Dave Thompson (comedian)

Dave Thompson (comedian)
Dave Thompson performing at Downstairs at the Kings Head, a stand-up comedy venue in Crouch End, North London.

Dave Thompson is a British stand-up comedian and actor, who hit the headlines in July 1997 after being removed from the role of Tinky Winky in the children's television series Teletubbies from a few episodes. The BBC said in a letter to Thompson that his "interpretation of the role was inappropriate". This refers to the events in which Thompson claimed that the character he played, Tinky Winky, was a homosexual.[1][2]

Tinky Winky started a still hinted-at controversy in 1999 due to his carrying a bag that looks much like a woman's handbag (although he was first "outed" by the academic and cultural critic Andy Medhurst in a letter of July 1997 to The Face). He aroused the interest of Jerry Falwell in 1999 when Falwell alleged that the character was a "gay role model". Falwell issued an attack in his National Liberty Journal, citing a Washington Post "In/Out" column which stated that homosexual comedian Ellen DeGeneres was "out" as the chief national gay representative, while trendy Tinky Winky was "in". He warned parents that Tinky Winky could be a hidden homosexual symbol, because "he is purple, the gay pride colour, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle: the gay pride symbol".[3]

The BBC, who co-produced the program, made an official response, "Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag." Ken Viselman of Itsy-Bitsy Entertainment, who distributed the show in the USA, commented, "He's not gay. He's not straight. He's just a character in a children's series."[4]

In May 2007, Polish Ombudsman for Children Ewa Sowińska revisited the matter, and planned to order an investigation.[5] She said in the 28 May 2007 edition of Wprost that the handbag-carrying Tinky Winky could promote homosexuality. Journalists from Wprost mentioned claims that the Teletubbies promote homosexuality, to which Sowińska replied that she had heard of the issue. The journalists then asked about Tinky Winky. "I noticed that he has a woman's handbag, but I didn't realize he's a boy," Sowińska told the magazine in an interview that her office approved before publication, adding, "Later I learned that there could be some hidden homosexual undertones." Sowińska said she would ask her office's psychologists to look into the allegations, "and judge whether it can be shown on public television and whether the suggested problem really exists."

But on 30 May 2007, Sowińska said in a public statement that she no longer suspected the Teletubbies of promoting homosexuality. She said: "The opinion of a leading sexologist, who maintains that this series has no negative effects on a child's psychology, is perfectly credible. As a result I have decided that it is no longer necessary to seek the opinion of other psychologists."[6]

Thompson recounted bursting into tears upon learning the news of his termination. In interviews, he supposed that the fact his voice was dubbed, unlike the other actors, was an indication of dissatisfaction over his performance.[7] In an unrelated incident, reported in 2000, a girl's Tinky Winky toy reportedly said "I got a gun". Kenn Viselman claimed the toy actually said "Again, again!", a catchphrase from the show.[8]

Thompson later appeared in the 2000 Ben Elton film Maybe Baby as Dave the Comedian/Mrs. Furblob. He also appeared in Harry Hill's live tour Hooves as the minor characters of the Horse, the ballboy and the Greek man who grabs Harry's neck. The original role of Thompson for the show was to carry Harry onto the stage at the beginning of the performance, but was unable to do so throughout the tour due to having a bad back. Thompson made brief appearances in each night of the Hooves tour.



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