Comedians slam McVitie’s after company asks for free Penguin jokes

The McVitie’s Penguin joke competition has angered some comedians who are struggling to work during the pandemic (Picture: Getty)

McVitie’s has sparked anger among British comedians after asking people to submit free Penguin bar jokes as part of a competition.

Many workers in the arts industry have struggled to keep financially afloat during the coronavirus pandemic – so were left unimpressed when the snack food brand did not offer a cash prize after starting the competition on September 2.

It was announced in response to tweets from consumers who claimed McVitie’s Penguin jokes were not as funny as they used to be. 

Writing on the McVities Facebook page, the company said: ‘The winner’s joke will be printed onto the new Penguin packaging from 2021 (becoming one of the circulated jokes used for the Penguin product), as well as a box of the newly printed McVitie’s Penguin.’

However, the topic was no laughing matter for British comedians who were left out of work for months when the pandemic closed arts venues.

The government announced it was providing £1.5 billion in emergency funding in July, but the comedy industry was not included.

One Twitter user, Lewis Harrison-Barker, tweeted: ‘This just in… Multi-million pound company, who has likely profited from Covid, asks for free jokes for it’s well-known marketing, while the comedy industry is shuttered with comics getting little to no paid work for 6 months. Yup, sounds reasonable.’

Another Twitter user named David added: ‘Would this not normally be a paid job for a writer? Perhaps I’ll run a competition to see who wants to pay my bills some time’.

Anne Mizrahi added: ’Don’t you think, in the current entertainment-world climate, it would be decent to pay someone to do this for you?’

Other users were more tongue-in-cheek with their responses, with Amy Bethan Evans writing: ‘What did the writer say to the unpaid job? They didn’t. They just wrote between malnourished tears.’

While some reacted badly to the competition, others on social media loved the idea and rose to the challenge to contribute their best jests.

The jokes are a trademark feature that have appeared on the back of Penguin biscuit-wrappers for decades.

According to independently generated data published in snack giant pladis’ 2019 annual biscuit review, McVitie’s made £343 million in retail sales on biscuits overall last year. 

The Penguin bar, which was one of the most popular chocolate biscuit bar brands in 2019, made £22 million. 

Responding to criticism, a McVitie’s spokesperson said: ‘Our intention is to create a bit of light-hearted fun for any and all Penguin fans to celebrate their love for the product. 

‘We’ve seen fans say that they could do better than our jokes, so we wanted to give them the chance.’

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