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When Humour Misfires Apologise Properly!

When humour is your profession of some years there are a few things you really should have sorted out and clear in your mind.  When you have national exposure those things should be second nature to you.

You should be aware of your style and the language you use.  That should be true for all bloggers as well but I think it’s fair to say that more people read the article to which I allude here than VFPJ.

You should be aware of your limits within your style.  Subjects you want to stay clear of, words and phrases you don’t want to use and jokes that didn’t work previously.  I say within your style.  I can’t imagine Ken Dodd making jokes about Josef Fritzl. On the other hand Frankie Boyle does.  I have laughed at material from both gentlemen but I wouldn’t expect to see them on the same bill.

Then there is the difference between stand up presentation, where body posture, tone of voice and facial expression are all readable by the audience) and written word presentation, where none of these are completely obvious unless you have seen or heard the writer in person.  In this case the writer may need the help of an experienced editor to review what has been written before approving it for publication.  The audience you are writing for may not be one you know all that well.  Especially when you publish something online.

If humour is your profession you will no doubt know all of this.

You will also know that there will be times when humour misfires, either through a poor choice of topic, misunderstanding of the topic, misreading the audience or a poor choice of words.  People may think something isn’t funny or people may take offence.  Unless you’re firmly positioned in the “offensive” category of humourist, there is a need to recognise when public offence has been caused, to apologise and to learn from the incident.

Will Buckley’s recent piece attempting to mock Jonathan Agnew’s interview with Lily Allen on Test Match Special was disappointing.  In particular this line:

all suggesting that Aggers had positioned himself firmly on the pervy side of things

Looking through local newspapers recently I’ve seen headlines proclaiming “PERVERT ARRESTED” and “STORM AS PERVERT AT LEISURE CENTRE”, two different articles about sex offenders.  Is Will Buckley comparing Jonathan Agnew to sex offenders?  Has he any evidence for this?  Who edited this and allowed it to go to press?

Test Match Special has often had a schoolboy sense of humour running through it.  It brings a smile to millions of listeners’ faces and sometimes leaves the commentators corpsing.  Those of us who heard Johnners and Aggers losing it after Aggers said of Ian Botham “He couldn’t quite get his leg over” will never forget it.  Still brings tears of joy to my eyes today.

That’s schoolboy humour, not “firmly on the pervy side of things”.

Henry Blofeld’s one man show last year had schoolboy humour aplenty.  Not “firmly on the pervy side of things”.

Will Buckley appears to have mistaken schoolboy humour for “firmly on the pervy side of things”.

His article was highlighted by Jonathan Agnew on Twitter and awareness of it took off.  I’m sure I am not the only one who e-mailed Brian Oliver, Will Buckley’s editor.

Dear Mr Oliver,

I note with considerable distaste Will Buckley’s comment about Jonathan Agnew having “positioned himself firmly on the pervy side of things”.  Perhaps Mr Buckley may feel his comment was intended to be humorous.  I do not see it that way.

To call someone a pervert in this day and age is to bracket them with paedophiles and sex criminals.  Is Mr Buckley really equating Jonathan Agnew with Josef Fritzl and Fred West?  On what basis does Mr Buckley make this claim?

Mr Buckley has completely misunderstood the nature of much of the humour on TMS; schoolboy humour a la Brian Johnston is definitely not “firmly on the pervy side of things”.  By all means joke about Phil Tufnell not knowing who Lily Allen is; I didn’t know who she was until hearing the interview.  That in itself may well be funny to some people.  But to say that Jonathan Agnew is “positioned firmly on the pervy side of things” is wrong.  It is a cheap blow from a columnist and a paper that should know better.

If Mr Buckley claims to be a humourist then he should be able to see when his sense of humour has misfired.  It has completely misfired here.  At the very least Mr Buckley should apologise unreservedly to Jonathan Agnew and his family.

Yours sincerely

Jamie Dowling

Will Buckley did apologise in the comments section after his article with a piece that smacked of someone who had been told to apologise.  It wasn’t what I would call a full apology.  Regular readers will probably be able to guess where I am heading.  That’s right, this piece on apologising.  That Mr Oliver does not appear to have published a full apology on the Observer’s behalf rather lacks class in my book.

I’ll leave it to Aggers to sum things up.

Published inmediaradio