Friday January 6, 2006
'The male gypsy moth can smell the female gypsy moth up to seven miles away - and that fact also works if you remove the word moth." There, in all its hilarious glory, is the joke by Jimmy Carr that was transmitted on Loose Ends at the weekend, for the broadcast of which the BBC has issued a grovelling apology. Carr himself has so far declined to apologise for or comment on the joke.
Anne Bagehot, secretary of the Gypsy Council, wonders: "What is Jimmy Carr's point? Does he want people to look at Gypsy women and say, 'Pooh'?" Well, we shall probably never know, the innermost workings of the Carr brain being as much of an impenetrable mystery to the onlooker as any one of our fellow man's. So let us tweak the question slightly and ask: what is the point of Jimmy Carr?
Perhaps it is to keep us up to date with the ceaselessly changing array of valid comic targets. Blacks and Asians still verboten, Gypsies fair game, as we can see from merely squinting at the fabulous DVD of his 2005 stand-up show. Take the moment he found a dark-haired man in the audience and asked: "Have you ever Tarmacked a drive? No? No, you've just fucked off with the deposit like the rest of them."
Of course, behind all great comedy generally lies a deep understanding of the issues that become so pithily and amusingly condensed on stage. Carr later demonstrates his own profound appreciation of the Romany culture and traditions he affects to despise with the following Wildean quip: "When people say, 'These travelling people, we've got to move them on,' I say: 'Isn't that just playing into their hands?' "
Alternatively, perhaps the point of Jimmy Carr is to promote self-examination, to encourage us to look more closely at our priorities, to gain perspective on our sufferings in the grand scheme of things. What else, after all, would be the redeeming feature of a joke like "What's worse than finding a worm in your apple? Getting raped," if it were penned without such motivation?
One final idea, if you'll bear with me, is that perhaps Jimmy Carr exists to remind us of the jokes that have been crushed for years under the feminine jackboot of political correctness: witness, in the same show, his triumphant resurrection of, "There's nothing sadder than a woman with two black eyes. She's been told twice, and still doesn't understand." Always one with an (unbruised!) eye on potentially delicate sensibilities in his audience, Carr is quick to comfort. "This is post-modern misogyny. That joke is steeped in irony," he says. "So don't you worry your pretty little head about it!" Do you see? He deconstructs even as he reassures! Truly, he is a comedy hero for our times.