Comedy Central rapped over Jimmy Carr's 'antisemitic' joke | Ofcom upholds complaint against Roast Battle trailer © Comedy Central

Comedy Central rapped over Jimmy Carr's 'antisemitic' joke

Ofcom upholds complaint against Roast Battle trailer

An ‘antisemitic’ Jimmy Carr joke has landed Comedy Central in trouble with TV watchdogs.

Ofcom has rapped the broadcaster for a joke Carr made at fellow comic Tom Rosenthal’s expense during the latest series of Roast Battle.

On the show, Carr asked the younger comic: ‘You’re not Jewish?’

And when Rosenthal said ‘no’, Carr responded: ‘Someone needs to tell your face!’

As the studio audience laughed, Rosenthal was shown holding his nose.

The gag was included in a trailer for the series, which offended one viewer when they saw it on the Comedy Central Extra + 1 channel in September. They complained that the comment was ‘clearly antisemitic, drawing on the racial stereotype of a "Jewish look’".

The broadcaster ‘fully accepted that the trailer carried offence’ but stressed the content ‘was not intended as a joke aimed at the Jewish community’. 

But in its defence, Comedy Central said the joke was ‘contextually qualified by the voice-over that followed’, which said: ‘Roast Battle: the show that offends everybody in equal measure’ alongside other putdowns between comedians.

The broadcaster added that taken as a whole the promo showed the ‘playful’ tone of the show, with comics and audience reacting in ‘amusement rather than offence’ that it was in keeping with the channel’s ‘irreverent style’

In making its decision, the regulators said: ‘Ofcom is aware of a significant rise in reported incidents of antisemitism across Europe and in particular in the UK in recent years. 

‘One significant recurring stereotype has been discriminatory references to Jewish people’s physical appearance, which has been recognised as being clearly antisemitic. In our view the use of such a well-known antisemitic trope against this backdrop would have had the potential to cause considerable offence.’

While the watchdog said context could sometimes justify such jokes, especially given Carr was known for his ‘controversial brand of humour’, the fact it was included in a trailer, rather than a programme a viewer would have chosen to watch, was a major factor.

‘Because the offensive content was in a trailer, viewers would have come across it unawares,’ they said in a ruling upholding the complaint today. ‘There was therefore no opportunity to place the trailer in context or give viewers any form of warning or information in advance.

‘Given all the above, we considered that the offensive content within this trailer was not justified by the context and exceeded generally accepted standards.

It is not the first time Comedy Central has been in trouble with Ofcom over its trailers, which could have been an exacerbating factor in the ruling published today.

In 2015, Ofcom put the channel on official notice to clean up its act after a handful of promos for the likes of Inside Amy Schmer, Impractical Jokers and South Park were deemed too offensive to air even after the 9pm watershed. The channel says it has tightened its procedures since then.

As well as being a stand-up, Rosenthal plays the Jewish character Jonny Goodman in Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner.

Published: 3 Dec 2018

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