How many layers of bureaucracy does it take to write a joke? Comedy editor reveals BBC is now so touchy gags sometimes even have to get rubber stamped by the Director General 

  • Chris Sussman said particular jokes must go through 'a lot of layers'
  • Cautiousness comes after a 'difficult few years' at the BBC, he added
  • Made the comments at a Bafta event on free speech and television 

Comics at the BBC must go through a lengthy process to get some jokes on air because the Corporation is extra-wary about causing offence, an editor at the company has claimed.

Chris Sussman, executive editor for comedy, revealed particular jokes have to go through 'quite a lot of layers' to be approved.

Some jokes even have to be looked over by director general Lord Hall - alongside editorial policy advisers, the channel and legal advisers - before they are aired, he said.

Comics at the BBC must go through a lengthy process to get jokes on air - including some being looked over by director general Lord Hall
The Corporation is extra-wary about causing offence after the Sachsgate scandal involving Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, an editor at the company has claimed

Comics at the BBC must go through a lengthy process to get jokes on air, including some being looked over by director general Lord Hall (left), an editor at the company claimed. It is because the Corporation is extra-wary about causing offence - like in the Sachsgate scandal involving Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross (right)

The cautious attitude comes after a 'difficult few years', Mr Sussman added.

Speaking at a Bafta event The Telegraph reported him saying: 'It's been a difficult few years and I think that is reflected internally in terms of the processes and procedures we go through when we’re making programmes.

'To get a certain joke on air, to get a joke approved, we have to go through quite a lot of layers.

'Sometimes we’ll run something past at script stage, if we’re unsure. Most of the time it’s about "here’s the show, have a look at it".'

The strict rules come after a 'difficult few years' following the Sachsgate scandal, where Ross and Brand left lewd messages on Andrew Sachs' voicemail, Mr Sussman added
Comedian Frankie Boyle has previously criticised the BBC about its cautious attitude towards comedy

The strict rules come after a 'difficult few years' following the Sachsgate scandal, where Ross and Brand left lewd messages on Andrew Sachs' (left) voicemail, Mr Sussman added. Comedian Frankie Boyle (right) has previously criticised the BBC about its cautious attitude towards comedy

Mr Sussman joined the Corporation after Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand caused outrage by broadcasting a series of answer phone messages they left with Andrew Sachs. The messages included lewd comments about Brand's relationship with Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie.

Comedian Frankie Boyle has previously criticised the BBC about its cautious attitude towards comedy. 

He called the Trust cowardly for the broadcaster’s lack of political comedy in 2010 shortly after leaving Mock The Week. In an open letter Boyle added that the BBC wanted to 'deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content'.

John Lloyd, producer of Blackadder and Not the Nine O'Clock News, added that comedy that is not funny could 'sink the corporation'.

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