I didn't watch it. I find awards ceremonies stupid and arbitrary, frankly. It's nice to win or be nominated, but thinking they mean anything, or allowing them to be any form of validation, is a dangerous game.
Says a man with a BAFTA nomination certificate displayed proudly in his hall, and a Royal Television Society Award taking pride of place on his mantlepiece (albeit hidden behind a pot plant - nobody appreciates a show-off)...
Still, I like Connolly. After reading the news this morning I took to YouTube to watch my favourite performance of his. It occurred at the inaugural Comic Relief concert in 1986. I used to have a VHS of that show, and watched it so many times that it's a miracle the tape never snapped. It's a pretty famous bit that Connolly performs, where he talks about his experience of Australia, and how deadly it seemed to him ("Beware: Stingers!").
So imagine my surprise to find that I - presumably, along with much of the rest of the nation - had somehow forgotten the moment where he went on a two-minute, context-free, racist rant about the Japanese.
In his Comic Relief bit, Connolly alluded to the Japanese wanting to restart World War II, turn a holiday village into a prison camp, and how within 10 years we'd all be throttled by our Sony Walkmen as part of a Japanese plot to take over the world.
Though only lasting a couple of minutes, Connolly even did Japanese impressions, replete with buck teeth and slitty eyes. "I don't trust those fuckers," he spat with surprising malice.
And then I go on Facebook, to find my mother has shared this image:
I suppose that nostalgia is a powerful thing, and she was raised in a less multi-cultural climate. I can relate to a point; in recent years, the thing I've found hardest about getting older isn't the physical aches and pains, but seeing the touchstones of my life being dismantled around me. So many places that I have fond memories of now exist only in my memory.
In fact, given how commendably diverse Britain has become in my parents' lifetimes, I'm amazed they're not more racist.
In fact, I don't actually think my mother is a racist at all, any more than I think Billy Connolly is. Notably, he's only five years younger than she is, so they doubtless were exposed to similar external forces. Connolly is not exactly known for his racist comedy - plus he was performing his routine at a benefit concert for African children, in the company of some of the most political correct comedians of the day. And Cliff Richard.
At the time, his comments were considered perfectly acceptable, and funny. Certainly, I never batted an eyelid when I watched it back in 1986. I didn't get the jokes either admittedly: I just liked the bit where he talked about stingers.
When I watched it today, though, I was shocked. And similarly shocked by my mother's post... despite remembering how at one time I wasn't shocked by golliwogs on Robinson's jam jars.
You can also throw into this mental stew the furore about the apparent snubbing of black talent in this year's Oscar nominations.
Certainly, the way it's talked about you'd think it was a deliberate snub. That all the whites in Hollywood somehow got together and decided to deliberately give nominations only to white people.
As far as I know, the Academy Awards are awarded democratically - so if there is a problem, it's an issue with institutionalised or passive racism among the voting members. If so, that's something that can only be overcome with time, by tackling engrained values. I'm not defending the nominations, but what can you do other than recruit more black people to the voting panel, and/or force members to vote for black nominees over white ones? Which, obviously, would be horribly patronising.
By the same token, I don't think I can possibly understand the frame of reference of Spike Lee and others, who have been so angered by this that they've called on a boycott of the Oscars, seeing it as some sort of deliberate snub. They're black. I'm white. How could I understand? Even if there is nothing that can be done, it's good that it's been flagged up.
But as for it being a conscious snub... I dunno.
Please don't think I'm some apologist for attitudes that are a bit on the racist-y side. I like that I'm of a generation that grew up in the tail-end of blanket racism, but succeeded in somehow overcoming that.
Thing is though... I'm a white guy, and the minefield of racism is something that bothers me on multiple levels. Not just because I think it's abhorrent, but also because I'm not sure I get it. And what I mean by that, is that I don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end of prejudice, so I worry unduly about being racist inadvertently, or coming over as ignorant.
