Walliams cleared after insulting 'thick' quizzer

Ofcom rules over C4 joke

When you hold the record for the worst ever appearance on Mastermind, you might be expected to be able to take a joke about it.

But when David Walliams cracked gags at the expense of Simon Curtis’s embarrassing performance, the quiz addict rushed to broadcasting regulators to make a complaint.

Now Ofcom has officially decided that it’s all right to call Curtis ‘astoundingly thick’, by ruling that he was not treated unfairly when he was mocked on David Walliams’ Awfully Good TV earlier this year.

Curtis scored just one point on what was supposedly his specialist subject, the films of Jim Carrey, when he appeared on Mastermind five years ago.

Introducing clips from the performance, Walliams said: ‘Sometimes in life, you have to know your limitations… if you’re not let’s say, very bright, it’s probably not a good idea to go on a quiz show that tests your mental agility. And by not very bright I mean, astoundingly thick.’

Curtis, 47, had complained that he was unfairly portrayed as being of low intelligence and that the show didn’t mention he’d previously done well in TV quizzes, including winning £250,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

In defence, Channel 4 said that ‘astoundingly thick’ was a fair comment – and that there was no need to include any other background material.

In their ruling, the watchdogs said: ‘Ofcom recognised that these comments carried the potential to be offensive and insulting to Mr Curtis. However, Ofcom took the view that it would have been clear to viewers from the beginning of the programme that Mr Walliams (himself best known as a comedian) intended to provide humorous and light-hearted opinion and comment on examples of past television clips.’

Curtis, from Yorkshire, had also complained that Channel 4 did not seek his permission to use the clip. However as the footage was owned by the BBC, and he had signed a waiver before appearing on the quiz, producers of the David Walliams show were under no obligation to contact him.

Published: 22 Aug 2011

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