Coogan slams ‘lazy, flatulent’ Jeremy Clarkson
Comic weighs in to row over anti-Mexican remarks on BBC show Top Gear
Steve Coogan – actor, comedian and Porsche driver – has hit out at the BBC's Top Gear presenters over jibes they made against Mexicans. Casting the motoring show's Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May as school bullies, he brands them "ignorant" and "uber-conservative".
Coogan's comments – made in an opinion piece he wrote for the Observer – come after Mexico's ambassador to the UK, Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, wrote a strongly-worded complaint to the BBC over the show.
In an edition screened last Sunday the three presenters came together to brand Mexicans as "lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf[s]" and their food as "sick with cheese on it". A subsequent statement by the BBC was "mealy-mouthed" and did not go far enough to apologise, Coogan writes.
Explaining that he is a "huge fan" of Top Gear – he has appeared on the show as a guest three times and is well known for his love of high-performance cars – Coogan says he has "had enough" of the "tired line that it's 'just a laugh', a bit of 'harmless fun'".
Pointing out that the programme's massive international following makes it more the global face of the BBC than the World Service, Coogan says the Mexican jokes were "casual racism", made even worse because the three presenters see the offence they have caused as a "badge of pride". He can see no moral defence of their "ignorant" remarks.
He adds: "If I say anything remotely racist or sexist as Alan Partridge, for example, the joke is abundantly clear. We are laughing at a lack of judgment and ignorance.
"With Top Gear it is three rich, middle-aged men laughing at poor Mexicans. Brave, groundbreaking stuff, eh?"
He sees their "archaic" attitudes as sadly endemic in motoring journalism – he admits to being a frequent consumer of it, but says the journalists involved remind him of the National Rifle Association in the US.
Worst of all, the 'jokes' were simply not funny, Coogan says, writing: "In fact, if I can borrow from the Wildean wit of Richard Hammond, the comic approach was 'lazy', 'feckless' and 'flatulent'.
"Richard has his tongue so far down the back of Jeremy's trousers he could forge a career as the back end of a pantomime horse. His attempt to foster some Clarkson-like maverick status with his 'edgy' humour is truly tragic.
"He reminds you of the squirt at school as he hangs round Clarkson the bully, as if to say, 'I'm with him'. Meanwhile, James May stands at the back holding their coats as they beat up the boy with the stutter."
After a demolition job like that, you might assume Coogan wants no more to do with the show. Not so: "I've been on the show three times," he writes, "and had a go at their celebrity lap challenge, and I would love to receive a fourth invite.
"But I think that's unlikely once they have read this." ·
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