Letter: Was he in the audience?
This letter sent to the Star was written by Cyril Olsen, Busk Meadow, Sheffield, S5
One of the privileged rights of living in our country is having Freedom of Speech in being able to express one’s opinion on any topic, the latter sadly becoming more difficult to many for fear of infringing the Race Relations Act, by possibly offending our neighbours of different colour or religion, be they black, white, brown, Christian or Muslim.
I make this observation having read Steve Davies, September 24, letter ‘The flood of support’? in which he expresses his anti-Chubby Brown view and associates him with the ‘odious’ era of Bernard Manning and others. Having confessed to witnessing Mr Brown’s alleged disgusting comments particularly against women, season after season at Skegness, did he perchance hear them as an audience member at his shows?
Expressing my own opinion, I take exception to his denigration of Bernard Manning and others of his era, one of them being the Royston born black comedian Charlie Williams. These two established and very popular comedians had something in common in that Bernard Manning being of Jewish ancestry often regaled his audience with Jewish jokes, while Charlie Williams comedy was often at his own expense and particularly his colour. He used to respond to heckling by saying “If you don’t shut up, I’ll come and move in next door to you.” Audiences black and white accepted their humour for what it was, telling jokes even against themselves, and came back for more, both performers playing to full houses.
Far from just performing in Mr Davies’ perceived ‘odious’ era, Charlie Williams was a role model for a new generation of black comedians such as Lenny Henry and Gary Wilmot. He was awarded an MBE in 1999 for his charity work and in 2000 was given a lifetime achievement award at the Black Comedy Awards where it was recognised that he had ‘broken down barriers.’
Similarly Bernard Manning always maintained that he was not a racist, defending his material by saying that his jokes against racial groups were just jokes and that no offence was meant, both artistes acts would seem to be vindicated during their heyday as witnessed by the high audience attendance and TV viewing figures they received.
They together with Chubby Brown have all done sterling work for helping charities of their choice and should be commended for their generosity to benefit those less fortunate than themselves, hardly the unprincipled actions of so-called ‘odious’ performers.