Jimmy Carr 'ignored' mother's plea to remove Down's Syndrome joke from routine
Published 28/11/2011 | 09:11
WHEN Jimmy Carr caused controversy by telling an offensive joke about Down's Syndrome children, he launched a robust defence.
"It was the 238th gig of the tour and nobody has complained so far," he said by way of explanation.
Except that what he said is not actually true.
A mother of a child with Down's syndrome complained about the joke almost a year ago - and was completely ignored by Carr's management team, who didn't bother to reply to her heartfelt pleas for the joke to be removed from his stage show. Her complaint was even taken up by the Down's Syndrome Association but that went unanswered too.
Adele Joicey, whose two-year-old daughter Esme has Down's Syndrome, said: "I did everything I could to get a response and he ignored me. I just wanted him to remove one joke from his routine so I wrote him an emotive letter.
"But he treated me with contempt. I took offence at his joke but he made it worse by never, ever replying. He never had the decency to respond. I didn't ask for an apology, I just asked for him to reconsider."
Miss Joicey, a communications manager with an NHS trust, was deeply upset by the joke about disabled children told by Carr towards the end of his Laughter Therapy Live show at Newcastle City Hall in November last year.
The performance was ironically Miss Joicey's first night out since Esme was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome following a genetic test.
She had felt depressed for a year since the diagnosis and Carr's show - she had seen him on television - was supposed to cheer her up.
Instead she found herself in floods of tears.
"I just sat there sobbing. I was really upset. I wanted to get up and run to the front and shout: 'Shame on you'," recalled Miss Joicey.
Carr's joke - " Why are they called Sunshine Variety coaches when all the kids on them look the ****ing same?" - finally sparked outrage last week following a performance at the Parr Hall theatre in Warrington, Cheshire.
Sunshine Variety coaches - 5,000 of which have been bought with money raised by community groups and corporate donations - are used to take disadvantaged and disabled children on outings.
The furore prompted Carr, best known as the host of the Channel 4 television programme 8 Out of 10 Cats, to defend the joke by claiming nobody had previously complained after 238 performances, adding: "I'm sorry to anyone who came and was offended.".
Only a few days before Carr had said in an interview that there are no taboo areas, adding: "I think anyone can talk about anything, anything's kind of up for grabs."
Miss Joicey, 37, from Newcastle, wrote the letter to Carr in January this year, having spent a month agonising over its precise wording.
She sent a subsequent letter - and that too was ignored. She also contacted the Down's Syndrome Association who confirmed they were writing to the comic to protest about the joke.
The association never received a reply either, said Miss Joicey. She even contacted her local newspaper who then approached Carr for a comment. None was forthcoming and the story was never published.
The correspondence was emailed to Chambers Management, the entertainment agency which manages Carr as well as other entertainers including another controversial comic, Frankie Boyle.
On the company's website, the public is encouraged to get in touch. "We would love to hear from you," the website says, adding: "whether you want more information on any of our acts or wish to discover how our artists can support your event."
In her email to Chambers Management on January 18, Miss Joicey wrote: "When the joke was told I felt physically sick.
"I became very upset. What I couldn't believe was the humiliation of listening to a whole auditorium laugh at such an awful joke about such a terrible disability.
"It confirmed my fears that society has not changed, it is not accepting of disability and my daughter will have to face a life of ridicule and jokes at her expense.
"Of course I understand in this politically-correct age it is harder and harder for comedians to tell jokes and make a living. However I wanted to appeal to him that this type of joke about disability cuts those that are affected too deeply.
"Esme's disability is something I will have to live with until the day I die. I just wanted to say jokes about disability affect a minority of society, but to those it does affect, it hurts, a lot.
"I wanted to appeal and respectfully request that in future no further jokes be made concerning Down's Syndrome, or indeed any learning disability, as jokes of this nature only serve to increase the stigma that we already face."
Xanthe Breen, of the Down’s Syndrome Association, said she also forwarded Miss Joicey’s letter by post to Carr’s management team but had had no response.
The charity had received a number of complaints about the joke in the past year and had advised people to write to Chambers Management. It is not clear how many then did so.
Ms Breen said: “I have passed on Carr’s management details to more than one person. He cannot say there have not been any complaints.
“We just want comedians to stop picking on people with learning difficulties. They are not allowed to make racist jokes and they cannot make jokes about gay people, so people with learning difficulties are the new group being ridiculed.”
Chambers management declined to comment.