Ricky Gervais has said “you can't pick and choose what's okay to joke about" amid calls for the BBC to sack Jo Brand.
The BBC has defended Brand over a joke she made about throwing battery acid at politicians. But this has led to some public outrage after Radio 5 presenter Danny Baker was sacked last month for sharing an image of chimpanzee on Twitter in response to the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son Archie.
Gervais told Yahoo UK: “Freedom of speech is not being free of any consequences, it’s being free of prosecution, and no one should be prosecuted for a joke. Now your employers might have something different to say, but a joke is a joke.”
The Office star went on: “What does annoy me is the hypocrisy of depending on whose side that person - the left support a left-wing person and the right support a right-wing person. The merits of a joke and principle in general should not be swayed by whose side that person is on politically. And that’s what people don’t like.
“It’s crazy for me, any controversy over a joke, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say one joke’s okay he didn’t mean it, and no he’s a terrible person. It doesn’t sit well with me. Either jokes are allowed or they’re not, you can’t pick and choose what’s okay to joke about.”
The 57-year-old comedian was speaking at the Variety European TV Summit in London where he discussed his new Netflix show Afterlife which has just been commissioned for a second series.
Gervais admitted the show, about a widower whose wife has died of cancer, provoked a mixed response from viewers.
The actor, writer and director said of jokes: “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right. I’ve never had a complaint upheld. A complaint means nothing. You can’t say anything that someone, somewhere, won’t be offended by.”
Nigel Farage has called for police to charge Brand with inciting violence following the comment she made on Radio 4 show Heresy on Tuesday about the spate of milkshakes thrown at Farage and other politicians lobbying during last month’s European Elections.
Brand quipped: "Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?"
The BBC has Brand’s remark, saying: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative but are not intended to be taken seriously.”
But outspoken TV presenter Piers Morgan joined those on social media linking Brand’s comment to former Radio 5 host Danny Baker.
He said: “Why did the BBC instantly sack Danny Baker for an offensive royal baby tweet but won’t sack Jo Brand?”