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".


  1. Top gear do want their "cake and eat it" doing edgy "comedy" about murdering prostitutes and using the c word and wanting to sell tie books to the 11 year old lad sat opposite me on the train yesterday. With the credit crunch and the final collapse of Uk car industry this series had been a bit "fin-de-si├Ęcle" the banter etc has got a bit tired and the skits even more tired.

  2. Paul K11:24 am

    Given the context, the period and the posthumous beatification of Peter Cook, does anyone want to throw Derek and Clive into this discussion?

  3. The Guardian were happy to print the word in their front page story on this on Saturday. In fact, the Guardian are happy to print it in full anywhere at all. I'm always surprised. So on that basis, perhaps we're all behind the times.

    I use it copiously myself, though never in polite company. Clarkson was showing off.

  4. Sven Ellis3:15 pm

    Us bien-pensants think of him as a yob in bad clothes, performing sorry japes with his mates for the amusement of adolescent boys. He threatens cyclists, writes for the Daily Express (Mail?), and makes humour-free jokes about disabilities.
    What am I missing?

  5. NomadUK4:00 pm

    Clarkson was showing off.

    More or less as one would expect from someone who never seems to have made it past the mental age of about 16.

  6. There was a neat example of one aspect of Top Gear hur-hur-ism on James May's appearance on Jonathan Ross the other week. He spoke about his voyage to the edge of space and described being moved by the sight of the curvature of the Earth and the profound thoughts it inspired in him. And then, instinctively, he undercut it all by saying "and then I went to the pub and I forgot about it all". It was as if he suddenly thought he might get bullied by Clarkson and Hammond for being a wet and a weed. Even uber-lad Ross took him to task over it.

  7. Did anyone else notice how Russell Brand (no less) seemed to be deeply offended to the point of being upset when Geldof called him the 'c' word at the NME awards?

  8. whiteglove2:44 pm

    Never mind bad language - what about the invidious practice of bolting a personality's name to the front of a TV show's title?

    James May's this or Richard Hammond's the other seem to account for a good half of the BBC's original programming.

    The theory is you'll watch because of the name attached. Is 'man goes to edge of space in plane' not good enough any more?

  9. You clearly aren't a fan of the Thick Of It: Tuckers Law (You tube it)

    "If some c**t f*ck's something up, that c*nt will pick the worst time to f*cking f*ck it up becuase that c*nts a c**t"

    I'm a big fan of the word, but I know now never to use it in front of girls.