Actor Sir David Jason, who played ambitious, cockney market trader Derek "Del Boy" Trotter in the classic BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses, which ran from 1981-2003, has been forced to apologise after making a "racist" joke live on radio.

On a gameshow, Sir David, 69, said: "What do you call a Pakistani cloakroom attendant?"

He then delivered the punch line: 'Me hat, me coat.'

Sir David who, like his Only Fools co-star Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played his brother Rodney, usually shuns the limelight and has rarely found himself in the news for the wrong reasons, was said to be "distressed" that the joke may have caused offence.

Sir David Jason forced to say sorry after making a 'racist' joke on live radio

By Daily Mail Reporter (external - login to view)
25th March 2009
Daily Mail

"This time next year we'll be millionaires!": Sir David Jason (centre) as Derek "Del Boy" Trotter, alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst as his brother Rodney and Buster Merryfield as their Uncle Albert in BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses which ran from 1981-2003

Sir David Jason was embroiled in a race row today after making a 'joke' about Pakistanis on live radio.

The Del Boy actor made the remarks on the Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio.

On the 'Who's Calling Christian' feature - where celebrities ring up with a chance to win 20,000 for charity - Jason was asked to leave a question for the next guest.

Sir David, 69, replied: "What do you call a Pakistani cloakroom attendant?"

Following a brief pause, he then delivered the punch line: 'Me hat, me coat.'

No joke: Sir David Jason (above) and Absolute Radio presenter Christian O'Connell

There was a stunned silence from presenter Christian O'Connell and Sir David hastily added a genuine question about Ronnie Barker's early career.

No apology was given following the incident at 8am yesterday and the joke was swiftly edited out of the show's podcast posted on the radio's internet site.

But a spokeswoman for Sir Jason later said he was 'very sorry' and distressed that the joke may have caused offence.

She added: 'He is really sorry and distressed that that joke upset people.

'He thought it was nothing more than a light hearted joke and doesn't see it as racist but is naturally very, very sorry that people did.'

Race campaigners and a media watchdog criticsed the veteran actor.

Mr Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, said the comments were inappropriate and out of touch with reality.

Mr Shafiq said: 'These are inappropriate remarks about a stereotype that may have held a little water in the 50's and 60's but is not true to today.

'Many top jobs in this country are held by British Muslims, from lawyers, to doctors, politicians and businessmen.

'David Jason needs to reflect on this and learn about the wealth of jobs held by Muslims.

'As a well known and well-loved actor he needs to be careful about what he says. He should have known better.'

Director of Mediawatch John Beyer said there was no place for such insensitive humour on air.

He said: 'It was an inappropriate comment, although I do not think it was meant in an offensive way. People are increasingly concerned about language on radio and television.

'Everyone is much more sensitive about racialist terms or terms that show carelessness or disrespect.

'People in the media need to learn the lesson that these kind of jokes are not appreciated any more.'

The Touch of Frost star was knighted in 2005 - one of the many highlights in his 41 year career.

He is best known as wheeler dealer Del Boy in the ever-popular series Only Fools and Horses and also had massive hits with sitcom Open All Hours and detective drama A Touch of Frost.

A spokeswoman for Absolute Radio said Christian O'Connell tried to distance himself from the joke on air by saying "no more jokes like that" after Jason's jibe.

However, she said that the station took the decision that the joke was only "mildly inappropriate" and did not find it necessary for him to make an apology on air.