Ava Vidal says Radio 4 blackface debate shows “how far we have to go”

The stand-up comic has spoken out against Harry Enfield's use of a racial slur during the Today programme – and Nick Robinson repeatedly mispronouncing her name

Comedian and Radio 4 guest Ava Vidal

Comedian Ava Vidal has said BBC Radio 4’s recent discussion about the suitability of blackface in comedy “serves to show how far we have to go”.

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The comic appeared on the station’s Today programme this morning to talk through the issue with host Nick Robinson and Harry Enfield, who subsequently faced criticism from listeners for his use of the word “Chocolate Coloured C**n” while defending his past use of blackface in comedy.

Although the majority of Twitter users to comment on the broadcast criticised Enfield’s language, many still voiced their support for The Windsors star.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com about the response, Vidal said: “The fact so many people are willing to defend his use of this word doesn’t surprise me.

She added: “People will bend over backwards to defend the indefensible especially when it comes to the issue of race. Very rarely are the feelings of Black and POC centred.

“Today’s discussion framed as a light hearted-debate only serves to show how far we have to go. Comedy doesn’t exist in a vacuum and we need to appreciate that people can’t continue to use racial slurs/make racist jokes and then claim they were ‘only joking.’”

Vidal also opened up about Robinson mispronouncing her name several times during the interview, despite, she said, the station checking the pronunciation before going on air.

“It is so weird but when I tell people how to say it they don’t believe me and change it to how they want to say it,” Vidal commented.

“A lot of people thought that was racist [because] Black names are often mispronounced. People normally pronounce my name with a long A. So they find it hard to get their head around. I am so used to it. Maybe I should be more annoyed? But would prefer that to being constantly talked over and hurried along as many women are so often. Especially Black ones.”

Robinson did apologise for mispronouncing Vidal’s first name on the programme.

RadioTimes.com has reached out to Enfield, Robinson and the BBC for comment.

Speaking earlier about the Today programme segment, host Robinson apologised for Enfield’s language, but said listeners would naturally “hear people you disagree with say things you don’t like” during debates.

The debate featuring Vidal and Robinson followed BBC’s decision to remove comedy Little Britain from its iPlayer service.

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The broadcaster said: “There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”