Below is the formal letter of complaint I sent to the editor in Chief of the Guardian earlier today. Please excuse the vanity of only speaking on behalf of myself and including the award in the argument. But it lends to the argument that in this day and age I would never have been awarded such a prize if i was simply "blacking up" for the sake of it. I wanted to include the entire comedy community's feelings on Mr Logan and his sheer lack of understanding of our art form but was advised by my journalist girlfriend to keep it within the confines of my show for best results. Feel free to post this about. If I'm the first to ban him from productions then others might see fit.
(Spoiler Alert. I give away the twist in"So I suppose" in case anyone hasn't and still plans on seeing the show)
As Richard stated in his blog, despite being as friendly and helpful as I could in the interview I too found Brian pompous arrogant and patronizing. The letter read as such,
I am writing in response to a recent interview I had with Brian Logan on offensiveness in comedy. I gave a lot of my time to Mr Logan, during which I tried to be as friendly and as helpful as I could be.
After reading the article in question and noting the sheer level of paraphrasing and cherry picking he has done I am prompted to write to you. In his attempts to write the article he already had in mind he has painted me as a hateful, ignorant man and he has committed a defamation of my character.
I have already spoken to Richard Herring, who was also interviewed by Mr Logan and is as equally outraged by the level of cherry-picking and quoting out of context Mr Logan has committed to meet his own ends. I imagine you will be hearing from him forthwith. I have also cc'd my agent, Danny Julian, from Off the Kerb Productions who will also be lodging a formal complaint.
On minorities I discussed at length that I would ultimately like to play to more. That I believe everyone should be included in the great British sense of humour and that it’s possible to be inclusive of people’s cultures without being hateful. I stated very clearly and adamantly. "I'd be genuinely mortified if any minority felt bullied by me. I would take it very personally. There's a massive difference between doing jokes for minorities and doing jokes about minorities” As an addendum I added. “But not once has any non-white person ever accused me of being racist (after seeing my Edinburgh award winning show, "So I Suppose This is Offensive Now") so I must be doing something right"
Mr Logan took it upon himself to write
Burns has a point when he argues that to be offended "is selfish, because we all have our own personal goalposts and we all think that everyone else should adhere to them." Still, it doesn't get us very far in establishing an agreed standard of offensiveness – and it does let gratuitously abusive comedians off the hook. Burns proudly says: "Not once has any non-white person accused me of being racist on stage. So I must be doing something right." But this implies that offence is invalid if taken by any party other than the minority in question (as well as overlooking the fact that non-white people make up a small minority of his audience).
This is paraphrasing and downright irresponsible. During the interview I stated again and again (and in fact even rang Mr Logan back days later to stress further) that, for me, comedy is about taking down bullies. Why he would then in turn set out to paint me as a “gratuitously abusive” sub-intellectual bigot (which certainly appears to be his agenda here) that doesn't know or understand his own audience is beyond me.
What's more, I stated again and again that comedians want the double standard of being taken seriously yet when challenged hide behind, "Hey it's only comedy" I for one hold myself fully accountable for everything I say and a great deal of what happens in a gig when I'm in charge. I'm known for it and in fact I've stopped gigs and apologised when I've felt I was out of order in the heat of the moment. That is completely contrary to the notion that I would just let anyone off the hook for being gratuitously abusive. Everything I do is about balance. Something Mr Logan would do well to take heed of. Instead of voicing me with a one-dimensional argument and countering by adopting my own actual stance as his own.
I was handed the highest accolade in my industry for a live show that looked at the lack of balance in matters of bigotry. My cast and I staged a racist argument between an Indian actress, a Miss Sajeela Kershi and myself. (Sorry to spoil it if you planned on seeing it. I believe we were promised a plug for the DVD of the show in question. Something else Mr Logan has failed to add)
The back story for Sajeela’s character being that she turns up to the show with (what we presume to be) her white boyfriend, specifically to be offended by everything I say because she has seen a poster with me mocked up in four offensive images:
1) Me as Christ on the cross
2) Me in a wheelchair,
3) Me in a fairy outfit and,
4) Me in black make up dressed as a Zulu.
An argument ensues during which we discover that the boyfriend is actually her brother. This was a device to raise more questions in the audience’s minds and put people off balance. Things become really heated between all three of us. We both say rather stupid ignorant things and in turn accuse each other of being prejudiced and racist. As the situation (and issue) was so emotionally charged people’s prejudices were brought to the fore as they rallied in support of me or Sajeela depending on their slant. Then we’d reveal that the whole thing was a sting by performing a choreographed dance number culminating in a lighting change so people could see nothing but themselves in the mirrors strategically placed behind us.
It was a complex operation that took a year of preparation. The poster was a huge part of this. The title of the show itself was the little winking giveaway that not all was what it may have, at first, seemed - “So I suppose THIS is offensive Now”
As spoken out of me in cartoon speech blurb, black make up, whilst rolling my eyes.
And yes the “This” was even in a bolder different font.
As I stated so very clearly to Brian, “The reason no-one got upset about the poster is that everyone understood the complexity of the joke. I wasn’t taking the piss out of any given minority. The butt of the joke was people that didn’t think (the images) were offensive”
Yet Mr Logan chose to write,
Brendon Burns, the confrontational Australian comic, agrees that alternative comedy became a fundamentalism that had to be challenged. In 2007 Burns won the If.Comeddie award for his Edinburgh show So I Suppose This Is Offensive Now? painting himself black and dressing up like a Zulu warrior for the poster. Ten years ago, he would not have got away with it, says Burns. "If you said certain words, people would freak out. I can list the big five. Chuck in an n, chuck in a p. Spastic was another one, the c-word was a no-no. Twenty years ago, if you said girlfriend, people would say, 'No, it's partner.'"
To paraphrase a show so complex as just my trying to “Black up” and get away with it is an insult to me, everyone that worked on it and my art in general.
In the show we worked very hard to expose bigotry and hypocrisy. Pretty much everyone but Mr Logan that saw the show managed to figure that for themselves.
But to continue to commit to his own misapprehension even after having such an obvious joke explained to him outright (Some two years later I might add) and to paint me as a flagrant racist in the process? Unacceptable.
If this were in a more lowbrow reactionary publication I would have laughed this off. But to be labeled such in a paper I have loved, read and respected for years and is done likewise the world over. I cannot and will not stand for this.
I expect a full apology in print and I will not be admitting Mr Logan into any further productions.