Magazine article The Spectator

Who Dares Wins

Magazine article The Spectator

Who Dares Wins

Article excerpt

When we were growing up in the Eighties, my brother, sister and I spent our whole time psychologically torturing one another with vile nicknames and savagely cruel put-downs. One of the nastiest, whenever one of us tried and failed to be amusing, was, 'You're as funny as Lenny.' Not as in Lenny Bruce (though I suspect he wasn't funny either, a bit like the Goons weren't funny) but as in Lenny Henry -- i. e. , totally and utterly not funny at all.

For years, though, you weren't allowed to say this in public. The only person in history who ever found Lenny Henry funny was Lenny Henry himself, but we all kept allowing him on our screens partly out of the instinctive English good manners that make us laugh politely at the jokes of the afflicted to spare their blushes and partly because of the climate of terror which forbids objective criticism about any form of TV comedy involving 'minorities'. Either you find something nice to say about it, the unspoken rule goes, or you don't mention it at all. That's why, you'll have noticed, this column is always so chock-full of zappy new allblack, all-Asian, all-disabled or all-women comedy series.

Anyway, all this made for by far the best gag in the new series of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's getting-much-better Extras. Andy (Gervais) is finally on the verge of getting his first sitcom made but to his horror discovers that one of the cast has been replaced at the last minute by Keith Chegwin. In real life, Chegwin turns out to be even more loathsome than he is on screen.

'BBC still run by poofs and Jews then, is it?' he asks in front of the new show's extravagantly homosexual producers (at least one of whom might well be Jewish). Then he goes on to say how much he hates blacks and how unfunny they are.

'Not blacks. Black people, ' corrects Andy, as you would. Then he goes on to list all the black people who are very amusing (Chris Rock . . . etc. ). 'They're all American. Name me one funny black British comedian, ' says Chegwin. 'One funny black British comedian, that's easy there's loads, ' says Andy. 'There's. . . .' And at this point there's a long, delicious pause, as Andy racks his brain. The set falls silent. Invisible tumbleweed blows by.

Andy's eyes search around for inspiration.

They alight on the wall, where there's an old poster of Lenny Henry. Andy looks away, still thinking.

What I so respect about Ricky Gervais is that he's probably the only genuinely funny comedian in Britain who would have dared make that joke. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.