Comic Jimmy Carr has divided opinion in Northern Ireland with his joke about servicemen amputees.
The stand up comic and television host sparked a furore after he told an audience of 2,500 at the Manchester Apollo: “Say what you like about servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're going to have a f*****g good paralympic team in 2012.”
The 37-year-old, who has visited a military hospital in Birmingham and rehabilitation unit in Surrey, has since apologised for his remarks and offered to raise money for the Help the Heroes campaign.
He said: “I’ve got nothing but respect for the young men and women who put their lives on the line for this country. I’ve visited Selly Oak and Headley Court on many occasions.
“I’m sorry if anyone was offended, but that’s the kind of comedy I do. If a silly joke draws attention to the plight of these servicemen then so much the better. My intention was only to make people laugh.”
Territorial Army soldier Reverend David Latimer served with 204 Field Hospital in Helmand Province last year and saw amputations being carried out at first hand.
He has slammed Carr’s comments as “inappropriate, hurtful and unnecessary”.
“I witnessed people having limbs amputated and bodies altered by the removal of major organs and would not look favourably on this,” said the Londonderry minister, who consoled injured soldiers and their comrades for three months.
“Those people were doing a job and by doing that job courageously they have come home with very serious injuries.”
Former Royal Irish Regiment soldier Captain Doug Beattie (40), who was awarded the Military Cross while serving in Afghanistan, said that while the joke was in “bad taste” he believes Carr meant no malice.
“I think he knows it was in bad taste, even if it was a joke. I would say that he was not being malicious, but it was an error of judgment on his part and that’s a real shame because a lot of people look up to him.”
Belfast councillor Bob Stoker said his son, who was badly injured in a Taliban attack earlier this year, had heard the joke and thought it was funny.
“My son Michael tells me, and he was in the audience when Jimmy Carr told that particular joke at Selly Oak, that they all thought it was funny. They knew it was not said to abuse or upset them.”
Jimmy Carr profile
- Carr is a multi-award winning comedian who has become a household name best known for his deadpan humour and crude material.
- His accolades include the LAFTA Awards 2008 Best Stand Up, LAFTA Funniest Man 2007 and winner of the 2006 British Comedy Awards.
- His last stand up tour ‘Repeat Offender’ sold out 160 dates across the UK, his Channel 4 comedy panel show ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ is in its eighth series, while his first four dvds have sold 850,000 copies.
- His current show, Rapier Wit, debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.