Frank Skinner says cancel culture is nothing new

‘There’s NEVER been a time when you could just say anything’: Frank Skinner says cancel culture is nothing new… but admits ‘bullying’ footballer Jason Lee with ‘pineapple’ sketch featuring blacked-up David Baddiel

  • Frank Skinner dismissed notion comedians have their free speech prohibited 
  • He said: ‘I don’t think there’s ever been a time when you could just say anything’ 
  • Skinner has previously been criticised for lampooning black footballer Jason Lee
  • Comedian said he looks back and considers the sketch a ‘bullying campaign’

Frank Skinner has dismissed the notion that comedians have their free speech prohibited due to cancel culture and said ‘I don’t think there’s ever been a time when you could just say anything’.

The 65-year-old comedian said he ‘doesn’t know what all the fuss is about’ because ‘everyone has their own standards and restraints’ when it comes to what material is widely accepted.

He recalled an early show he did in the 1980s, where the host apologised to the crowd on behalf of the comedian for his ‘racy sexual material’ – but then went on to say ‘racist’ jokes. 

Speaking to The Guardian, Skinner said: ‘Everyone’s got their own standards and restraints. But I think it’s been good for me to keep questioning what I say. It’s made me think more.’ 

Skinner admitted to adopting the decade’s then widely accepted negative language surrounding sexuality, gender and ethnicity because it was the norm.

He has previously been criticised for lampooning black footballer Jason Lee while hosting Fantasy Football League with David Baddiel in the 90s. 

Frank Skinner has dismissed the notion that comedians have their free speech prohibited due to cancel culture and said ‘I don’t think there’s ever been a time when you could just say anything’

Controversy: Skinner has previously been criticised for lampooning black footballer Jason Lee while hosting Fantasy Football League with David Baddiel

The 65-year-old comedian said he ‘doesn’t know what all the fuss is about’ because ‘everyone has their own standards and restraints’ when it comes to what material is widely accepted

The pair had compared the former Nottingham Forest striker’s dreadlocked hairstyle to a ‘pineapple’ during a sketch that involved Baddiel doing blackface – something he has since apologised for.

The skit had lasting implications, with the footballer often targeted by racist hooligans as a consequence while on the pitch. 

Skinner said he looks back and considers the sketch a ‘bullying campaign’ that he is ‘ashamed’ of. 

He also blasted the BBC for having a representative ‘okay’ the show before it went out and the corporation not being a ‘guiding hand’ for the pair and instead ‘letting them f*** up’.

At the time, Skinner said: ‘You’re talking about ethnicity – a lot of black people would wear dreadlocks and feel deeply offended by someone who’s getting mocked for a similar hairstyle. The implications were far wider.’

Lampooned: The pair had compared Lee’s dreadlocked hairstyle to a ‘pineapple’ during a sketch that involved Baddiel doing blackface, something he has since apologised for

The comedian admitted to using ‘racist, sexist and homophobic’ material during his youth but insisted they were a sign of the culturally divided decade in which he grew up.

He was raised on a council estate in working class Oldbury, West Midlands during the 1970s, a decade of economic decline, soaring unemployment and social unrest for the United Kingdom.

He told the I Paper in 2021: ‘I’m happy to keep on apologising because I do know that not everyone’s seen the latest apology. You make statements, and not everyone sees them, they often just fizzle in the air.

The comedian was raised on a council estate in working class Oldbury, West Midlands during the 1970s (Pictured: Skinner in 1992)

‘You’re trying to explain that you made a mistake and that there are things you didn’t understand, but some people want to be able to say, “you’re a terrible person”, and I think there’s a thrill to anger too.’

Skinner also previously said he believes this bodes well for the next generation, including his 10-year old son Buzz – the comedian’s only child with long-term partner Cath Mason.

He said: ‘My kid, I can learn from him. He’s fine with gender politics, he’s fine with race. He doesn’t even question it. We talk about those things. The future is going to be a lot better.’

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