Regular listeners to BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show will be familiar with the, usually amusingly irritated, musings of diminutive comedian and writer Jon Holmes. The comedian has recently been ‘let go’ (along with Mitch Benn) from the show, apparently to make room for ‘more women and diversity’.
Understandably after 18 years service, Jon Holmes is more than a little miffed about this. Although it seems we won’t be hearing him monologue about it on the 6.30 comedy slot any time soon. Many people have offered their support to Jon and expressed annoyance on his behalf. According to the Radio 4 star the Mail on Sunday approached him and quoted him as saying “BBC sacked me for being a white man.”
This is problematic, as Jon himself has clearly recognised as evidenced by this tweet: “So. Just to clarify: I didn’t ‘go’ to the Mail, they doorstepped my family this week after my tweet on Monday. They were going to run a story anyway, so I asked for a space to write something level-headed which, to be fair, they have run alongside their ‘story’. And the photo of my wife and I is 4 years old from a Sunday Times travel piece, which they’ve plucked from an archive. We certainly didn’t pose for them as it appears to indicate. I realise no-one probably cares, but thought I’d just make that clear.”
What he did write in the Mail was: “Should I, as a white man (through no fault of my own), be fired from my job because I am a white man? Arguably, yes. You may well think I’m c**p on The Now Show, and that’s fine, but to be told it’s because I’m the wrong sex and colour? I’m just not sure that’s helpful to anyone’s cause.”
Should Jon, as a white man, be fired from his job because he is white? No, of course not, no one’s arguing otherwise. Sometimes entertainment formats need a rethink. And sometimes shows get a bit tired and the only thing to do is rip it up and start again.
The stage, screen and airwaves have all been saturated with satirical shows in which white male comedians air their views. This is not to say none of these men are talented, that’s (usually) why they are there. It’s not to say we don’t need satirical shows, in fact it seems we need satire more than ever. However it’s irksome to say the least that people of colour, women and LGBTQ people are being cast as some sort of Scrappy Doo solution to a show that’s been going for nearly two decades.
Any attempt at increasing diversity in comedy is laudable, of course I think that, it’s my job. However, it seems that the BBC are using diversity in the same way sitcom writers might introduce a new character to try and breathe life into audience figures.
Refreshing though it is to see a white man call for a hiring policy on meritocracy, it also highlights the uncomfortable fact most people still see any hiring of a minority as tick boxing and implies many people do not regard them as talented as white men.