Leave off the Michael Jackson jokes

Luke Fox warns off the hacks

There can only be one answer to the death of the king of pop at 50 years old: shock. As one commentator said this man did more by the age of ten than most people achieve in their lifetime – even if his life in recent years was controversial beyond belief.

Now, in the coming months, we can expect to see the most hacky of comedians making supposedly ‘outrageous’ comments about Jacko. But these sick and unwarranted opinions will lack even the most basic inventiveness or evidence.

Last night on Twitter, Richard Herring made jokes mainly based upon the coverage of his death rather than the death itself and I think this is the correct approach. Particularly under attack was the conduct of those who were supposedly springing to Michael’s defence but instead seemed to be using the situation to raise their own profile.

‘Shut up Uri,’ Herring tweeted. ‘And stop saying you won't say anything about stuff and then say everything.’

Many will argue that Jackson had so many rumours circling around him not to receive public scrutiny, and that the taboo around criticising the dead requires smashing. But the best comedians and commentators will talk less about his life and more about the way in which it is reported.

If one cannot find a real, academically justifiable reason to attack Jackson, then all that one is doing is needlessly offending the family and true friends of this once great man.

The same poorly thought-out jokes will circle that have been going since Henry VIII died – but the truly great comedians and commentators will realise that the real villains and the people worth attacking are Sky News, the BBC and so-called friends of Michael Jackson.

The pathetic jokes which will be told in comedy clubs will do nothing to change the received opinion of those watching. And by this act will fail to fulfil the most modest ambitions of the comedian: to challenge an audience’s prejudices and preconceptions.

Published: 26 Jun 2009

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