The BBC cringes

Oh the horror, Rowan Atkinson did an archbishop of Canterbury routine as part of Comic Relief. Cue Outraged of Basingstoke!

The monologue, which was broadcast on BBC1 before the watershed at 7.45pm, was the subject of 2,133 complaints to the BBC – making up the bulk of the 2,819 complaints received about the show overall.

The Atkinson sketch featured his Archbishop of Canterbury character – or “Arch” as he styled himself – underlining that he was not gay, using the phrase “arsing about” and the word “shagging”, and comparing One Direction to Jesus’ disciples.

The skit was pre-recorded on a studio set but was played out to the live audience at BBC Television Centre, who audibly gasped at the line: “Keep on praying – it doesn’t work, but it’s a good part of a getting-to-sleep routine if you’ve got insomnia.”


The BBC is vewwy sowwy.

The BBC has not included the sketch in its iPlayer compilation of Comic Relief highlights, and has issued this statement: “Comic Relief night features seven hours of live television and is known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy alongside heartfelt appeal films.

“It is made for a varied and wide-ranging audience, so getting the language, tone and content of the evening is extremely important to us… to any viewers we may have offended, we apologise.

“Rowan is well known for his comedy characters and this was an affectionate portrayal of an Archbishop figure, which was intended to amuse and entertain. We did not mean to cause any offence.”

I’m sure Rowan is very flattered by that endorsement.


  1. moleatthecounter says

    This is embarrassingly pathetic. Once more the BBC panders to the ruling establishment by which it is obsequiously fed and watered.

    This may not be true, but I enjoyed typing it…

  2. steve oberski says

    If you’re not causing offence then you’re not doing it right.

    I’d love to hear that broadcast.

  3. AsqJames says

    The only thing that really surprised me in all of this was that over 2,000 people complained. I know Comic Relief had a massive audience, but it’s so damn mild compared to plenty of other stuff that regularly gets broadcast before the watershed. Do those 2,000 people only watch TV once every 2 years or is it just comedy they avoid for 24 months at a time?

  4. Peter Vintner says

    “Comic Relief night features seven hours of live television and is known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy…”

    FFS! Pushing the boundaries so far that it’s come full circle to Derek Nimmo, and All Gas and Gaiters! My nan used to laugh at that.

    I really hope the BBC receive a few thousand complaints about their spinelessness or it will be joyless Taliban TV from now on (for overly sensitive thick people only).

  5. luke thighwalker says

    I love Atkinson, but how could this have been even a little bit of a surprise. His standup specialfromthe 80’s is not exactly reverent, and in one episode he describes the Bishop of Bath and Wells as a fornicating baby eater.

  6. Ulysses says

    Religion is not given the respect too many people think it deserves and so some of those people whine about the lack.

  7. peterh says

    In which it is shown even Tea and Crumpets Little Old Ladies of Both Sexes Religion™ is simply sooooo last millennium.

  8. says

    I would bet that the majority of those complaints could be traced to one or two sources who immediately began getting in touch with everyone they’re connected to. I’d also bet that a lot of those complainants hadn’t even been watching.

  9. Ant (@antallan) says

    The sketch was very very funny. We watched it the day after on Sky+ (like TiVo). While there might have been an audible gasp from the studio audience at that line, I don’t think it was disapproving. My sense was that it was seen as audacious (“He’s telling the truth!”), not offensive.


  10. ismenia says

    Ironically, in the Bible this is broadly what Jesus says, that people should pray in private and say the Lord’s Prayer because God is not really impressed by elaborate prayer and already knows what you need.

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