Australia

Australian comedian Chris Lilley attacked over race video

Chris Lilley playing rapper S Mouse Image copyright Princess Pictures
Image caption Chris Lilley apologised for the timing of the video, but not its content

A leading Australian comedian has apologised after a video of him posing in blackface was posted on his Instagram account.

Social media users had criticised Chris Lilley, the star of TV show Summer Heights High.

In the video, taken from a 2009 show, Lilley poses as a black rapper and sings a song called Squashed N**ga.

It was posted days after the end of a court case focusing on an indigenous boy who was run over and killed.

Lilley did not apologise for the content of the video or for appearing in blackface. The character, a rapper named S Mouse, is from his mockumentary show Angry Boys, which has aired in the UK on BBC Three.

Instead, he apologised for the timing of the post, saying on Twitter that it was "not connected in any way to current news stories".

After the video was posted, Lilley's Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages were closed. His Twitter account was later set up again for him to post his apology.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protests after the Elijah Doughty verdict have taken place in Melbourne and other Australian cities

The video was posted days after a controversial verdict in the case of Elijah Doughty, a 14-year-old from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia who died after being run over last August.

The clip began with Lilley in blackface sprawled across the ground, apparently having been struck.

In the Doughty case, a 56-year-old man, whose name has not been revealed, admitted to a jury in Perth to chasing a person riding a motorbike he thought had been stolen from his house.

He said he then struck the motorbike with his four-wheel-drive vehicle. Doughty suffered a number of injuries in the collision and died instantly.

The man was found not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. He was sentenced to three years in prison by the jury.

The verdict led to an angry reaction in court, and has spawned protests demanding equality across Australia.

On Friday night, hundreds of demonstrators, demanding Justice for Elijah, shut down a large part of Melbourne.

Among those to criticise Lilley for the video was Ryan Griffen, the creator of leading Australian TV drama Cleverman.

Lilley, who has won five of Australia's biggest television awards, the Logies, has previously come under fire for his depictions of different ethnicities on his television shows.

In 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald asked a number of hip-hop stars if they considered the S Mouse character racist.

"Hell yeah it's offensive," said one, Open Mike Eagle. "Blackface is not the kind of thing that just becomes acceptable one day. I don't give a damn how 'meta' this cat thinks he is, it doesn't give him a pass to exploit the history of race relations for a cheap laugh."

Is Oz racism getting worse?

And last week, before the S Mouse video was posted, New Zealand's indigenous channel Maori Television withdrew Lilley's show Jonah from Tonga, in which he portrays a dimwitted schoolboy of Tongan heritage.

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro, told Stuff.co.nz that the show "perpetuates negative stereotypes of Pacific people", but Lilley says the show is satirical, not offensive.

Image copyright BBC/Wokashama Pty Ltd/ABC
Image caption Chris Lilley (C) playing Jonah from Tonga

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