Shocked Hull Daily Mail staff walk out on 'racist' comedian

Journalists at the Hull Daily Mail walked out of an annual business briefing in disgust after a comedian the company had hired for the event began telling "racist" jokes.

The company wanted to end the meeting, aimed at outlining the HDM's achievements over the past year and its aims for the year ahead, on a happy note by providing staff with some entertainment.

The former winner of the Mail's Talent Trail competition, CJ Harper, was hired for the job, but after a few songs he began telling jokes about Rastafarians and Pakistanis living in Bradford.

One insider told Press Gazette: "Remember the Phoenix Nights episode with Tim Healey singing send the buggers back? "Well it was that, but more surreal, patronising, hilarious and appalling."

Harper's jokes were met with a stunned silence, and when he continued in a similar vein around six to eight people, the majority of whom were editorial staff, stood up and walked out of the Hull Truck Theatre where the meeting was being held. At this point HDM managing director Phil Inman stopped the performance and apologised to the remaining audience for the content of Harper's set. He then left the theatre to apologise to those who had already left.

According to Inman, Harper had been briefed not to tell jokes of an ethnic nature, but he decided to ignore it.

Editor John Meehan (pictured) also apologised to several staff on the way back to the office, and on their return called the editorial staff together in the newsroom to repeat his apology.

Inman said: "The event was going very well until the performer began to tell offensive jokes.

"We stopped the act very quickly and apologised immediately to all the staff. We have made our displeasure clear to the booking agency and we won't be paying the fee we had agreed for the performance."

Meehan said: "It is astonishing that the performer ignored the brief he had been given and thought it was appropriate to use racial material to an afternoon audience of professional people working for a responsible community publisher."

The following day, HDM wrote a "strongly worded" letter to the booking agency, Newland Artistes, protesting about Harper's material and refusing to pay the fee for his performance.

A Newland Artistes spokesman said: "CJ Harper went there and did not take any notice of his briefing, which was allegedly to not make jokes of an ethnic nature. The Hull Daily Mail has withdrawn its fee. If we get requests from people to use CJ Harper again we will still ask for him. I have not seen anything in writing and I wasn't there to hear what he said."

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