While speculation has swirled around whether the new car show hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May ends up on Netflix or ITV, their live show in South Africa featured a controversial joke at the expense of former Olympian athlete Oscar Pistorius. Hammond also expressed his thoughts on the end of their hosting duties on Top Gear as the BBC prepares to air their final episode on Sunday night.
According to Heather Saul of the Independent, a YouTube video showed Clarkson cracking the joke that he accidentally shot someone in the audience with a paintball gun while riding a chariot full of motorcycles. The joke, which was made at the Clarkson, Hammond & May Live show in Johannesburg, was in reference to Pistorius, who fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at home and is currently in prison after being convicted of that crime.
"I've hit someone in the audience," Clarkson said. "I thought he was a burglar."
"Was that a member of the audience that you shot in the bathroom?" May responded. "It can't be a burglar then can it."
"I may have to go to prison for 20 seconds for that," Clarkson quipped.
"Let's not get bogged down with who shot whom," Hammond said. "Let's move it on, shall we?"
The video, which was posted by YouTube user Justin Bekker, contained a response in the comments section from a man named Jonathan Temlett, who claimed Clarkson's comments were all part of an elaborate skit.
"I am the victim to Jeremy's 'accident' and unfortunately it was part of the show," Temlett wrote. "I got 'shot' six times that weekend. Jeremy's aim is brilliant!"
Temlett added that he felt relieved "it was realistic enough for the audience to believe."
"You did storm off convincingly with that South African death stare type walk so great job there!" Bekker wrote in response, adding that he suspected the whole setup was "staged" in the first place.
Meanwhile, the British Broadcasting Corp. has finished producing and editing the final Top Gear episode featuring Clarkson, Hammond and May together for one last time; it is scheduled to air Sunday night in the United Kingdom. Hammond shared his thoughts on the end of their run on the hit BBC motoring show to Sarah Thomas of the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I hope people will watch it and think 'Wow, that was amazing,'" Hammond said. "Because it broke my heart, I don't think I'll be able to watch it."
Hammond counted his blessings during his reflection of working for Top Gear. Thomas reported that production on the show suddenly ended back in March after Clarkson had a "fracas" with a producer, which led the BBC to not renew his contract; both Hammond and May departed from the show in solidarity with their controversial colleague.
"We've had a hell of a year, but we're alive," Hammond said. "We can only do one thing, so we have to find a way of doing it."
Hammond added that while he is unable to comment on negotiations, including speculation surrounding a new car show with Netflix, he asserted that they're "not dead" yet.
"By the grace of God, and more importantly for our audience, we'll find a way of carrying on," Hammond said. "We've had a great time and we're not ready to stop yet. We'll stop when the audience tells us to stop."
Thomas reported that Top Gear under Clarkson, Hammond and May had a worldwide audience of 350 million people and consistently rated as "one of the world's biggest factual programs." She asked Hammond what legacy the car show would leave behind.
"Legacy seems like a big word because the whole thing was embarked upon with honesty and sincerity and no more ambition beyond making the best show we could," Hammond said. "That was the extent of it."
Hammond emphasized that their only objective was to "make the best car show we can."
"There was no science, there was no cynicism in the creation of it year in, year out," Hammond said. "We just did the best we could."
Hammond also realized that Top Gear as they knew it would one day come to an end.
"It's a shame but we're not dead, there's more life in us yet," Hammond said.
According to Thomas, the final Top Gear show of series 22 with the former hosts will feature segments filmed prior to Clarkson's exit. Both Hammond and May went to the studio to finish linking the segments together.
"The studio links were just to get in between the bits of the films that go up to make the show," Hammond said. "We felt that we owed it to the audience, we made it for them and they own it, so it had to go out."
The final series 22 episode of Top Gear featuring Clarkson, Hammond, and May together will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on BBC Two and is expected to be posted online on BBC iPlayer shortly after its TV broadcast. BBC America has yet to schedule the episode's air date for viewers in the United States.