British comedian Joe Lycett has reported that the police were called on him after an audience member at a show found one of his jokes offensive. Lycett described the situation on social media, including the use of the phrase that was found offensive; we are including the specific Tweet below, so use caution if you think that you might find yourself offended by salty comedic language. Joe Lycett did not specifically say which show on his ongoing More, More, More! How Do You Lycett? How Do You Lycett? Tour, but that the police and he had been in contact and now considered the matter closed.
Joe Lycett maintained a jovial tone in his description of the event in which an audience member at a comedy show found comedy offensive to the point of involving law enforcement, but that it happened at all is something of a marker of current cultural battles. The debates over free speech, artistry, and public obscenity are as hotly debated as they have ever been, with standup comedians somehow having become a cultural talking point. Some of the most famous comedians in the world, like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, have altered their material and public personas to prominently promote themselves as proponents of unfettered free speech. Joe Lycett is not quite on the same level of cultural ubiquity as those two, but the idea of calling the police over a crude joke is frankly quite bizarre.
However, the police being called on Joe Lycett for his colorful use of language is not remotely the worst thing to happen to a performing comedian as of late. Earlier this year, Dave Chappelle was attacked on stage while performing at the Hollywood Bowl; while he was not injured, it was still a horrifying moment and frightened comedians and performers alike. Then there was the instantly notorious incident at the Academy Awards when film star Will Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock for making a joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett-Smith. He then proceeded to yell at Chris Rock once he returned to his seat; it became an enormous part of cultural discussion for months after and resulted in Will Smith being removed as an Academy Member. Compared to that, Joe Lycett got off pretty easy.
Whoever called the cops on Joe Lycett is currently unknown, as was their reaction at the moment to the joke. It does seem like quite a waste of government resources and time, considering the joke does not appear to have been encouraging violence, transphobia, misogyny, or racism in any specific way. And unless the British legal system is very, very different from the American one, telling a joke on is not against the law in any way (though perhaps some of the less funny jokes could be.) We can only expect that Joe Lycett will figure out a way to turn this very odd incident into another part of his routine, though hopefully the resulting bit does not cause any further police involvement.