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Should you get sacked for telling bad jokes?

15th Jun 2015
Partner An unnamed firm
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I feel sorry for Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel prize-winner who lost his job following an after-dinner speech that backfired.

I would not seek to defend a man who defames women (or men for that matter). Such behaviour is undoubtedly offensive but, how many of us have also told really funny jokes that have not gone down well with the recipients?

If everyone who told a tasteless joke got fired, almost nobody reading this blog would have a job. Or maybe that wouldn’t be the case, given the reputation accountants have for lacking a sense of humour.

Ironically, had Sir Tim suggested that a woman’s place is in the home rather than the workplace 50 years ago, it would have been accepted as accurate. Thirty years ago people would have laughed loudly. Today, he ends up out of work and on the front pages of the papers.

For the avoidance of doubt, Sir Tim is a Nobel laureate who has been knighted so he is hardly a typical stand-up comedian. He is also a respectable member of society who has achieved a great deal in the field of life sciences.

As a result, there may well be some animal activists who are very pleased to see the back of him, but even they would have wished for his fate to be a direct consequence experimenting with little furry things rather than ironically scorning women.

His fate will certainly make me think twice before spreading jokes around the workplace, since it is far too easy to say something terribly funny that some bore regards as offensive.

On the plus side for Sir Tim, as one door closes another might open. I imagine that there are still a good number of stand-up comedians today who still use similar material.

If Sir Tim fancies fronting his own act and wants to add in a bit of racism or anti-religious sentiment to his set, he could easily find a regular slot on the late night comedy circuit.

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By Alan Davies
15th Jun 2015 12:02

Precedent

The FIFA head of comms also went for a bad joke.  The difference was his was actually funny to most (just not his employer).

I would however be suprised if a women had said something like 'the problem with men is they never show emotion when I question them about their work practices I don't know if they take it in' whether anyone would have taken any notice.  I fear this is not about gender equality but the profile of professionally offended, whom I'm afraid the media seem to concentrate on. 

 

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By pawncob
19th Jun 2015 12:25

It ain't f&$£*"! funny

I question whether the scientific community ever had a sense of humour to lose?

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By tonyaustin
19th Jun 2015 15:11

what is wrong with

someone bursting into tears when criticised? Why is this considered a sign of weakness and therefore offensive to women? It was assumed he was complaining about women in that situation but why did no one assume he was praising them for being passionate?

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By Old Greying Accountant
19th Jun 2015 17:53

Tom Uttley was funny ....

... in the Mail today, reporting his son's disgust at finding the women FA Cup final being shown live on he BBC, said son huffed, looked at his watch and growled it "is 1.00 o'clock in the afternoon, why aren't they making lunch?".

Made me laugh anyway!

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