Oct 302008

I’ve never found Russell Brand remotely funny. But not because he pushes the boundaries of taste. Were that the reason, I wouldn’t love Peter Cook, Little Britain, or Steve Coogan. I can’t even print the lyrics of a song I saw him perform live in Oxford a couple of weeks ago, but it was very, very funny. I quite like Jonathan Ross, and it’s for a simple reason.A few years ago my friend John Lloyd, a comedy producer, took me along as part of a team he had organised for a quiz night for ad men, hacks and comedians that the late Jeremy Beadle used to host at the Atlantic Bar and Grill. Most of the comedians there were either manic depressively distant, rude, breathtakingly grand and showy, or so out of it they couldn’t speak, let alone answer questions.  When I was introduced to Ross, he was none of those things. He was sincere, charming, witty, and as down to earth as you can be when you have all that fame and fortune. He was very easy to talk to, and lacking any self-importance. I think he was even tee total. His wife was there. A decent family guy on an evening out. Ross’s brand of entertainment isn’t quite to my taste – if anything it’s a bit mild. Watch some old Monty Python or listen to Derek and Clive and it’s hard to be too offended by a dig at a member of a troupe called ‘Satanic Sluts’.Should Brand and Ross have phoned Andrew Sachs in the way they did? Probably not. Was it appropriate for Radio 2? No. Was it a nice thing to target a sweet and civilised 78 year old acting legend in the way they did? No. Is Ross a bit overpaid? Maybe, but a lot less so than Katie Jordan or whatever she’s called. Would it have been funny if the target had been Paul Burrell, Nick Griffin, or Jonathan King? Yes.There’s an easy way for the BBC to avoid this kind of embarrassing slip up again. It’s called ‘editing’. Two blokes having a laugh and getting carried away happens all the time, every day, in every town. It takes a particularly dim person to record it, listen to it, and then play it to millions of people on radio 2 without cutting out the offensive material. Ross may well not survive, but surely a production head needs to roll first.I’m off on holiday, and will return to a new US President-elect. Let’s hope it’s the right one. It’s a bit more serious than a couple of prank calls, frankly.

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