Top Gear’s James May last night defended Steve Coogan’s comments labelling him and presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond “casual racists” as “fair enough”.
Speaking after the Alan Partridge comedian called the BBC2 show hosts “three rich, middle-aged men laughing at poor Mexicans”, May said he “welcomed” the criticism.
And he said he was a “massive fan” of Coogan, who compared the three presenters to school bullies after they described Mexicans as “lazy, feckless, flatulent” and their food as “refried sick”.
“I think it’s very healthy to have critics, so fair enough,” May told TNT at London’s Chortle Awards last night, calling Coogan his “favourite comedian”.
“Intelligent criticism from intelligent people who are masters of their craft should be taken seriously, and I welcome it,” he added.
The BBC was forced to apologise for the remarks, on the January 30 edition of the show, which sparked a diplomatic row between the BBC and Mexico’s ambassador to Britain.
Coogan compared May to a boy who “stands at the back holding [the bullies’] coats as they beat up the boy with the stutter”.
But when asked whether he’d allow Coogan, who has appeared on Top Gear three times, back on the show, May replied: “I would.”
He also dismissed claims that the presenters are causing controversy to generate publicity for the show.
May added: “Top Gear is popular but we’re not going out of way to generate scandal, to be honest, we haven’t got that much energy; we can’t be bothered.
“People accuse Top Gear of doing things as a publicity stunt – but why would we do that?
“We’ve got 350,000 million viewers; we’re not actually trying to market ourselves. We do what we like doing and a lot of people seem to like it.
“The weird thing about Top Gear is that it’s pretty big on British TV, it’s very big for BBC2 and it has a very large viewership because it’s global; it’s watched all over the world.
“But it’s actually, it’s quite a niche, cult programme at heart and it only has these massive figures because it’s watched in so many places.
“In overall UK terms, it’s a successful programme, but it’s not X Factor, it’s not Downtown Abbey, and it’s not… something else that’s really big… The Morecambe And Wise Christmas Special – it’s not that either!”