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Saturday, July 25, 2009


I don't hold the bien-pensant view of Jeremy Clarkson. If anything I'm a fan but the story about him describing the Prime Minister as a see you next Tuesday during a Top Gear audience warm-up does shine another light on what happens when that unique admixture of money, celebrity and yobbishness goes off as it does all the time these days.I can't imagine any public context in which I would use the c-word about anyone, from the Prime Minister to the lowest in the land. If I was employed by an organisation and used it in front of that organisation's clients I would expect to be fired on the spot and wouldn't expect any redress. If you were in charge it would definitely happen.

So what possessed this educated, upstanding member of the bourgeoisie to drop the c bomb in front of an average bunch of licence-payers, most of whom probably wouldn't dream of using that word even if they hit their thumb very hard with a hammer? It's not a heat of the moment thing or you would hear rock stars use it on stage and footballers in post match interviews. It doesn't escape. It's deployed. So why did Clarkson do it? Was he momentarily struck by the terror of the man who knows he's meant to be funny but has nothing funny to hand? Maybe it's the increasingly desperate pursuit of that low "hur-hur-hur" of (largely male) approval that can usually be elicited without need for material that is actually funny. I was talking to Danny Baker about this very thing earlier this week. He didn't do "hur-hur-hur" because it wasn't his sense of humour and women didn't like it. Nonetheless he noted that it was the easiest way to do material that broadcasting bosses considered acceptably "edgy".