Being in the business of humour is a high-risk endeavour. Playing safe will never get you enough laughs,but pushing the envelope needs you to be at the top of your game. The line between oh,how did he pull that off? and oh no,he did not actually say that,did he? is very fine. Its an instinct game,and the best of humorists have been known to lose it. As,many would argue,Jeremy Clarkson just did. Certainly,Clarkson,host of the BBCs motoring show,Top Gear,has never veered towards subtlety,but his recent show on India has sparked off a loud and lively debate on what some see to be crude commentary and,quite literally,toilet humour.
Clarkson is not the first entertainer to peddle cultural stereotypes,tasteless or not and he will not be the last. But it would be fair to argue that as television and film audiences become more diverse,and as shows are broadcast in different parts of the world,writers and producers are acquiring a keener standard of what goes and what cannot. And this aftermath is bound to enrich the wider debate on where lies the boundary between tastelessness and innocuous,if politically incorrect,comments.
The Indian high commission in the UK,however,has demanded an apology from the producers for the show,deeming it was replete with cheap jibes,tasteless humour and lacked cultural sensitivity. Diplomats are so used to dealing with crises by seeking apologies that we hope this is just a case of the mission lapsing into a default position. Moreover,it is not clear on whose behalf the apology has been demanded a wider viewerships or simply those of mission hands who cleared the filming. Either way,in their rage,the diplomats have perhaps missed the irony that by acting as they have,they have in fact played into familiar stereotypes.