Comedian Harry Enfield has defended using blackface as part of his sketches over the years.
The creator of characters including Kevin the Teenager and Tory Boy said "I don't think I regret it", adding that he would find it 'difficult’ if he was told he could never do it again.
The controversial use of blackface, which sees actors using make-up to portray characters of a different ethnicity, is back in the news following global anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis two weeks ago.
Ant and Dec have issued an apology for their use of blackface on their TV shows and Little Britain and Come Fly With Me have been removed from streaming services over sensitivities about the portrayal of black characters.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today show on Thursday morning, Enfield said he has previously mimicked several Prime Ministers. "If Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister I would find it difficult that I would not be allowed to play him because of the colour of his skin."
He added, "I’ve done it several times in the past. I’ve played Nelson Mandela in one thing for laughs. I did it because this thing had come round from the BBC that we couldn’t do it any more.
"So I thought who is my hero? Nelson Mandela, who I had the pleasure of meeting once. And what’s the stereotype about black people? At the time there were lots of things in the papers about drugs and stuff so I made him a drug dealer or peddler of alcopops to children, which I thought was so wrong that it was right.
"I wouldn’t do it now, but I don’t think I regret it."
However, Enfield was challenged by fellow comic Ava Vidal, who was also on the Today show.
She said: ’He looked around at stereotypes of black people and decided to reinforce that and have Nelson Mandela as a drug dealer. Like, why? If you’re going to do comedy why wouldn’t you subvert a stereotype? Why wouldn’t you challenge it? Why would you reinforce it?’
"The whole point was to say how preposterous it was to have that stereotype." Enfield responded.
However, Enfield did condemn minstrel-era blackface, saying it was "deeply offensive".
"Obviously Al Jolson or GH Eliott, who played the "chocolate-coloured coon" in the 1930s, they perpetuated the myth of the "happy negro" who was just very happy to sing under the crack of the whip - the American whip, or the British imperial bayonet - and obviously that’s deeply offensive and always will be."