Comedian Jimmy Carr has been shrouded in controversy since he first entered the stand-up scene back in the early 2000s. He’s faced a deafeningly public tax avoidance scandal in 2012 and, most recently, during a 2021 Netflix special, he shocked viewers by telling an abhorrent and offensive joke, jesting with the audience about how they should remember the “positive” side of the Holocaust: that “thousands of Gypsies [were] killed by the Nazis.”
One might assume that after such a monumental upset, Carr might have been blackballed from mainstream television. This was, of course, not the case—as Channel 4 recently announced the launch of its new show Art Trouble and selected none other than the problematic comedian himself to be the face of the project.
Ian Katz, director of programming at the network, recently spoke to The Guardian about the show’s concept, explaining how Channel 4 would purchase a number of works of art, all created by controversial figures such as Adolf Hitler and Pablo Picasso, alongside a myriad of other problematic societal individuals like convicted sexual predators Rolf Harris and Eric Gil.
A number of experts will then be called upon to consider the art and, ultimately, the studio audience will decide whether or not the work should be preserved or blown to smithereens—I can’t imagine the audience not wanting to obliterate a painting by Hitler.
Carr’s problematic past—and indeed his ability to bypass any and all genuine criticism—speaks to the myth surrounding cancel culture and the lack of accountability or proper repercussions for certain public figures. Following the aftermath of Carr’s joke, rather than acknowledging the pain and hurt he had caused so many people, the comedian told fans: “I am going to get cancelled, that’s the bad news. The good news is I am going down swinging,” as reported by Sky News.
Carr reiterated these sentiments during an interview with psychologist Jordan Peterson. The comedian, commenting on cancel culture, stated, “It only happens when jokes are taken out of context. I’m telling jokes in theatres to a paying audience—people who have paid to come and see me, they’ve bought into it. I’m not shouting them through someone’s letter box.” Supposedly, a joke can only be offensive if it’s cushioned between two other less-offensive jokes…
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust spoke at length about the comments made by the problematic comedian, even releasing a public statement addressing the issue: “We are absolutely appalled at Jimmy Carr’s comment about persecution suffered by Roma and Sinti people under Nazi oppression, and horrified that gales of laughter followed his remarks,” it wrote.
“Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people suffered prejudice, slave labour, sterilisation and mass murder simply because of their identity—these are not experiences for mockery,” the organisation continued.
Labour MP Nadia Whittome also took to Twitter to express her feelings on the topic. She penned, “I have written urging Netflix to remove Jimmy Carr’s vile anti-GRT and anti-Semitic material. I have also requested an update from @DCMS on progress to bring streaming platforms under Ofcom regulation. My full solidarity with GRT communities, today and always.”
Whittome is among a number of young British MPs who have utilised social media in ways similar to US Congresswoman and trailblazer Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC).
Carr’s public problems don’t end there either, it was recently reported by Irish publication The Limerick Leader that the 8 Out of 10 Cats host’s estranged father is demanding a “sincere apology” from his son after Carr wrote a “derogatory” joke about his parents in his 2021 book, Before & Laughter.
The joke in question reads: “I’m the son of two immigrants from Limerick who moved to Slough (they moved from a shit town to another shit town, I guess they knew what they liked).”
Jim Carr, the comedian’s father, was so deeply offended by the joke that he contacted the Mayor of Limerick and is threatening legal action if his son does not comply with his demands:one meaningful and heartfelt apology.
While it so appears that Carr has managed to slide from one sticky situation to another, the question is, will he avoid another controversy in his new TV venture, or will he tread a similar path of problematic behaviour?