Jason Manford is courting controversy again after backlash from fans has forced him to remove a Facebook comment using the word ‘retard’ that he used to drum up publicity ahead of his Live at the Apollo… show on BBC1 last night.
The Salford-born comedian posted on the social networking site yesterday that he and ex-Corrie star Sally Lindsay had stolen a trolley from Tesco.
His message promised to drop it back off, before signing off with the words: “Retards, Jason Mangoes.”
He then apologised for the typo, blaming it on auto-correct, claiming it should have read: “Regards, Jason Manford.”
However, the ending was not in fact an auto-correct mistake, but instead is a joke he wrote for his Live at the Apollo show that BBC bosses banned the comic from using – because they deemed the word ‘retard’ as too offensive.
Manford posted an interview with online publication Digital Spy in which he defended the joke, claiming that it wasn’t laughing at anyone but himself for using the word ‘by accident’.
Fans bit back that the use of the word was ‘never acceptable’ – and within minutes Manford then edited his original apology to Tesco, removing the word ‘retard’ from it, despite defending it only moments earlier.
TO JOKE OR NOT TO JOKE? Jason Manford originally claimed the words were due to an auto-correct on his phone
Manford fan Zoe Worthington is a mother of two children with learning disabilities from Sheffield. Her two identical twin boys have autism and other severe learning difficulties.
The blogger was offended by the use of the word, ‘no matter what context it is used in’.
She said: “I’m sure your intentions were not to offend or upset anyone, but to me, that word should be viewed in the same way as other outdated negative descriptive words.
I’ve paid to see your show in the past and I know you can be extremely funny without resorting to using the kind of words that make a mockery of people with learning disabilities.”
Nichola Ullyyatt is a full-time mum from Swineshead, Norfolk, whose son has Down’s Syndrome.
She said: “I try to see the humour in everything but, as Mummy to a beautiful boy who has DS, the ‘r’ word is always hard to take.
“I’m sorry that people don’t understand that… if they were in my shoes they would. It hurts each time I hear it or read it.”
James Edwards agreed. “The way Jason wanted to use the word may not have been targeted at anyone but he is, in a way still making light of the term,” he said.
Munty Valentine said: “If it’s not being used in the context of being derogatory, then what is the joke?
“He’s just admitted he used it to define himself as an idiot, which is actually using the term in a derogatory way. I can’t believe he’s defending this.”
The 33-year-old comic initially hoped the joke would be aired during his Live at the Apollo… performance last night, but it was then learned that the BBC had cut it due to having a blanket ban on the term.
“Of course the word retard is not a nice word,” Manford told Digital Spy.
“I would never call someone a retard. I would never say, ‘So and so is a retard’, but the BBC just have a blanket ban. You can’t say retard, which is fair enough, but it’s a shame there is no manoeuvre.
“In my context, nobody is being called it; nobody is using a derogatory word. The joke is that I’m the idiot and I’ve used an offensive word in my email. It can be quite restrictive I guess.”
However some fans were dismayed that Manford had tried to pass off the joke as a genuine auto-correct error in the first place.
Kellie Evans, from Bristol, said: “I read his comments yesterday when he was saying it was an auto correct issue – I used to have lots of respect for this guy!”
BACKLASH: Manford later deleted the word ‘retards’, despite posting his defence of the joke only hours earlier
The funny man received a backlash on Facebook, with members of his fan base commenting that he was in the wrong.
However many fans leapt to the comedian’s defence and were quick to slate the BBC as part of a ‘PC gone mad brigade’.
Yasmina Samraoui, from Wadebridge, slammed the BBC’s decision and pointed out that the word ‘idiot’ was now widely used with offence rarely taken.
“The BBC apparently think we’re all hand-wringing idiots who need to be wrapped in cotton wool and have all our TV censored for us otherwise we’ll swoon into a hysterical fainting fit,” she said.
“Oh wait, can’t say the word ‘idiot’, because 100 years ago it was used in the exact same way ‘retard’ is used now.”
Sean Hughes, from Sheffield, said: “I wasn’t offended and my son is autistic and not as developed as his physical age. Maybe I should be because other people with disabled family members are?”
Salford University graduate Sue Silvester said: “The joke is about autocorrect turning a word into something you really wouldn’t use in polite society.
“Jason is not advocating the use of the word, his stand up sketch demonstrates his embarrassment of auto correct changing the word he wanted to write into a derogatory term.”
Susie Morris, a Staines nursery school teacher who lives in Ashford, Slough, said: “No word itself is really offensive. It’s the person and their attitude and how they are using the word that is either offensive or not.
“The BBC are the new humour police. Pathetic that we’re not trusted to interpret a joke correctly.”
Image courtesy of Salford University, with thanks.