October 4, 2022

The hapless, cough-prone broadcaster Bob Fleming was one of the most popular characters in the 90s comedy The Fast Show.

But the BBC blocked plans to bring him back for a one-off special last year over fears his condition could offend Covid patients.

Comedian Charlie Higson had recreated his role as Fleming last year for Mortimer & Whitehouse’s Christmas special: Gone Fishing – the hit angling show hosted by his former Fast Show co-star Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. In the sketch, the genius Fleming encounters the couple while they are fishing on a riverbank – and of course he can’t stop coughing.

Higson, also a successful novelist, revealed in an interview at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate how the scene had been ‘cut’ from the show by the BBC due to sensitivities about Covid. A production source said last night: “It has been decided to drop the sketch. It is important to remember that Covid was very rampant at that time.

The hapless, cough-prone broadcaster Bob Fleming was one of the most popular characters in the 90s comedy The Fast Show.

“Many viewers would not have found the sight of a man coughing constantly to be funny and disturbing.

“That’s why both the production company and the BBC have decided not to go ahead with the sketch.

“It was very disappointing because the whole production loved having Charlie Higson on location. But given the circumstances, it was the right decision.’

Fleming, who was from Norfolk, was one of The Fast Show’s most recognizable characters as he attempted to present his Country Matters program through coughing fits.

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Steve Bennett, editor of the Chortle comedy news website, commented on the decision, saying: “I’m sure more people would have liked Bob Fleming than would have been upset by someone coughing on TV.

A patient can be seen above in the hospital. A production source said last night: “It has been decided to drop the sketch. It’s important to remember that Covid was really rampant then’

I wonder if the BBC will now ban Tony Hancock’s blood donor sketch for fear of offending hemophiliacs, Only Fools And Horses in case viewers ever get hurt falling through bars, or Monty Python’s Flying Circus to prevent someone from getting hurt. mourning the death upsets their emotional support parrot.”

Dame Maureen Lipman, one of the country’s most beloved comedy stars, joked: ‘I think they should ban Bake Off and MasterChef because it’s offensive to people who have lost their sense of taste due to Covid.’

But bestselling author Kathy Lette said, ‘Post-Covid, does anyone find coughing so funny? We’ve all coughed enough to last a lifetime anyway.”

The BBC declined to comment last night, while Whitehouse, Mortimer and Higson were all unavailable.