These bullies reek of misogyny. If we don't confront their revolting sneers, they'll get worse
, made me feel incredulous and angry.
The usual suspects were doling it out. Jonathan Ross, who has apparently forgotten that he had to leave his highly paid job at the BBC after the infamous ‘Sachsgate’ incident.
A degrading spectacle: Big Fat Quiz of the Year featured (L to R) Richard Ayoade, Russell Howard, Jonathan Ross, Jimmy Carr, Jack Whitehall, James Cordon and Gabby Logan
Jimmy Carr, whose grovelling apology over his tax affairs failed to impress much of the population, and James Corden, who has provoked outrage in the past with puerile outbursts in front of a live audience after he’s had a drink.
These performers are peddling a cheap formula of gags that deserves to have been left behind in the sexist, homophobic working men’s clubs of the Seventies — and they’re getting rich as a result.
They target the vulnerable, getting their laughs like a bunch of loutish yobs in a pub. They’re the boys in the gang, their own little clique, and rich and famous to boot — and anyone can tag along and be their pals as long as there’s no dissent.
As a result, it’s difficult for an outsider — whether someone else on the same show or even a fellow comedian such as me — to criticise and say ‘I found that offensive’ without sounding like a bumptious bore, rampant royalist or joyless, feminist harpie.
But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said.
I’ve been a panellist on similar TV shows and when I appear, I am careful not to join in with the smug, cowardly posturing, the bullying and the stomach-turning sneers at women.
Of course, the basest urge is to join in because you don’t want to be seen as the humourless woman in the corner. But it can be a soul-destroying experience.
Egged on: Four years ago, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross left taunting phone messages on the answerphone of the actor Andrew Sachs
Producers often claim it’s difficult to get funny women, but on the evidence of the Big Fat Quiz, it’s even harder to get funny men.
Sunday night’s effort from Channel 4 didn’t offer cutting-edge comedy: the panellists’ lines were abuse, pure and simple. Abuse, moreover, that targeted the defenceless.
Corden made a viciously unpleasant sexual remark about the Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle, and when it drew gasps from the audience, he repeated it.
His team partner, the former Celebrity Big Brother host Jack Whitehall, weighed in with a puerile one-liner about the supposed cause of Prince Philip’s urinary tract infection during Jubilee week.
Jonathan Ross egged them on, much as he infamously did with another former Big Brother comic, Russell Brand.
Four years ago the two of them left taunting phone messages on the answerphone of the actor Andrew Sachs, revealing that Brand had slept with his 23-year-old grand-daughter, Georgina Baillie.
All of those jibes were aimed at women. Susan Boyle’s fragile mental health is well-known, yet to comedians such as Corden that seems a provocation.
They’re back in the school playground, jeering at a child with special needs.
Nor can the Queen or the Royal Family ever answer back, no matter how foul and insulting the jokes.
Satire can, and should, ridicule the powers that be, but this isn’t satire.
These are just crude and childish remarks about a grandmother in her 80s. The whole 90-minute show on Sunday reeked of misogyny.
The comics set the tone from the start with a comment about ITV’s Loose Women being ‘dogs’. (I’d like to see what one of the presenters, Janet Street-Porter, has to say about that one.)
Power: Comedians such as Corden, Carr (pictured) and Ross think themselves untouchable. They can command huge appearance fees and believe themselves to be above censure
No wonder the lone female panellist on the show — sports broadcaster Gabby Logan — looked as though she’d rather be anywhere else.
She was trying to be game, but seemed queasy and anxious, a TV professional who had expected to turn up at a studio and instead found herself in a bearpit.
Comedians such as Corden, Carr and Ross think themselves untouchable. They can command huge appearance fees and believe themselves to be above censure.
Yet when they are called to defend themselves, the weakness of their brand of locker-room bluster is revealed. All they can bleat is: ‘It’s satire.’ Well, it isn’t.
In the past, I have worked with Carr on Q.I. (a panel game that manages to be consistently intelligent), and off-screen he’s a likeable man. The professional persona is something else: crafted, deadpan viciousness.
Corden's success insulates him against professional damage – or at least he thinks it does
James Corden, too, is obviously talented as an actor. His success in One Man, Two Guvnors, at the National Theatre and then on Broadway, didn’t happen by accident.
But when he drinks a bottle of wine on camera and slurs a comment about Barack Obama masturbating in the White House, he is little better than a drunken lout.
Yet his success insulates him against professional damage — or at least he thinks it does.
It’s dangerous for a comedian to lose touch with reality; but infinitely more dangerous is the example they set to impressionable young viewers.
It is depressing to realise how many young people don’t seem to have any moral barometer at all, and who would have found the Big Fat Quiz a riot.
For them, taste is not an issue, nor fairness. The only thing that a certain type of young person seems to like is very crude comedy, delivered by a bloke just like the ones they drink with down the pub.
The producers of this TV travesty have a lot to answer for, too.
This show wasn’t live and had clearly been edited. Someone took a calculated decision to leave in all the worst lines, including Corden’s pathetic attempt to pretend he had forgotten he was on camera after the reference to Susan Boyle.
After the backlash grew this week, Channel 4 clearly realised too late that the material had overstepped the mark.
It suspended the footage on its TV catch-up service, 4OD, and removed it from YouTube.
Yet that seemed doubly cynical — almost suggesting the show had been broadcast live and had been beyond the control of senior executives.
It wasn’t: it was pre-recorded. They knew exactly what they had on their hands when it was broadcast.
Of course, some people will argue there is an off-switch on every TV and that if you don’t like something you can just stop watching.
There was plenty of other stuff I could have watched on Sunday night.
But ignoring a bully is basically the same as condoning him. To turn away from an attack on one vulnerable woman, or against women in general, is to allow it to happen and keep on happening.
And if we allow such crass, laddish humour to pass unchallenged, our culture will only continue to become ever more macho and brutal.