Jonathan Ross: You Should Know Better

POOR COMPANY: Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais share a joke about "mongs and ladyboys". Perhaps.

POOR COMPANY: Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais share a joke about "mongs and ladyboys". Perhaps.

Jonathan Ross will be lucky if my mum watches his show tonight. He managed to infuriate her last week, and my mum’s ever so difficult to annoy, even when you try, really hard – even if you give her tacky, worn jewellery for Christmas; or forget her birthday, twice, consecutively; or secretly redecorate her house, horrendously, while she’s on holiday, in a style you know she’ll hate. But Wossy, somehow, really made her snarl. It all boiled down to his intro (available here, 2 minutes, 30 seconds in):

Have you seen this story, I love this story today, a Thai airline, a company called PC Air has announced an exciting new recruitment policy – they’re going to recruit more ladyboys to be air stewards! [pauses: audience laughter]

Unlike most airlines, they’re actually encouraging you to take a concealed weapon on board, it’s a whole new, it’s a whole new (just waiting for some of you) it’s a whole new (I would! I think I have for one of them…)

The biggest shock on that plane is when the plane hits turbulence because it’s not just the oxygen masks that fall down in front of your face. [audience express disgust]

What a great way to spend a flight though, because you wouldn’t need puzzles or movies, because you’d just be, “Is she? Is he? Is she?” And when you want to find out the answer you just press the buzzer and go, “Excuse me, do you have any nuts?”

Soon after it aired, mother called. Have you seen it, Paris? Isn’t it disgusting? How is he allowed to get away with it? What are you going to do about it? My only question was: why are you so surprised? I suppose she’s only just started noticing crap like this which has, in fact, been there all along. I’m both glad that she gets it, and sad that she’ll now get so very much of it. Welcome to my world, mother.

Last year, a Russell Howard’s Good News sketch caused outrage after deriving humour in exactly the same way from exactly the same news story. (Yeah: this joke is old.) Then too we saw a focus on genitals, audience disgust, and laughter that such a serious scheme should help such ridiculous people. Ladyboys! The RHGN team defended the shit skit, saying it wasn’t about trans people, not really. After meeting one of the show’s producers, I’m inclined to think they actually believed this. Targeting a vulnerable minority wasn’t Russell’s aim: the boy just wanted to drag up. So what’s Jonathan’s excuse? His words relate unequivocally to real trans people, who face equally real discrimination.

CRUEL RESPONSE: Jonathan's shocking reply to a critic on Twitter

Is it even worth mentioning the £150,000 fine his obscene phone messages cost the BBC? Or the time he claimed to be “mortified” by accusations of homophobia? I wonder how he’d feel about being labelled a transphobe. As my mum noted, Ross was in the news again just days before his “ladyboy” comments, revealing his love and support for gay daughter Betty. Speaking to Gaydar Radio, Ross said he wanted his children to be “good, happy, stable people”. Funny, because that’s precisely what my mum wants for me. How do you think she feels then, Jonathan, when she turns on the TV and sees you ridiculing people like her daughter? For added empathy, go back and read your words about trans people, replacing “ladyboy” with “lesbian”. Still laughing?

Maddeningly, Jonathan and I have mutual friends. Trans friends. Oblivious, he makes cheap cracks about people within his own social circle, jokes which I doubt he’d make in person. Of course, comedy should be free to lampoon indiscriminately, but it’s rather galling when this freedom is abused by dominant social groups to humiliate the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. More than that though, the humour in question is both lazy and unsophisticated – which is fine, sometimes – but don’t we deserve at least some intelligent comedy about gender, you know, every now and then? Please? Is this really the best Ross and Russell can come up with: sniggering at people’s genitals and making rubbish “nuts” jokes? Wossy, you may have upset my mum on behalf of trans people and their loved ones, but that didn’t offend me. I’m insulted on behalf of comedy.

Now, where did I put my Tim Minchin DVD?

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15 thoughts on “Jonathan Ross: You Should Know Better

  1. Interestingly i just looked up his twitter:

    jonathan ross

    @wossy jonathan ross
    @cocoteacups lighten up Sir. Madam. Whatever

    What a complete and utter arse…

  2. Christabel says:

    When the BBC told me they wouldn’t show that bit in any repeat of Russell Howard’s Good News I didn’t realise they’d just recycle the joke verbatim in something else. Jeez.

