The British comedian Harry Enfield has sparked fury after he used a racial slur during an interview on BBC Radio 4 about blackface.

The 59-year-old star who is best remembered for his 1990s sketch show Harry Enfield and Chums was speaking to Nick Robinson and the writer, Ava Vidal on the topic of shows like Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentleman being removed from streaming services for featuring comedic character wearing blackface.

While recounting the history of blackface he mentioned the performer GH Elliott who played a deeply offensive character in the 1930s called the 'Chocolate Coloured C**n' but rather than skirt around the name Enfield said it outright.

Obviously, Al Jolson or GH Elliott who played the Chocolate Coloured C**n, in the thirties, they perpetuated the myth of the happy negro, who was very happy to sing under the crack of the whip. Obviously that’s deeply offensive.

This forced Robinson to interject and clarify that Enfield was just repeating what the character was called and wasn't using the slur to be racist to which Enfield replied:

Well, that was his name on stage.

Enfield was then asked about performing in blackface which he did when he played his 'hero' Nelson Mandela who he portrayed as a drug dealer in the sketch show Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul.

At the time, there was a lot of things in the paper about drugs, so I made him a drug dealer, or a peddler of alcopops to children and things like that, which I thought was so wrong it was alright. I wouldn’t do it now, but I don’t think I regret it. I definitely think there should still be a conversation about it.

Vidal didn't agree with Enfield and asked why he didn't then portray someone like Margaret Thatcher in a different profession?

If you’re going to do comedy, why wouldn’t you subvert the stereotype, why wouldn’t you challenge it, why would you reinforce it? ‘Did he play Margaret Thatcher as a hooker? Why did he denigrate the black one?

Although in the context of the debate Enfield might have felt he was justified to say the word and his defence of the Mandela sketch made sense but the backlash against the comment would say that he should have used more caution.

Enfield did explain that although he has played several prime ministers during his career he wouldn't feel comfortable portraying Rishi Sunak should he become PM in the future.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)