Jimmy Carr's dwarf joke WAS offensive, Ofcom rules | TV watchdog raps The One Show

Jimmy Carr's dwarf joke WAS offensive, Ofcom rules

TV watchdog raps The One Show

Jimmy Carr has landed The One Show  in hot water with broadcast regulators Ofcom for making jokes about dwarves.

The watchdog has censured BBC One’s early evening magazine programme after the comedian told viewers the briefest joke he had ever come up with was: ‘Dwarf shortage.’

And he followed that by saying: ‘ If you’re a dwarf and you’re offended by that: Grow up.’

Ofcom received 11 complaints that the gag, which aired during a live broadcast in November was ‘disgusting’ and ‘offensive’.

In response to the complaints, the BBC conceded that ‘any humour alluding to disability has the potential to offend and, although the BBC received very few complaints on the issue, the One Show’s editor… sincerely regrets any offence that has been caused by it’.

They added that although ‘the joke was not appropriate for The One Show’, it did not have the ‘capacity to cause widespread offence’ since it ’hinged on wordplay’ rather than making those with dwarfism ‘the butt of the humour’.

However, in declaring that the BBC had breached the broadcasting code, Ofcom ruled: ‘As both the joke and the follow-up statement attempted to derive humour from dwarfism, these statements clearly had the potential to cause offence.

‘In our view, the joke "Dwarf shortage" by itself would have had the potential to have caused offence. This is because it was a play on words which specifically referred to the physical characteristics of people with dwarfism, many of whom are regarded as disabled. 

‘However, we considered the potential for offence in this case was greatly increased by Jimmy Carr’s immediate follow-up statement ("Grow up!") because it was attempting to derive humour from the physical characteristics of those who have dwarfism. 

‘Furthermore, the comedian said this statement straight to camera and in what Ofcom considered viewers would have regarded as a dismissive tone. In our view, these factors would have been likely to have increased the level of offence caused by…  a command which due to the nature of their medical condition, members of this community could of course not comply with 

‘We considered that the audience would have been offended by Jimmy Carr’s apparent suggestion that those with dwarfism would not be justified if they felt personally offended by his attempt to derive humour from their condition.’

‘Given the nature of Jimmy Carr’s comments, we strongly disagreed with the BBC’s various arguments.'

Presenter Matt Baker did apologise for the joke later in the show, saying: ‘Just a quick word to say that if anything that… Jimmy has let slip tonight that er – was a little bit close to the mark maybe but we’re sorry, we’re sorry.’ However Ofcom said that the apology, coming almost half an hour after the gag was ‘not sufficient to mitigate the offence caused’.

Following the complaints,  the BBC has amended the letter that guests are asked to sign before  appearing on The One Show to include the line: ‘Jokes made at the expense of minorities are likely to cause offence, so please save them for other arenas.’

Published: 25 Jan 2016

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