  3. Becca says:

    It’s strange you’ve posted this, because the same happened with me. I watched it, thinking how pathetic and old and generally foolish those jokes are, but my mum came storming out the kitchen and was really annoyed, questioning 1) How he could get away with it and 2) Why it didn’t particularly bother me.

    Some research came out of the USA recently estimating that 10% of the population have a transgender person as a “relative or close friend”. So these jokes are offending way more than just the minority, especially as that percentage only increases as you expand the definition of friend. I’ll never forget how Harry Hill’s jokes on TV Burp often got met with boos or shock from the audience. Hopefully that’ll be standard soon.

    • ParisLees says:

      It’s a very good point Becca. Have been in countless situations where my friends, family, and member of my boyfriend’s family have been upset and uncomfortable at jokes directed at trans people. I think that part of the issue here is that Ross did not connect “ladyboys” with his understanding of “transgender people”. This, I believe, is one of the problems of using descriptive terms as nouns – it allows people’s humanity to be overlooked. I just don’t think the above joke would have “worked” if the scriptwriting team had replaced “ladyboy” with “transgender people”. The effect is that Ross thinks he’s talking about “ladyboys”; exotic creatures from another land.

  4. mooseyjake says:

    Epic rant Paris, love it. He has clearly acted like a cunt, and should apologise for it – Russell Howard did I think…

    Quick thing though – did you actually do those things to your mum? Coz I hope you took pics 😛

  5. Caroline says:

    There must be dozens of real comedians out there for the money these two arse holes are paid. It should be two strikes and out, they are polluting the screens with distasteful insults and extremely poor standards.

  6. You Mum must be like me, Paris. My daughter turned forgetting the date of my birthday into an art form once she left home and had no parental reminders to keep her on the straight and narrow. These days she is getting better at it, but I suspect that may have something to do with being a Mum now herself.

    As for @wossy, whilst I appreciate that he has the jokes written for him (as he doesn’t have the talent to do it himself), he does have the responsibility for deciding to read them out. It’s a bit like having the general nous not to ring an aged and loveable actor’s answering machine on a radio show and making lewd suggestions about his daughter. You and I (and most of the country) just know, instinctively, that that’s maybe not a good idea. Broadcasters have a right to expect that their ‘talent’ has that basic level of sense too. You’d think he’d know too (from the trouble that befell Ricky Gervais for the “mong” remarks, and his crass attempts to defend them) that insulting people who complain isn’t a good move. It just confirms he’s totally lacking in any class.

    • ParisLees says:

      Agree his response was really poor to start off with. Made me very angry. I do suspect though that, underneath the nasty jokes, Ross is probably one of the good guys. Seems a shame to me that he’s been trying to be a part of this cruel brand of comedy which has become so popular among comics working in TV.

      My mum pointed out that, with the Russell Brand/Andrew Sachs scandal, so many people picked up on it was because they could identify with. It wasn’t hard for people to feel angry by connecting what happened to their own grandparents.The problem with stuff like this is that not everyone has a trans person in their family, or indeed as their child. What’s clear is that those who do can find this sort of thing incredibly upsetting. I imagine this is something Ross has never stopped to think about, and why would he? It’s a difficult task trying to alert comedians to the environment of ridicule that such jokes perpetuate, because it’s an environment they’ve never had to live in.

      I actually think Ross could be a strong advocate for trans people in future, and talks are in place. Don’t give up on him just yet.

  7. Dru says:

    Not so much Jonathan jumping the shark, as tripping over it. Poor doofus.

  8. He has gone down in my estimation that’s for sure.

    I’m not sure I like the comment reproduced from twitter though, that says to Jonathan ‘would you say that to gays or lesbians?’

    It seems a bit ‘oppression olympics’ to me.

  9. […] as this post from Paris Lees explains, Wossy has managed to cover himself in do-dos as far as the trans […]

  10. Vez says:

    Have posted a link to this page, and a recommendation that people complain, on my Facebook.

  11. katrina2 says:

    Hence his nick name, Wossy, yes, what a wos, for me now, he’s a woss been.

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