"Mother-in-law jokes, once the bedrock of British comedy, have been banned by the London Borough of Barnet because they are ‘offensively sexist’ and disrespectful to ‘family elders’.
In a council publication, staff are told not to indulge in the gags, which made the careers of classic comics Les Dawson and Bob Monkhouse.
The booklet, Cultural Awareness: General Problems, warns: ‘Humour can be incredibly culture-specific, and is very open to misinterpretation or even offense [sic] by other cultures. And don’t forget when you don’t know what people are laughing at, it is very easy to imagine that they are laughing at you.’
The guide, obtained by The Mail on Sunday through a Freedom of Information request, adds: ‘British mother-in-law jokes, as well as offensively sexist in their own right, can also be seen as offensive on the grounds that they disrespect elders or parents.’
The ban has been greeted with a mixture of anger and bemusement. Dom Joly, the comedian, broadcaster and author, described the advice as ‘completely insane’. He said: ‘All comedy is basically about taking the **** out of someone. You either ban it all and end up living in a place like North Korea or you leave well enough alone.’