Don’t Make Me Laugh
BBC Radio 4, 21 April 2016, 18:30
Don’t Make Me Laugh is a comedy show, hosted by David Baddiel. A panel of comedians taking part in the programme are asked to talk about why a subject is not funny, without making the audience laugh. If the audience does laugh, the subject passes to the next contestant.
Ofcom received 12 complaints about the episode broadcast on 21 April 2016 which featured a discussion about the Queen and sex. Complainants considered that references to the Queen in the programme were offensive and inappropriate. A number of complaints referred to the fact that the programme was broadcast on the Queen’s 90th birthday.
The panel of comedians on this programme were Russell Kane, Sara Pascoe, Omid Djalili, and Adam Hess.
Round two of the show was introduced by David Baddiel:
In an effort to demonstrate just how grown up and sophisticated we’ve become, I would like you Russell Kane to tell us why there is nothing funny about the fact that Announcer: the Queen must have had sex at least four times [laughter from the studio audience].
The panel of comedians responded by making a number of personal comments about Prince Philip and the Queen. For example, Russell Kane said the following:
Four times we have to think of republicanism as we imagine four children emerging from Her Majesty’s vulva and for me [audience laughter].
Ofcom considered its Rule 2.3:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 2.3
Throughout this segment of the programme, the panel made a number of comments about the Queen in an effort to explain why the subject of that round of the programme was not funny. We considered that comments about the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were made in a mocking way, which would have been perceived by many listeners as humiliating and intrusive. Ofcom took into account that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are public figures with wide exposure in the media. Nonetheless, we considered that the mocking and demeaning tone of these comments made them capable of causing offence. The potential for offence was increased by the fact that these remarks were broadcast on the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Ofcom took into account that audiences expect some comedy programming to be challenging and to push at boundaries. However, the reaction of the audience to comedy material is subjective and can vary widely. In this case, the jokes about the Queen were made in a way that was mocking and demeaning. The fact that these jokes were made on her 90th birthday, in Ofcom’s view, would have considerably increased the level of offence for many listeners. Furthermore, the level of potential offence was also increased to some extent by the fact this programme was pre-recorded, so that the BBC’s editorial decision to broadcast this content on this day was likely to have been perceived by listeners as deliberate and not the result of for example an inadvertent misjudgement made during a live programme.
In Ofcom’s view, it is likely that Radio 4 listeners would not have expected comedic content about the Queen of this strength and directness to be included in a Radio 4 comedy programme broadcast in the early evening on her 90th birthday.
We considered also that, for all these reasons, any listeners who had come across this content unawares may well have been surprised and disconcerted to hear it broadcast on Radio 4 at this time, on the Queen’s 90th birthday.
The broadcast of this potentially offensive material was not justified by the context, and there was a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.