David Baddiel blackface: Fantasy Football League sketch and Jason Lee apology in Jews Don’t Count - explained

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David Baddiel will apologise for his use of blackface in his new documentary Jews Don’t Count

Jews Don’t Count is a new social issues documentary on Channel 4 fronted by comedian and presenter David Baddiel.

He is a British comedian known for his comedy partnnership with Frank Skinner, the Three Lions football song (with Skinner and The Lightning Seeds), and the infamous sketch show Fantasy Football League. His one-off special will explore antisemitism in the UK as well as other forms of racism.

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What is Jews Don’t Count about?

Jews Don’t Count sees Jewish comedian David Baddiel explore antisemitism on the political left in different parts of British culture, from theatre to football. He will speak to popular figures who are Jewish or have Jewish ancestry, including Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolyes, Neil Gaiman, and Sarah Silverman.

Baddiel will also look inward as he understands his own prejudices and how some of the decisions he has made in his career affected other minority groups, and he will make a face to face apology to one person who he has hurt.

David Baddiel apologises for his own mistakes on Jews Don’t CountDavid Baddiel apologises for his own mistakes on Jews Don’t Count
David Baddiel apologises for his own mistakes on Jews Don’t Count | Channel 4

When did David Baddiel wear blackface?

David Baddiel and Frank Skinner fronted the BBC sketch comedy show from 1994-2004. On the show they took aim at several footballing personalities, and Nottingham Forrest forward Jason Lee, who is Black, was often lampooned by the pair.

In some sketches they used a toy footballer with a pineapple on its head to portray Lee, who had a distinctive head of hair - but Baddiel took things further. Some of the sketches showed Baddiel playing a caricature of Lee in blackface, with long black hair and a fake pineapple on his head.

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Both Baddiel and Skinner have since expressed regret at the use of blackface in the show. Speaking of the portrayal, Lee said: "I’d ask them if they realised the significance of what they were doing. It was, looking back, a form of bullying.”

Jason Lee in 1995Jason Lee in 1995
Jason Lee in 1995 | Getty Images

Did David Baddiel apologise to Jason Lee?

Baddiel appeared on Lee’s podcast Absolutelee, on which Lee discusses his personal experience of racism and how he has worked to create change for others, to apologise to the former footballer in person.

Baddiel said “I’ve come here to say I’m sorry, Jason. I’m sorry for the sketches that we did on Fantasy Football League, me and Frank Skinner in the 1990s that you were on the end of.

“I’m sorry for wearing a costume and make-up that was racist. I’ve said I’m sorry in print, I’ve said I’m sorry on TV, but there’s something missing, which is what we lost sight of in those sketches was the human being on the other end of those sketches, which is you.”

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When asked why it had taken 25 years since the sketches for Baddiel to apologise to Lee in person, he explained that it took him a long time to realise why the sketches were wrong, and that he felt fear and shame. He also explained that as his profile grew and he began to experience antisemetic abuse, he realised how his treatment of Lee must have made the footballer feel. The apology also features in the Jews Don’t Count documentary.

When is Jew Don’t Count on TV?

Jews Don’t Count will air on Channel 4 on Monday 21 November at 9pm. The episode will be available to watch on All 4 shortly after it is first broadcast.

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