We’ve already pointed briefly to this matter, but thought it worth pointing to a piece in yesterday’s Times:
There is a time for comedians to provoke and a time to please. And when your audience has paid £149 a head to be entertained at a swanky charity Christmas lunch, it is probably unwise to make overly partisan cracks about those three contentious B words: Boris, Brexit and Bercow.
Nish Kumar, host of the BBC satirical news show The Mash Report, was jeered and pelted with rolls at the Lord’s Taverners fundraising lunch after some members of the audience took against his strident criticism of the prime minister and the decision to leave the EU. His praise for John Bercow, the former Speaker, who was in the audience, and a call for a second referendum only wound them up more.
“You are the only audience in my 13-year history of performing that have thrown something at me,” Kumar, 34, scolded the room as the catcalls increased. “I’m trying to stay off carbs and people are lobbing bread rolls at me.”
If he hadn’t already lost the room at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair by this point, Kumar, who was born in south London of Indian descent, provoked them further by playing the race card. He said it was always going to be dangerous “to perform for a group of people largely descended from people who colonised my ancestors” before saying that some of the room were “behaving like pricks”.
The charity, founded in 1950 in a pub next to Lord’s cricket ground, has raised more than £4 million this year to assist 12,000 disabled and disadvantaged children through sport. More than £160,000 was raised at the Christmas lunch, though Kumar, who performed free of charge, threw oil on the fire by suggesting that if the charity received more donations they could spend it on a right-wing comedian who was more palatable next year.
As what Kumar described as “the rowdiest gig I’ve ever done” descended into slow clapping and the odd shout of “get him off”, the event’s master of ceremonies, wearing a red tailcoat, approached the stage. He, too, got the sharp edge of the comedian’s tongue. “I’m about to be dragged off stage by someone who looks like they work for the Queen,” Kumar said.
He refused to leave, however, insisting: “I’m not going anywhere, I’m full Bercow, absolute Bercow. I know you want me to leave but I’m not going to do it.”
Eventually, the MC laid a hand upon his shoulder, asked for a handshake and told the audience that the comedian had given his time to support the charity. “The least we can do is thank him for doing that,” he said, as Kumar was steered off the stage to a grudging trickle of applause.
One guest told The Times that Kumar had begun quite well, with some self-deprecating jokes about his cricketing ability, but misjudged the audience when he moved on to politics.
“He really went all-in as if he was opening a gig at a Jeremy Corbyn rally,” he said. “It just wasn’t very clever.” The turning point, he said, was when Kumar said that anyone who had voted Leave was stupid.
Some suggested that the organisers should have known what Kumar’s set would be like. “It’s not like he’s quiet about his leftie anti-Brexit views,” a Twitter user called Auntie Katharine wrote. “Bit like booking a string quartet and then being annoyed they don’t DJ dance tracks.”
The broadcaster Greg James, who conducted the raffle, was appalled by the audience’s treatment of Kumar.
“It’s a charity I was proud to be an ambassador of and the work they do with disadvantaged young people is extraordinary,” James said. “But disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean you have the right to abuse them. I was devastated for Nish and embarrassed to be there. On an afternoon that was supposed to be about kindness, there was a distinct lack of it in the room.”
A spokesman for the Lord’s Taverners said: “We are not, and never will be, a political organisation and we don’t endorse the views of the guest speakers at our events, which are their own. However, nor do we endorse the reaction of a minority of audience members at [the] event. Nish Kumar’s attendance was arranged in good faith and he gave his time for free to support the charity and our work.”
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
Our YouTube channel is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.