1P wrote:
    There is nothing humourous about three old blokes attempting to shock at any oportunity whilst abusing machinery, the programme is nothing to do with motoring and all about the farting old fools standing around in a wharehouse with their moronic followers hudled around them thinking they are witnessing the second coming.

    Distastefull trash

    ----------------

    Strange then that millions of people watch it every week and the show is exported all around the world.

    The show is meant to be entertaining, and to the millions of people who watch it, it is.

    I don't find songs of praise entertaining, as a result I don't watch it.



    .........................................................

    Just a sad reflection on the world of 2011 that millions of people find this sexist, racist rubbish presented by three middle class, middle aged public schoolboys entertaining

  • Comment number 94.

    Heritage Dictionary classifies gringo as "offensive slang," "usually disparaging," and "often disparaging." usualy aimded at U.S and UK citizens.Does this bother me NO.

    It is a sad day when the BBC has to apologise to maxican drug lords sorry ment government.

  • Comment number 95.

    51. At 11:43am on 04 Feb 2011, middleagedgrumpy wrote:
    "I complained for the first time. . . (about) the 'comedy' Come Fly with Me. One of Matt Lucas characters (a policeman with a drug dog) commented on serving in Afghanistan and his previous dog blown up by an IED. I have many friends out there at the moment and we are losing real heroes every week - thought that was in very bad taste."

    One of my uncles who was conscripted into the army in World War 2 got his foot blown off at Arnhem. When I waske him about how he felt at the time he said "Ah well: if you can't take a joke you shouldn't have signed up!"

  • Comment number 96.

    Yet another example of a perfectly harmless aspect of British culture being bulldozed by the political correctness lobby. The BBC's apology gives the whole story a gravitas it does not deserve.

    Anyone watching Top Gear knows what he's going to get. Anyone who believes everything he sees or hears on Top Gear deserves whatever he gets.

    Would the ambassador have been happier if Clarkson had said they wanted to test drive the car in Mexico but they couldn't because the ongoing war between drug cartels and the police makes much of the country too dangerous?

    And they say the Germans have no sense of humour......

  • Comment number 97.

    Not long now we'll soon have a ministry for Humour banning everything.

  • Comment number 98.

    Hilda Williams wrote:
    "it depends on where humour comes from, from england you get the deep sense of inferior plasma,compared to celtic wit the voyage of the swag man is sort lived and others wearing the british type flag for protection are ruled by adverts"

    No offence Hilda, but can I have some of what you are smoking?

  • Comment number 99.

    Comment 45 by Wyn at 11:38am - I concur with all that you have stated. I also didn't listen/watch Stephen Fry's programme and therefore cannot comment specifically on it.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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