Earlier this month, we heard how the BBC was looking to edit out certain Chewin’ the Fat sketches during repeat showings that would cause offense if shown today.
The news was met with a mixed response, with many fans dismayed to learn this classic TV show would be censored.
Others were slightly more considerate of the change in times, agreeing that certain parts of the ’90s Scottish comedy classic hadn’t aged well.
The show, which first aired over 23 years ago in January 1999, was a huge success and launched the careers of the likes of Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill and Karen Dunbar.
Much like its predecessors, such as Naked Video and Scotch & Wry, and those that followed it, Burnistoun and the Limmy Show, Chewin’ the Fat brilliantly showcased Scotland’s quick wit and humour.
And while many believe comedy should be able to tackle tough subjects, there are definitely sketches that would generate controversy if they were shown on TV today.
Chewin’ the Fat – The ice cream van
It’s one of Chewin’ the Fat’s most memorable sketches, but, as pointed out recently by show co-creator Ford Kiernan, that might not be a good thing in 2022.
In the sketch, Karen Dunbar plays an ice cream van lady who asks two young boys what it is they’re wanting.
When it’s revealed that the younger of the two boys would like a “swatch” (a look) at the vendor’s private parts, Karen Dunbar’s character duly obliges and raises her skirt.
The gag resolves with the two boys standing, mouths agape, holding their ice cream cones.
Last year, co-creator Ford Kiernan said the skirt scene would never make it past modern censors.
Kiernan, 60, said: “A lot of the stuff on Chewin’ The Fat stuff you couldn’t get away with now.
“The likes of Karen pulling her skirt up I don’t think you could do. We did get letters at the time and somebody wrote in and said ‘As funny as the nation thought that sketch was, would that sketch work if it was two wee lassies at the van and it was a man?’
Rab C Nesbitt – Council Drinks
Promoting drinking in the streets is bad enough, but these days, Scotland is also all over the need to promote responsible drinking to today’s audiences and Rab being stocious in the daytime in the streets of Glasgow just wouldn’t fly on TV now.
Chewin’ the Fat – Dirtylittleb*****d.com
The internet age was well and truly upon us when Chewin’ the Fat was in its pomp, and this sketch, a TV ad for a fictional site called dirtylittleb*****d.com, promotes a selection of successful online entrepreneurs.
Included is 16-year-old internet millionaire Simon, who’s made a fortune taking “filthy photos of mother and sister”.
The ad concludes with Simon taking an up-skirt photo of his mum. As you do…
The less said about this one the better we think.
Scotch & Wry – Pub joke
Interestingly, the whole point of this sketch is that Rikki Fulton is struggling to tell a joke without offending anyone in the pub, but some of the stereotypes and language he uses definitely wouldn’t be allowed on TV now.
Chewin’ the Fat – baby ashtray
Karen Dunbar plays a mum sitting on a park bench with her newborn baby attached to her chest.
Desperate for a cigarette, but hindered somewhat by the youngster, Karen’s character comes up with an ingenious plan.
Removing chewing gum from her mouth, the mum fixes an empty foil container to the baby’s head, then proceeds to spark up her cigarette and flick the ash into the makeshift receptacle. That faint sound you can hear is the Mumsnet servers imploding.
Naked Video – James Bond Sketch
Poking fun at the ridiculousness of an aging James Bond’s wooing techniques this Naked Video sketch was much loved at the time.
When potential Bond Girl Agnes Brown (Helen Lederer) meets the lecherous James Bond (Andy Gray), the spy won’t take no for an answer and when she eventually rebuffs him, he immediately takes offense and calls her a lesbian.
Even with it being satire, the BBC would definitely think twice about airing a sketch that saw someone questioning someone else’s sexuality in such a derogatory way.
Chewin’ The Fat – “Riza!”
Sock puppets speaking a vaguely Gaelic-sounding form of gibberish would likely be enough to cause offense on their own in today’s world, but said sock puppets advocating the smoking of cannabis resin with “Rizlaaa” takes this sketch to another level.
Chewin’ the Fat – the crazy tacos
Blatant cultural appropriation is a big no-no in 2022, and this sketch, in which the Chewin’ the Fat gang dress up as Mexicans with fake mustaches and maracas for a fictional TV ad for ‘El Loco Tacos’, has it in spades.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.