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25/01/2015
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Are there some things one should not make jokes about? Cancer for example?Radio 4 does not seem to think so.

This week on Feedback we discussed a new comedy series called Bad Salsa which follows some “women as they embrace the world of salsa whilst they adjust to life after cancer”.

It took me back to the early 1960s when I first heard Tom Lehrer performing his satirical songs. I remember the delight and shock that I felt, particularly when he sang “The Vatican Rag” –

“First you get down on your knees, fiddle with your rosaries,

bow your head with great respect and genuflect, genuflect, genuflect”.

But then I was a protestant.However, another Lehrer song made me a little uncomfortable, particularly one verse which goes like this:-

“All the Catholics hate the Protestants,

And the Protestants hate the Catholics,

All the Hindus hate all the Moslems,

And everyone hates the Jews”.

It was the reference to the Jews that bothered me. After all this was less than 20 years after the Holocaust, but I relaxed considerably when I realised that Tom Lehrer himself was a Jew.

Still I have never felt comfortable about jokes about Jews or any minorities. Am I just too PC?

I even felt bad when collapsing with laughter over Michael Palin’s stutter in the film “A Fish Called Wanda”.

Does it all come down to the quality of the joke or to who delivers it, or is a subject like cancer so terrible that no jokes are possible?

I discussed these issues with the writer and the producer of “Bad Salsa”,

Kay Stonham and Alison Vernon-Smith.

Here is our Feedback feature.

Roger Bolton talks about Bad Salsa, a new comedy series on BBC Radio 4


In a couple of weeks I will be going to a recording of Gardeners Question Time and talking to my old colleague from Carlisle Grammar School, Eric Robson, who has a smallholding in the most remote and awe inspiring valley in the Lake District, Wasdale.

If you have any questions you would like me to put to him, do let me know.

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton is the presenter of Feedback on BBC Radio 4

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by bastion

    on 21 Jul 2014 11:09

    Bad Salsa? Bad Comedy! Give me the News Quiz over this unfunny rant every time.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by newlach

    on 12 Jul 2014 12:47

    There is nothing wrong in principle with a comedy, as was pointed out, about women who have cancer and their experiences: the comedy is not about cancer. I have not listened to this comedy so I am not qualified to comment on whether or not it is funny. If there are many references to cancer I do not think I would enjoy listening: last year I turned the radio on at the wrong time and heard Dr Mark Porter talking about cancer in a part that women do not have and I have not felt right since. In this week's programme I read that he discussed the serious problems that certain bike saddles can cause men.

    I found Nigel Havers a unusual choice of guest on WatO. In fact, I was laughing out loud as he was speaking. Basically he said his aunt was someone of absolute integrity who would not have accepted to conduct an inquiry that could involve examining the role of Lord Havers (her brother and his father) if she thought she wouldn't do a good job. Well, that's that argument settled!

    Some may see this item as yet another Feedback attack on the Establishment. Mr Bolton should in future pay special attention to the corks on the wine supplied to him by the BBC after each programme and look out for any sudden change to the BBC's sommelier!

    Question for Eric Robson:

    The great Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson in his poem Windscale used to great effect the image of the stinkhorn: a widespread fungus recognizable for its foul odor and its phallic shape when mature. Is there a particular problem in Cumbria with Phallaceae fungi in general and the stinkhorn in particular?

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