'Offensive' Famalam sketch sparks protest from Jamaican Foreign Minister | Black comedy show accused of racism

'Offensive' Famalam sketch sparks protest from Jamaican Foreign Minister

Black comedy show accused of racism

Jamaica’s Foreign Minister is to lodge a formal complaint with the BBC over a sketch on black comedy showcase Famalam that has been branded racist.

Kamina Johnson-Smith is calling on the Corporation to axe the broadcast of a skit which she says is ‘outrageous and offensive to the incredible country which I am proud to represent along with every Jamaican at home and within our diaspora’.

The parody of Channel 4's words-and-numbers game Countdown, as if made by Jamaicans, has been accused of pandering to stereotypes  as it features misogynistic language, over-sexualised characters and the notion that black men are well-endowed.

Historian Paul Gilroy, director of the centre for the study of race and racism at University College London, was unimpressed when the sketch was released on Twitter as a preview for the new series of Famalam, released on BBC Three’s iPlayer channel today.

He tweeted, sarcastically: ‘This is what diverse and inclusive BBC Three puts out in the middle of this crisis.’

The official account of Black and Asian Lawyers For Justice account added: ‘Crass, inane and offensive. These clumsy stereotypical tropes are shocking.  The BBC has  remarkably managed to follow gross insult with serious injury.’

And journalist Nadine White said: ‘This "sketch" is insulting to the highest degree. It peddles tired stereotypes and is not funny in the slightest. Everyone involved should be deeply ashamed of themselves; I hope the cheque was worth it.’

But Tom Moutchi, an actor in the show, defended the scene, saying: ‘The cast consist of Africans and Caribbeans. We’re not trying to single out or outrage anyone – we are just poking fun on our truths and stereotypes.

‘It’s also very weird how black people on here are campaigning for the removal of an ALL black show because you don’t like a part/section/skit … if you actually did watch the show you’d know there’s a healthy balance of sketches that banter every part of society.’

The BBC also defended the series, telling The Guardian: ‘Famalam is an award-nominated sketch comedy series starring some of the UK’s best black comedy talent, which explores aspects of contemporary life from a black perspective.

'Now in its third series, the show has an established brand of humour which is in line with audience expectations and is well-known for challenging stereotypes and confronting issues.’

Published: 22 Aug 2020

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