Sometimes a sausage is…just a sausage.
That, at least, was my own thought as I read last week about outrage in some portions of the gay community about a sausage joke perpetrated by diminutive comic and sometime magician Paul Daniels on out gay judge Craig Revel Horwood, whilst appearing on “Come Dancing”.
At the end of a piece of reasonably light-hearted banter, Daniels capped Craig’s commentary with a quip of his own, urging him “not to give up his day job tasting sausages”.
Oh, puh-lease! A penis joke on family television. But that is not how a fairly large number of rather more serious commentators from the world of equalities saw it. This was anti-gay, homophobic and (picking up on various comments from persons I am sure have never met Mr Daniels personally) just “typical”.
I am not going to pretend it wasn’t a penis joke. Sort of. Daniels’ instant justification and back-covering was based around the fact that he was a former winner of the title of “King of the Sizzle” for sausage week – whilst Horwood was a present-day winner and shortly to be a judge on same. Look, he obfuscates: we really, really were only talking about sausages.
Oh, pull the other one, Paul. You were talking about sausages. The interest that you and Mr Horwood share in the real meat variety of same gives cover for introducing the subject. But you know: I know; the world knows that sausages are second cousins to penises. Just as any reference to them in their “banger” incarnation links to cars, links to couples engaged in sexual congress.
But I am not going to condemn Paul for it. Not without knowing a great deal more about the circumstances. Because to condemn it is to join the great po-faced band of minorities that seems to think that any mention of a subject that highlights any minority status, is, in and of itself, discriminatory.
Well, no: its not.
I’ve frequently taken issue with those who find nothing but transphobia (or homophobia, or gender bias or whatever) in the press by asking them to look in detail at the story, where it comes from and what it is saying. Sure: sometimes, the article in question is offensive, either intentionally or otherwise. But often, by taking umbrage at the mere mention of a subject, people are really saying: we don’t think that topic should be written about AT ALL.
Some of my best friends are hetero. Some of my best friends are also gay. Some of both groups find overt jokery about sex to be irritating or offensive. Many love a good rude raucous laugh about the topic.
“Is that a gun in your pocket? Or are you just pleased to see me?” If you like that sort of humour, it was funny when Mae West cracked it. It was also funny some two and a half thousand years back when it first made its appearance on the stage as a line in Aristophanes’ sex-comedy, Lysistrata.
Although then, it was a reference to a message rod (“skytale”), of the kind that messengers quite often concealed beneath their tunic: “Is that a skytale under your tunic or are you just pleased to see me? The Greeks – who were not unknown for their interest in matters priapic – apparently liked it.
It wasn’t a gay joke: it was a joke then firmly targeted at the supposed lusts of men. But hey! Tis not on to complain that blokes are being insulted when their sexuality is caricatured.
Yet blokes are like that. Or rather, they can be. And humour, unless you reduce it to mere wordplay, always has an edge – a slight aggressivity about it.
Some gays – shock! Horror! – like cock. Go to a gay club or gay event, and the humour you will find there will make the more timid-minded amongst you queasy, with its explicitness. Ditto, of course, any club night pretty much anywhere in the country.
But this wasn’t a club night….
Nope. It sure wasn’t. No way was Mr Daniels going to attempt anything on the risquier side – as Julian Clary did with his career suicidal claim to have been fisting the then Chancellor, Norman Lamont – in front of a family audience. Not even the bluer suggestion that maybe there was nothing Craig liked better than to get his lips round a good meaty sausage…
I digress. The joke…or many possible bluer variants of it was neither pro- or anti-gay.
It may have been intended as such but, not knowing Paul Daniels, I really couldn’t say. Certainly I have known other household name comedians who, behind a loveable cheeky façade, have hidden a most awful reactionary bile. Equally, though, I have known comedians who possess a genuine fondness for equalities and minority groups.
I don’t know about Mr Daniels.
What I do know is that labelling any attempt at humour that treats a minority group no worse than any other part of society is, itself, an approach fraught with peril, as likely to bring on the supposed homophobia as to avert it.