Stupid or Evil?
Tim Minchin portrait by gtgauvin
Australian comedian, piano whizz and enthusiastic exponent of guyliner Tim Minchin has had a satirical song of his called “Woody Allen Jesus” cut from the broadcast of one of the UK biggest chat shows, The Jonathan Ross Show. Minchin had been asked specifically by Ross and his producers to write and perform a Christmas ditty for the show, but when an advanced tape was passed to the station’s director of television, Peter Fincham, it was decided that the song needed to be dropped.
Minchin is miffed, and rightly so. Are well living in the 21st century or not? Does freedom of speech and thought (and music) exist in this country or is the Christian religion in such a dire state that it needs to ban anything that questions its relevance? Actually, that might be the case. Despite David Cameron’s particularly idiotic and toadying claims that the UK is a “Christian country”, the figures simply do not back this up, as this report in the ultra-conservative Daily Mail shows: “Number of Christians is down 10% in just five years.”
Minchin writes on his blog:
Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.
It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…
And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.
And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.
He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.
Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.
But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.
It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.
And anger when they’re being bigots.
Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.
Jonathan Ross is no stranger to controversy within the British media - in 2008 he and Russell Brand found themselves in deep shit after a phone call to Andrew Sachs was deemed to have gone “too far” by the tabloid press. Those ever-original and forward thinking people at the tabloids christened the incident “Sachsgate” and the outrage that was drummed up was enough to have both comedians ousted by their employer at the time, the BBC (one was suspended and the other quit.) This background hum of potential “outrage” may have been enough for Fincham to pull Minchin’s segment on the Ross show, but now it looks like a whole new controversy based on freedom of speech and expression is blowing up in ITV’s face. Oh dear.
Here is Tim Minchin performing “Woody Allen Jesus” on The Jonathan Ross Show: