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.
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?