The BBC was under pressure today to act against presenters Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross after they made a series of crude phone calls to former 'Fawlty Towers' star Andrew Sachs, which were then broadcast.
The pair left answerphone messages for 78-year-old Sachs in which they told him Brand had slept with his granddaughter and joked that the actor might kill himself as a result.
In the pre-recorded segments aired on Brand’s Radio 2 show, the host and Ross, who presents a show on the same radio channel, began making calls after Sachs apparently did not answer his phone for a pre-arranged interview to promote a television show.
Ross, 47, left a message telling Sachs: “He f***** your granddaughter”.
Brand, 33, denied this, but added: “Oh no, I have revealed I know her name.”
After discussing how Sachs might hang himself as a result, the pair made a string of calls in which they ostensibly attempted to apologise for what was “just a joke”, but continued to leave lewd messages.
At one point, Brand sang: “I said some things I didn’t of oughta, like I had sex with your granddaughter, though it was consensual.”
A spokeswoman for Sachs said the actor, who played waiter Manuel in 'Fawlty Towers', was “upset” by the incident but did not wish to comment further.
His agent Meg Poole said that she had emailed and written to the BBC to formally complain about the calls and was awaiting a response.
The controversy suggests that Brand has not learned his lesson after being reprimanded by rocker Rod Stewart in 2006 for similar claims.
Brand angered the singer when he told the audience at an awards ceremony that he had had “a little go at his daughter”.
Stewart delivered a firm telling-off to the comedian for the remark about Kimberley, prompting the presenter to admit that he had not had sex with her.
Stewart retorted: “F****** right you didn’t. So you mustn’t come up here and boast.”
In a more recent incident, in July this year, Brand’s on-stage routine prompted a police warning about hoax calls, after an audience in Northampton watched him prank call the local force to claim he had spotted someone responsible for a number of assaults in the area.
The Sachs incident has also reinforced the aptness of the title for Ross’ recent book, 'Why Do I Say These Things?'
Brand delivered a light-hearted apology over the calls on his latest radio show, aware that a Sunday newspaper was preparing a story about the previous week’s events.
He said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to issue a personal Russell Brand apology to Andrew Sachs, the great comic actor who played Manuel, for a message that Jonathan and I left on his answer phone, but it was quite funny.
“But! Sometimes, you mustn’t swear on someone’s answerphone and that’s why I’d like to apologise personally.”