Tommy Tiernan jokes on TV show censured

Fri, Jan 9, 2009, 00:00

THE BROADCASTING Complaints Commission (BCC) has found that jokes by comedian Tommy Tiernan on the Late Late Show were beyond acceptable standards and that the host, Gerry Ryan, encouraged him, irrespective of the manner of content.

The BCC upheld eight complaints against the item broadcast on October 24th last. The complainants denounced the comedian over a joke about a Traveller and his mimicry of a man left disabled by a motorcycle accident.

Ryan was called in to present the show after presenter Pat Kenny's mother died. The BCC said Ryan had encouraged the comedian, actively engaging in the jokes being told by him: "At no stage did he challenge or attempt to curb the presentation or what was being said by the comedian."

The complainants described the performance as "grossly insulting", "outrageous" and "disgusting". One called the item "tasteless and degrading".

Pavee Point, the national representative body of Travellers, was among the complainants who denounced Tiernan's Traveller joke. It accused him of comments "designed and engineered to insult members of the Traveller community". Responding to the complaint, RTÉ told the official inquiry it did not know what the reference to the Traveller in the joke meant.

It added: "It just formed part of the eccentric off-the-cuff musings of a comedian and it would be a mistake to ascribe any significant meaning to the remarks."

The BCC ruled the Traveller joke was totally inappropriate and derogatory to the Traveller community.

A mother of a boy with Down syndrome took offence to Tiernan's remarks, saying she found his jeering at people with disabilities in very bad taste.

Defending the comedian's reference, the State broadcaster said "the motives in telling the joke were to embrace people with disabilities, not to stigmatise or stereotype them".

An appearance by Tiernan on the Late Late Show in 2006 also caused controversy. RTÉ received more than 300 complaints about his use of expletives and comments about the Catholic Church.