Thursday, January 07, 2016

US loves 'all-white' Downton Abbey, says Australian satirist. Barry Humphries claims show is popular because 'there are no black people in it'

Like all good satire, it probably has an element of truth in it

Some put its astonishing global popularity down to the gripping family dramas, others to its idyllic picture of an age gone by.  But according to Dame Edna Everage, Downton Abbey has only found success in America ‘because there are no black people in it’.

Australian comic Barry Humphries, 81, most famous for his drag act as Dame Edna, quipped that the predominantly white cast made the programme more palatable for U.S. audiences.

However, he seemed to ignore the fact that Downton does have a black character - American jazz musician Jack Ross - who appeared in four episodes of series four. His remarks also go against the fact that Empire was the fifth most watched show in America last year, with more than 17million viewers, and has an almost entirely non-white cast.

Humphries made the comments in an interview with The Radio Times in which he lamented how the rise of political correctness and ‘puritanism’ is sterilising modern comedy.

He also claimed that the BBC blocked him from making jokes about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unless he also poked fun at David Cameron.

Humphries’ remarks about Downton are the latest in a long line of controversial jokes that have peppered his career.

In 2003, his agony aunt column in magazine Vanity Fair was axed after a reader asked if she should learn Spanish and he advised against it, adding: ‘Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?’

It caused outrage, with many taking the comments to be offensive to Mexicans. The remarks were defended as satirising rich Americans but the scandal led to a full page apology being printed.

Speaking of the incident in the Radio Times interview, Humphries said: ‘Now we would read it as Edna satirising snobbish people who think maids and Spanish-speaking people are inferior.

‘[Actress] Salma Hayek was on the cover and rallied a lot of Mexicans, and death threats were received by [editor] Graydon Carter. Unbelievable! And my column was suspended. You lose your job.’

He said it is ‘quite important’ to him that he causes offence, adding: ‘It’s very easy to become a safe figure and tempting, too, to want to be all things to all people.’

True to this form, he said of Downton Abbey: ‘Why do you think Downton Abbey is so popular in the States? Because there are no black people in it.’

The ITV programme is broadcast on channel PBS in America, and the final series – which concluded in the UK last year – began on Sunday night.

Despite its story being so quintessentially British, the show is hugely popular in America, with episodes often attracting upwards of 10million viewers.

It has no shortage of celebrity fans across the Atlantic, with Katy Perry, George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker all known to be devotees.

First Lady Michelle Obama reportedly begged to have episodes sent to her in advance because she could not wait for them to reach American channels.

In his new interview, Humphries also lamented the state of modern comedy.

He said: ‘Imagine if the BBC tried to do Till Death Us Do Part again today, with Alf Garnett ranting against black people? It couldn’t be done. There is a new puritanism that we are experiencing, a nervousness.’

The comedian said this became particularly apparent to him during a recent BBC appearance when he found executives telling him which jokes he could and couldn’t tell.

He said: ‘I wanted to say something about Mr Corbyn and a faceless, nameless person at the BBC said, “Then you have also have to say something about Mr Cameron”. As if there wasn’t any bias at the BBC at all!’

He said this attitude has seeped through the entire Corporation, making it a shadow of itself compared to when he worked there during the 1960s.  ‘It’s not such a free place any more. There’s a fear of treading on people’s toes and I don’t like it,’ he said.



Anonymous said...

I watched some of Downton Abbey, but decided it was just a Soap Opera set in a manor house.

Bird of Paradise said...

Here comes the U.N. Human Rights Freaktards

Anonymous said...

1920s British aristocracy. How many african-british would you expect?

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice Midsommer Murders (UK) has never had a black person on it in over 17 series?
Many UK country orientated shows are all white.

Anonymous said...

He is just trying to drum up controversy and get free publicity for his tour.