Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Matthew Kelly, the man from the telly

Last night I caught a brief glimpse of ITV's thriller Cold Blood, which, as a departure from what you might expect of Matthew Kelly, had him playing a jailed psychopath. I don't know whether he was any good in the role, as I was cooking creole meatballs and drinking copious amounts of vodka rather than watching, but it did strike me as quite a brave move for the man.

He's best known for presenting gameshows and there were some rather nasty allegations about him some time ago. To play a thoroughly evil character must have been a complex decision to make in the light of it being "against type" given his genial host performances and his real-life experiences of being accused of being a paedophile. (Allegations were made, but the police cleared him).

What is most memorable about Kelly was his appearance on Frank Skinner's talk show, where he actually tackled Skinner about the jokes he had made about him and the allegations. It rated quite highly on the (50 or) 100 Most Embarrassing Moments programme Channel 5 showed quite recently. Not surprisingly.

Skinner was clearly extremely uncomfortable with being called to account for the things he had joked about, and had no defence or comeback prepared. I don't think he can have been expecting Kelly to address the issue: I suppose guests are usually simply foils and expected to be "good sports" about perhaps having been the subject of crueler material on previous shows.

Skinner made himself look a complete fool (and rather vicious into the bargain) when he commented that his comedy partner David Baddiel had said Kelly's newly shaven head made him look more like a child-molester than he had previously. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments and he had completely lost the audience: silence greeted this "joke". A real instance where you might have expected tumbleweed to roll by and pins to drop with resounding clangs. Kelly just looked at him. I've no idea how Skinner recovered the show from that moment, perhaps they went to break (or brought on a clown). He didn't even take responsibility for his words as he said them (attributing the statement to absent Baddiel), so he looked a bit cowardly too. Baddiel may very well have said it, but he didn't have to repeat it, (if David jumped off a cliff, would you do it too, Frank?) and it showed he'd lost awareness of where his audience's sympathy was lying.

It's interesting to me because of notions of "fair game" and "what is fair comment?" regarding people in the public eye.

I'm not trying to say that Frank Skinner or Baddiel shouldn't have made such jokes about Matthew Kelly. I think that is probably a matter of taste.

Challenging what was said/joked about on the other hand seems quite important to me. I don't believe we should be able to write/say whatever we like in whatever terms we like, without accountability. If you can't defend it or support it, perhaps you shouldn't be saying it? But maybe just being called on it and shown that there isn't always "no harm done" is enough.

"Humour is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit." Aristotle

It reminds me of the issues surrounding the Gina Ford ruckus, which I believe still rumbles on with her continuing to threaten Mumsnet with litigation, possibly going to court in the near future.


James said...

I saw the interview and it was interesting, but I don't think Skinner came off any worse. He had the balls to repeat the joke to Kelly's face (at Kelly's request), and no it didn't get a laugh but you wouldn't expect it to considering the tone of the interview at that point and the fact that the butt of the joke was in the same room. It was certainly uncomfortable viewing but also good for Skinner to have the right of reply in order to explain why the joke was made at the time, so fair play to both of them.

Mephitis said...

You may be right, I only saw an excerpt of the interview as shown on '100 most embarrassing clips' or whatever it was, James.


To the anonymous poster(s), I have removed your comments since Kelly was never charged with any crime. You may libel away on your own sites.