Jimmy Carr’s joke about Roma people ‘deeply disturbing’, says No 10

Boris Johnson’s spokesperson says it is unacceptable to make light of genocide after comedian’s comments

Jimmy Carr’s comment about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are “deeply disturbing”, Downing Street has said, while declining to say that broadcasters should no longer feature the comedian.

The response came after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, suggested viewers should boycott Carr after a much-condemned section of his Netflix special, His Dark Material.

Carr joked about the horror of “6 million Jewish lives being lost” before suggesting the deaths of “the thousands of Gypsies” at the hands of the Nazis had been one of “the positives” of the Holocaust.

Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “Those comments are deeply disturbing and it is unacceptable to make light of genocide.” He pointed to plans already in place for the government to pass legislation giving tighter control over the content of streaming services.

Downing Street’s intervention came more than a month after Carr’s comedy special became one of the biggest comedy hits of the year.

Netflix does not release viewing figures but estimates by analytics company Digital I suggest 1.8m British Netflix accounts watched His Dark Material in the week after it was released on Christmas Day – with the total audience likely to be much larger. However, the joke became a political issue only after a short clip was uploaded to Twitter last week, where it quickly went viral.

Unlike domestic British broadcasters, Netflix is not overseen by Ofcom and is overseen instead by the Dutch media regulator. On Saturday, the UK culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, had suggested future legislation could prevent the broadcast of Carr’s comments, telling BBC One Breakfast that they were “abhorrent and they just shouldn’t be on television”.

But Johnson’s spokesperson declined to say if he agreed. He said: “I’m not necessarily going to draw on a specific example. We are clear that any change in legislation should be proportionate to ensure freedom of speech that is within the law is not stifled.”

Asked if Netflix should remove Carr’s show, he said: “That would be a matter for them.”

Carr has been condemned by groups including the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Auschwitz Memorial and Hope Not Hate for his remarks. The show opened with Carr telling viewers: “Before we start, a quick trigger warning. Tonight’s show contains jokes about terrible things. Things that may have affected you and the people you love. But these are just jokes. They’re not the terrible things.”

Asked about the comments, Javid told Times Radio they were “horrid”. He added: “I think we all have a right to react to that. And one of the best ways anyone can react to that is show these platforms what they think about Jimmy Carr by not watching or listening to him, and that will send him a very strong message.”

Jimmy Carr in His Dark Material
Jimmy Carr in His Dark Material. Photograph: Photo Credit: Matt Frost/Matt Frost

In the special, Carr sought to explain what he said was the context of the joke, saying it was “edgy as hell” and had an educational value.

“It’s a joke about the worst thing that’s ever happened in human history, and people say ‘never forget’, well this is how I remember,” he said.

“There is an educational quality. Like everyone in the room knows, 6 million Jewish people lost their lives to the Nazis during the second world war. But a lot of people don’t know, because it’s not really taught in our schools, that the Nazis also killed, in their thousands, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Johnson’s government has separately been accused of seeking to effectively criminalise Traveller communities in a section of the new policing bill that would make living on land without the permission of its owner a criminal offence, and would allow police to seize vehicles.


Peter Walker and Jim Waterson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jimmy Carr condemned for ‘abhorrent’ Holocaust joke about Roma people
Memorial day charity ‘appalled’ at comedian’s remarks about Nazi killings in Netflix special

Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

04, Feb, 2022 @6:32 PM

Article image
New laws would hold Netflix to account after ‘shocking’ Jimmy Carr joke
Nadine Dorries and anti-hate groups condemn comic’s joke about Roma and the Holocaust in Netflix special

Jedidajah Otte

05, Feb, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
Roma accuse government of hypocrisy over Jimmy Carr joke
Ministers’ criticism of comedian at odds with planned laws harmful to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, leaders say

Rachel Hall

08, Feb, 2022 @1:54 PM

Article image
Protest takes place outside Jimmy Carr Cambridge gig in response to Roma joke
Around 100 people attend demonstration outside the Corn Exchange over joke about Nazi killings

Tobi Thomas

16, Feb, 2022 @8:32 PM

Article image
Backlash against C4 show that may destroy works by Hitler and Picasso
Jimmy Carr-fronted show accused of seeking attention with something akin to book burning

Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

13, Oct, 2022 @5:17 PM

Article image
Nazi directives and accounts of Roma genocide go on display
Forgotten Victims exhibition in London documents fate of 500,000 Roma and Sinti

Caroline Davies

27, Oct, 2019 @5:07 PM

Article image
Add genocide of Gypsies to national curriculum, say charities
Forty organisations call for ‘meaningful change’ after Jimmy Carr’s joke about mass murder of Roma and Sinti people

Sally Weale Education correspondent

09, Feb, 2022 @7:59 PM

Article image
Today's response to the Roma is a slur from the past | Tanya Gold
Tanya Gold: On a visit to Yad Vashem, the consequences of continuing to demonise the ancient scapegoats of Europe were all too clear to me

Tanya Gold

26, Dec, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
'A place to call our own': Europe's first Roma cultural centre opens in Berlin
Groundbreaking institute to showcase and promote artistic and cultural contribution of Europe’s 12 million Roma people

Kate Connolly in Berlin

08, Jun, 2017 @3:11 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on anti-Traveller prejudice: the aim must be inclusion | Editorial
Editorial: By criminalising their lifestyle, the government will push Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people closer to the edge


08, Feb, 2022 @7:16 PM