Yakety Yak

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When I was a kid, I had a deep fascination with the comedic antics of Benny Hill. His show was on Channel 8, the same channel that aired Sesame Street during the day. Talk about contrast.

It might have had a lot to do with Mr. Hill chasing scantily dressed women in fast motion while the goofy “Yakety Sax” blared through my TV. Niiice!

I wasn’t sure where England was; yet, I grew to love the British brand of humour and eventually graduated to the more eclectic humor of Monty Python. I started to love the Brits; the way they talked and their wacky ways.

But I’ve had to question my love for the blokes in recent days. Much to my chagrin, it was when I heard that one of the hosts of Top Gear, a car-themed show that airs on BBC America, reviewed a Mexican sports car (I must admit, I did not know one existed) as “lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus …” His point was that cars reflect national characteristics – a stab at humour. Another host described Mexican food as “refried sick.”

They weren’t worried about complaints since they were sure that the Mexican ambassador to England would be asleep, snoring, with a remote control in his hand.

Making matters worse, another of the Top Gear hosts later addressed the comments in his column. He defended his co-host and accused Mexicans of not having a sense of humor, and even broke out the old joke about why Mexico can’t field an Olympic team.

It would have been one thing if the jokes were clever a la Ricky Gervais, but they weren’t. The Top Gear comments were offensive and had no place on television, and certainly not on the BBC I had admired as a boy.

The BBC issued a formal apology saying, “We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centred on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humour …” Weak.

That’s like me saying that the British should all have their teeth knocked into place with a couple of well-placed punches, or that their food is so bad that relief workers can’t get starving people to eat it – and then apologizing to the Queen, but defending the jibe at the Brits’ poor dental hygiene.

The BBC statement went on to say that “Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganised and overdramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organised.”

Exactly how is being disorganized, arrogant and over-organized comparable to the Top Gear comments about Mexicans?

I don’t think Benny Hill or the Monty Python players would have endorsed any of this nonsense. No, they would have thought of clever ways to make me laugh about life’s absurdities and would have left the racist jokes to the racists.

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