The One Show
BBC1, 4 November 2015, 19:00
The One Show is a daily magazine programme broadcast every weekday in the early evening on BBC1.
A total of 11 complainants alerted Ofcom to a joke made by the comedian Jimmy Carr, when he appeared on this programme. In summary, complainants objected to Jimmy Carr making a disgusting and offensive joke about a particular disabled group i.e. those who have dwarfism. Three of the complainants either themselves, or had family members who, have dwarfism.
We noted the following exchange at approximately 19:26, between one of the programme’s presenters, Matt Baker ( MB ), and Jimmy Carr ( JC ):
MB: Which joke were you most surprised by that you thought was funny that you didn’t realise at the time?
JC: I don’t know, I’m just trying to think of my favourite all-time joke which might work on this show: ‘I’ve got a Welsh friend of mine. I asked him how many partners he had in his life. And he started to count and he fell asleep’ . [Laughter in the studio]
JC: [Looking into the camera and smiling] That’s just about alright, isn’t it… [Looking at presenter] I tried to write the shortest joke possible, so I wrote a two word joke, which was: Dwarf shortage . Just so I could pack more jokes into the show. [Looking into the camera] If you’re a dwarf and you’re offended by that: Grow up!
We considered that Jimmy Carr’s joke ( Dwarf shortage ) and his follow-up statement ( If you’re a dwarf and you’re offended by that: Grow up! ) raised potential issues under the following rule of the Code: Rule 2.3:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context… Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
In coming to a Decision in this case, we therefore assessed first whether the material in this programme had the potential to cause offence. During this programme, Jimmy Carr referred to his attempt to write the shortest joke possible . The joke in question was Dwarf shortage . He then made the statement: If you’re a dwarf and you’re offended by that: Grow up! We considered that, as both the joke and the follow up statement attempted to derive humour from dwarfism (a medical condition causing restricted growth which often causes a person with the condition to be regarded as disabled), these statements clearly had the potential to cause offence.
In reaching our Decision, we noted the BBC statements that The One Show’s Editor takes the view that [Jimmy Carr’s] joke was not appropriate for The One Show and The One Show production team takes a particular view on the tone they would like to adhere to, and feels this joke was inappropriate in light of that . We also noted that the BBC would be amending the letter that guests are asked to sign prior to appearing on the One Show to make clear they should refrain from making jokes at the expense of minorities . Nonetheless, the BBC argued that Jimmy Carr’s comments did not amount to a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
However, on the facts of this particular case, we considered that Jimmy Carr’s jokes intended to derive humour from people with dwarfism were likely to cause offence, and for all the reasons set out above were not justified by the context. Therefore, our view was that there was a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.