Though I might've gotten grief for having glasses growing up, I'm still a white bloke. I've never been victimised for the colour of my skin. Even talking about this topic here, I'm well aware that I'm talking about it from my perspective, and it might be one that could be construed as racist. Or, at best, woefully uninformed.
Additionally, I fret - in that achingly white way - about putting my foot in it, and about overcompensating. I mean, the first ever time I pitched to work on a TV show, was for a cartoon devised by the poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, about a Rastafarian spider.
I did a ton of research going in, but when I tried to show off in the meeting, Zephaniah practically laughed me out of the room. I felt utterly crushed, but it underlined that no matter how much Wikipedia-ing I did, I wasn't going to be able to get inside his head, or see the world from his perspective.
I barely even know what that means, let alone relate to it.
I'm saying all this as someone who co-created (along with Ben "Doc Brown" Smith - who is mixed race), and is lead writer of, a children's TV show which is primarily about a black family (that'd be 4 O'Clock Club). I'm under no illusion, however, that I write the show from any sort of black perspective. I couldn't do that. We try, instead, to go for universal themes that we hope the audience will all relate to, regardless of race. Anything else would risk coming across as patronising or hollow.
Thing is, I've fallen foul of that approach too. I once wrote a sitcom - it never got made - where we auditioned a ton of actors for the main roles. Several of these actors were black, and prior to one audition, the auditionee asked me if the character he was reading for had been written as a black man. I didn't know how to answer: I'd naively assumed that we're all the same under the skin, and it didn't matter what the character's ethnic origin was.
I've never made that assumption since - about anyone, even other white peoples. There might be universal touchstones among human experience, but within that we've all had wildly different individual experiences which have shaped us.
What does any of this have to do with video games? Well - aren't video games more white than they are anything else?
I mean, look at the gaming icons: Mario, Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, Gordon Freeman, Bayonetta, almost all the leads of the Assassin's Creed franchise, that bloke out of Watch Dogs, Samus, Link, Solid Snake, Marcus Fenix, Cloud, Kratos, Dante, Blondie out of The Witcher, Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us... I could go on. All of them are whities.
I struggle to think of any games characters of ethnic origin with anything approaching a similar iconic status. Lee in Telltale's The Walking Dead is one, sort of, but after that... dunno.
There are black characters in the Grand Theft Auto series, admittedly, but I don't think any of us would class any characters in those games as positive identification models. And that bloke in Just Cause is, I think, meant to be Mexican. And you can choose your race in a whole bunch of games now.
But isn't it still disproportionate, just a case of paying lip service? Obviously, it isn't an issue that's by any means confined to the games industry: this is a societal thing. It's pretty endemic in a lot of the creative industries. The TV industry IS very white, but it's not for the want of trying to find more writers of ethnic origin. I don't know if it's the same with game design, but I wouldn't be surprised.
OUTSIDE OF JAPAN
I mean, think of today's big game developers, and outside of Japan the vast majority of them are white, Name your favourite game journalist, and chances are they're white (obviously, y'know, because it would be me, right?).
It's unlikely - nay, impossible - that we're going to get more authentic black and ethnic representation in games without more black and ethnic creators. Games industry trade body TIGA last year announced a campaign to encourage more diversity among developers, and that can only be a good thing.
So what am I trying to conclude with all this? I dunno. I'm not informed enough to be able to come to a conclusion that ties it up in a big bow. All I know is that I know there's a lot I don't understand around the issue of race, and that I hope games can reach a point where their content accurately reflects the life of those playing them.
I know I don't like it when my mother shares golliwog pictures, but I also know that she doesn't intend any offence... any more than I think a lack of black nominations in the Oscars, or the characters in our games, are anything more than a reflection of the industries they represent. And when it comes to games, a broader range of creator backgrounds can only be a good thing when it comes to the type of content we're offered.
I hope that happens, but there's only one way to do it, and it's going to take time: if you turn on your taps and poison gushes out, surely it's better to tackle it at the source?
There you go: solved it. I SOLVED RACISM!