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Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 8:52 am
by Brock
I've been involved in a discussion on another forum about whether old radio comedy programmes should be edited for references that might be considered racist. We've had a similar discussion on this forum with regard to Fawlty Towers and I don't particularly want to revisit it here, but the thing that struck me was that Hancock's Half Hour was specifically cited as a programme that might have to be revised in such a way.

Now I think I've listened to most of the archive Hancocks on R4 Extra and all the reconstructed episodes on R4. I may have missed a few but I simply cannot recall a single one where there was any racist humour. As far as I'm aware, Galton and Simpson simply didn't "do" racism (I don't recall any in Steptoe and Son either). There are obviously comedies of that era such as The Goon Show with some questionable material, but Hancock was remarkably free of it.

I asked the poster to provide me with an example and he cited The Foreign Legion. I listened to it and could find nothing more "racist" than a couple of silly French accents. The poster said it was "a bit of a stab in the dark recesses of my memory", so I'm still none the wiser.

Can anyone here think of any episode of Hancock's Half Hour that might be considered racist?

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 2:13 pm
by paul.austin
Well, the French are not a separate race.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:43 am
by Mark
Can't think of anything in "HHH", but 4ex do use warnings before many comedies they repeat, (I'm sure they did for "Steptoe") so they wouldn't need to cut anything.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:54 am
by paul.austin
That doesn't stop Outraged Listener/Viewer From Tunbridge Wells deciding to complain when BBC runs something from before the nineties that dares to be sexist/racist/homophobic etc.

Forex, the film "Adventures in Babysitting" from 1987 gets a lot of flak today for the casual use of "homo" as an all-purpose insult , probably from people who think that if they lose their luggage it's homophobic.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:22 am
by Brian F
I see they avoid saying "homo" for House of Multiple Occupation in Homes Under the Hammer, just HMO. I wonder if there are any out-takes where someone slipped up? :-)

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:38 am
by brigham
I hadn't heard of anybody being a 'homo' since schooldays, then a few years back, I kept mishearing a radio ad., telling me 'You don't have to be a homo to have had PPI ...'.

It still occurs in the phrase 'Hollywood Homo', at least on the 'net.

Is Hancock's Half Hour 'hideously white'?

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:46 am
by paul.austin
I'm sure some Outraged Listener from Tunbridge Wells will be glad Hancock killed himself just because he dared to live 60 years ago and Outraged Listeners and Viewers like to point to a tiny minority of the past who had modernish views to act as if they magically could all have acted that way.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:22 am
by Brock
Mark wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:43 am
Can't think of anything in "HHH", but 4ex do use warnings before many comedies they repeat, (I'm sure they did for "Steptoe") so they wouldn't need to cut anything.
Yes, and that's what made me wonder - I don't recall ever hearing such a warning before HHH. I do remember hearing them before Steptoe, but that's been for homophobic or sexist references rather than racism, as far as I know.

The race issue doesn't seem to be something that was ever addressed in Galton and Simpson's scripts. I don't know whether they deliberately avoided it, or it was just something they weren't interested in. It's quite remarkable in a way.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 11:01 am
by brigham
It's quite remarkable that someone could NOT be interested in racism.

It couldn't happen today. It has to be promoted at every possible opportunity.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Tue Jun 23, 2020 3:44 pm
by stearn
Brock wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:22 am
The race issue doesn't seem to be something that was ever addressed in Galton and Simpson's scripts. I don't know whether they deliberately avoided it, or it was just something they weren't interested in. It's quite remarkable in a way.
It might well have been totally unconscious, and they never needed to go down that route with scripts as they had enough material to work with without it, or it may well have been a very conscious decision with an eye on overseas sales via Transcription Services - although that never seemed to be a problem with The Goon Show. An added factor may be the way the contracts for scripts were written. ALS amended the standard BBC contract and retained the rights for selling the formats overseas (Sanford and Son etc.), so perhaps their approach was more international.

I suspect it was just the set-ups, Hancock and James, the Steptoes, didn't need it, with it being more domestic comedy.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:42 pm
by fatcat
I caught a bit of Budgie the other night. I didn't see it all but got the gist the Charlie Endell had lumbered him with some illegal
Pakistani immigrants. I thought yes well that would have just been how it was in 1971 with the then illegals pouring in...However there was one line Budgie said near the end which I found disturbing/embarrassing / ashamed..not sure which. The line could have been cut as it would not have affected the plot and saved me distress ..but then I am in two minds about rewriting history ???
But a somewhat amusing episode became tainted after that one line. for me.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:54 pm
by brigham
I'm pleased to say that I am NEVER 'in two minds about re-writing history'.

It's no different from cheating at Patience- you are only fooling yourself.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:05 pm
by Spiny Norman
fatcat wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:42 pm
I caught a bit of Budgie the other night. I didn't see it all but got the gist the Charlie Endell had lumbered him with some illegal
Pakistani immigrants. I thought yes well that would have just been how it was in 1971 with the then illegals pouring in...However there was one line Budgie said near the end which I found disturbing/embarrassing / ashamed..not sure which. The line could have been cut as it would not have affected the plot and saved me distress ..but then I am in two minds about rewriting history ???
But a somewhat amusing episode became tainted after that one line. for me.
OK but what was it then? It can't be so bad that you can't quote it?

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 9:06 am
by fatcat
Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:05 pm

OK but what was it then? It can't be so bad that you can't quote it?
There is a reason I didn't quote it, I was doing some other work and was not entirely concentrating on the prog (not recorded) and it was a matter of "did I just hear that? ". I didn't want to put something down and find it was just a figment of my corrupt memory LOL

I can say it was nothing extreme ie. wishing harm to the said Pakistanis just a throwaway line reminder of how far we have come.
If I did hear it, it was in the end train station sequence and wondered if anyone else know it or picked up on it.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 9:33 am
by Billy Smart
There's a dismal moment in one episode when 'Budgie' Bird greets a black girl "Awlright, chocolate drop?" in an aside. It seems like a truthful moment of character revelation - I never feel like I'm responding appropriately to Adam Faith's supposed urchin harlequin charm.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:42 pm
by Rory Clark
Brock wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:22 am

Yes, and that's what made me wonder - I don't recall ever hearing such a warning before HHH. I do remember hearing them before Steptoe, but that's been for homophobic or sexist references rather than racism, as far as I know.

The race issue doesn't seem to be something that was ever addressed in Galton and Simpson's scripts. I don't know whether they deliberately avoided it, or it was just something they weren't interested in. It's quite remarkable in a way.
There's lots of material in Steptoe concerning race - inevitably coming from the old man's bigotry and rebuffed by Harold. But because it's written by the brilliant Galton and Simpson, the arguments are presented with a degree of depth, intelligence and nuance lacking in other sitcoms. As an example, take a look at Tea For Two from 7m 55s onwards. Masterful writing.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:52 pm
by Brock
Rory Clark wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:42 pm
There's lots of material in Steptoe concerning race - inevitably coming from the old man's bigotry and rebuffed by Harold. But because it's written by the brilliant Galton and Simpson, the arguments are presented with a degree of depth, intelligence and nuance lacking in other sitcoms. As an example, take a look at Tea For Two from 7m 55s onwards. Masterful writing.
Oh yes, you're absolutely right. I had forgotten about that episode. As you say, presented with a nuance lacking in other sitcoms.

Re: Was there racism in Hancock's Half Hour?

Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:40 pm
by JezR
“Enoch’s Dreaming of a White Christmas” has been edited out of UKTV showings of the 1973 S&S Christmas Special for about 10 years.