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Jonathan Ross has made a career out of anti-LGBT+ and misogynistic jokes. Here’s just 6 of the worst examples

Josh Milton June 8, 2020
Jonathan Ross has built a storied career from jokes that earn him as much praise as they do scrutiny. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Jonathan Ross has built a storied career from jokes that earn him as much praise as they do scrutiny. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

In 2008, British talk show Jonathan Ross host was known for two things: His plump pay-cheque and sometimes lewd language.

While the TV presenter provided the grist for critics of the BBC when his lucrative pay was the subject of criticism in the late 00s, he’s since moved over to ITV while dipping further into panel shows and competition judge gigs.

So, that just leaves the lewd language. Indeed, in the past, many of Ross’ jokes brushed with the bounds of good judgement, attracting both pockets of praise from some as well as the scorn from viewers and broadcast governors.

This lofty brashness often collided with his commitment to LGBT+ people. Over the years, Ross’ support for the community has been pockmarked by jokes that would have made LGBT+ viewers at the time shuffle uneasily in their sofas.

As Ross increasingly aligns himself with tinderbox anti-trans figures to the disappointment of fans, PinkNews looks back on six times he fired anti-LGBT+ and/or anti-woman jokes.

1. When Jonathan Ross riffed an airline’s move to hire ‘ladyboy’ air stewards. 

In 2012, Ross courted criticism from the trans community when he commented on Thai airline PC Air’s decision to hire trans flight crew.

“They’re going to recruit more ladyboys to be air stewards,” he cracked.

“Unlike most airlines, they are actually encouraging you to take a concealed weapon on board.”

He continued: “The biggest shock on that plane, I imagine, is when the plane hits turbulence because it’s not just the oxygen masks which fall down in front of your face.”

“What a great way to spend the flight though because you wouldn’t need puzzles or a movie. You’d just be, ‘Is she? Is he? Is she?'”

Yikes. Trans viewers slammed the cutting jokes, to which Ross responded to one critical viewer: “Lighten up, sir, madam, whatever.”

In an interview with trans journalist Paris Lees, Ross reflected on why he decided to tell that joke, saying it was an “’80s joke about transexuals and the idea being the c**k, kind of hidden, almost taboo part of the joke” and said his comedy is all part of “playing a character”. He noted that he was becoming more aware of trans topics and lives.

2. ‘Sachsgate’: When he left a slew of lewd comments to actor Andrew Sachs.

Ross alongside fellow presenter Russell Brand were forced to resign after a rush of controversial prank calls, which were broadcast on Brand’s BBC Radio 2 programme in 2008.

In the answerphone messages, the pair taunted actor Andrew Sachs about the fact that Brand had slept with his granddaughter, according to a transcript of the slot.

After more than 30,000 complaints from members of the public about the stunt, the BBC took action by suspending the presenters, issuing a full apology to Sachs and the licence fee payers and launching an enquiry.

3. The time he breached guidelines… again for telling Gwenyth Paltrow he ‘would f**k’ her.

In 2008, Ross may as well added “breaching guidelines” to the skills section of his LinkedIn after he, you guessed it, breached editorial guidelines during an episode of Ross’s pre-recorded BBC1 chat show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

He spoke to American actor Gwenyth Paltrow and joked that he “would f**k her” which the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body, branded as “gratuitous and unnecessarily offensive“.

4. The time Jonathan Ross joked that gay male children should be put up for adoption. 

On his Saturday daytime Radio 2 show in 2009, Ross joked that if a boy is into Hannah Montanna he should be put up for adoption.

“If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, then you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption in later life, when they settle down with their partner,” according to the Ofcom complaint.

PinkNews revealed at the time that the broadcasting watchdog had received a rash of 61 complaints and, ultimately, the BBC ruled that Ross did not breach code.

5. The time he asked if Lady Gaga is ‘well-endowed’.

On Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, aired in 2009, a Fame Monster-era Lady Gaga walked onto the stage to talk all things rah-rah-rah-ing, only to have Ross make crude witticisms about her genitals

At the time Gaga’s genitals were, for some reason, fodder for internet rumours and gossip, prompting Ross to ask her outright whether she had a penis.

Sipping her ceramic, gold-ladened teacup with ginger tea, Gaga and Ross discussed the “Poker Face” lyric “bluffing with my muffin”, to which Ross reads out a reader response that believes the line shows the singer is a “well-endowed young man”.

“I’ve seen photographs on stage [of Gaga], if you’re well-endowed, I’ve got no idea where you hiding it.”

Gaga, resting her teacup on the saucer after a brief rosy eye-roll, rejoined: “I do have a really big donkey d**k.”

6. When he really, really, really tried to push David Bowie into talking about his sexuality.

David Bowie appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross show wearing a boxy grey suit and floppy hair that rivalled Ross’ own in 2002.

Bowie was a lifeline for many LGBT+ people. The godfather of glam-pop bent the ways we present gender with his androgynous persona, but as much as he freely experimented with fluidity in his music and fashion, he was frequently asked to categorise and confine his sexuality with a label.

As much as Bowie labelled himself “gay” in a 1972 interview, he later called this declaration “the biggest mistake I ever made”.

Bowie appeared on Ross’ show where the host asked him whether he “minds” talking about his sexuality. “Sorry, why?” Bowie flippantly hits back.

“What’s the deal,” Ross begins, “you were gay for a while, then you were not gay, but were you bisexual, were you pansexual, were you try-sexual?

“Because I thought being gay was like being in the Foreign Legion – once you joined, I didn’t think you were allowed back.”

An uneasy Bowie cracks smiles and cooly remarks as Ross tries to jigger open his dating life.

When Ross asked him if he should try out “the man-love”, Bowie smoothly hits back: “Such a serious and life-challenging and changing question, the answer that I have for you would probably create such turmoil in your soul that I’m not sure you could actually withstand it or, in fact, last the rest of the show, so I’m quite happy politely and reluctantly not answer that question.”

 

More: David Bowie, gwyneth paltrow, Jonathon Ross, lady gaga

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