Producers apologize for offensive skits in Quebec New Year's Eve special

The producers of Quebec's wildly-popular New Year's Eve Bye Bye special apologized Friday to Quebecers who were offended by the latest edition.

Véronique Cloutier says sorry to former child star her father abused

Véronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette speak to reporters on Friday in Montreal. ((CBC))
The producers of Quebec's wildly popular New Year's Eve Bye Bye special apologized Friday to Quebecers who were offended by the latest edition.

Véronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette took no questions from reporters as they held a news conference in a downtown Montreal hotel to respond to allegations that some sketches were racist and others were in extreme bad taste.

The couple, who produced this year's edition of Bye Bye with their company Novem, said they were deeply sorry their humour was taken the wrong way.

"We are sorry for having shocked people and [we are] saddened at this development because it was not the objective," said Cloutier.

"All we wanted to do was have a night that would entertain people, that would be audacious, funny and find an equilibrium between things that are scathing and things that would interest another type of the public," said Morissette, referring to appearances by popular Quebec musicians.

More than four million Quebecers gathered around their TV sets to watch Bye Bye 2008 which aired on Radio-Canada Dec. 31.

By Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had received more than 170 complaints.

Pair denounce allegations of racism

An actor plays former child star Nathalie Simard in a skit from Bye Bye 2008. ((CBC))
Members of Montreal's black community were particularly offended by a skit involving a news anchor interviewing an actor portraying U.S. president-elect Barack Obama.

After initially confusing the incoming president with a black Quebec singer, the anchor tells viewers that all black people look alike. He goes on to say that viewers at home shouldn't worry about Obama stealing their purses, but that he might steal their television sets.

Morissette said the writing team thought the sketch would highlight the absurdity of racist stereotypes.

"Right now, the accusations of racism, it's a bit shocking. Me, I'm shocked by that," he said. "We are not racist, at all, at all. On the contrary," said Morissette.

He said he was struck how some Americans didn't vote for Obama simply because of his race.

"I couldn't believe it. That was what I wanted to underline, clumsily perhaps," he said.

Cloutier apologizes to abuse victim Nathalie Simard

Cloutier took issue with critics who said she was insensitive to include a parody of former child star Nathalie Simard, who was abused by her former manager. The manager was Cloutier's father, Guy Cloutier.

In one skit, an actor playing Simard is shown singing and packing a suitcase, a reference to the pop singer retreating from the public spotlight while at the same time selling her story to gossip magazines.

"I understand and I am sorry. I am sorry to all those I offended. I apologize to Nathalie Simard," said Cloutier.

"There is nothing funny about [sexual assault]. I supported her at the time. I am supporting her today. I will support her until the end of my days."

She said the writing team decided to include the sketch because it was one of the big stories of the year. She pointed out that the writers discussed the sketch at length before putting it in the show's lineup.

Cloutier and Morissette also expressed remorse for any troubles caused to Radio-Canada.

The broadcaster's executive vice-president of French services, Sylvain Lafrance, has said he will factor the public's response to the program into discussions on future projects of a similar nature.

Morissette said he hoped Radio-Canada would continue its tradition of supporting creativity on its airwaves.

"I hope the whole episode will not change the philosophy of Radio-Canada," said Morissette.