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Rowan Atkinson Comic Relief church sketch draws over 2,000 complaints

Story by Jack Foley

A COMIC Relief sketch featuring Rowan Atkinson as the Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn more than 2,200 complaints to the BBC, prompting the channel to issue an apology.

The short involved Atkinson playing a fictional version of the church leader giving a Queen’s Speech-style address to the nation during which he compared boy band One Direction to Jesus’s disciples and claimed that praying “doesn’t work”.

One of the more vocal complaints came from Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville, who took to Twitter to question its worth.

Tweeting on the night itself (Friday, March 15), Bonneville said: “Had to go out after Rowan Atkinson’s ‘shagging’ sketch taking the piss out of the CofE. Was there a funny one about Islam later on? #rnd.”

He followed that up on Monday with: “Happy to clarify #rnd CofE tweet – I went out to dinner, therefore missed piss-take of Islam sketch, if there was one :)

“I also thought Rowan A’s #rnd sketch was beautifully observed; was interested by pre-watershed timing #trollon.”

Around a quarter of the complaints made to the BBC were specifically about religious offence, with the rest concerned with pre-watershed language, thereby prompting the BBC to remove the sketch from its iPlayer and issue an apology.

This stated that the sketch “was intended to amuse and entertain,” adding: “We did not mean to cause any offence.”

The channel has also revealed that almost 3,000 complaints in total were made over content aired during the charity fundraising night of programming, which did actually raise a record £75m for charity on its 25th anniversary and attracted a peak of 12.2 million viewers.

Other complaints were directed to a sketch involving the popular series Call The Midwife.

A BBC statement said Comic Relief was “known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy alongside heartfelt appeal films”.

It added: “Getting the language, tone and content of the evening is extremely important to us… to any viewers we may have offended, we apologise”.

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