It's sort of sad that everyone is uptight over ethnic humor. This is especially true of homicidal members of radical Islam. Or, as we might call them, Idiotic Moronic Fanatics.
The IMF forces have done the impossible, succeeding in their mission to intimidate just about everyone everywhere. As in: don't you dare make a drawing of Moe the Hammed. Laughter as a weapon will get a bomb in your office!
Anyone who MIGHT be a Muslim is given a wide berth these days because the person could be a purveyor of a gory death. You just never know who is carrying a sword or a bomb or past-expiration date hummus.
Put it this way, what TV station would be daring enough to run "The Party" or "The Millionaress" with Peter Sellers doing his Indian routine? Even if the Indian is not even Muslim, it's too risky. As for his partner in crime, Spike Milligan, you won't find audio of him sing-songing the old comic poem, "I am a little Hindoo. I do that I kindoo. And where my shirt and pants don't meet, I make my little skindoo."
At one time, "colorful" humor in Great Britain included gleeful impersonations of Pakistani, Indian and Jamaican people. No doubt Spike and Peter simply enjoyed the amusing quality of Indian and Pakistani accents, even as they applied Marmite to their faces. Yes, we get it, it IS, in a way, as awful as Al Jolson blacking up to sing "Mammy" and "Old Black Joe." He meant well, and you can hear the emotion in his voice as he sings as a lonely, sad slave. BUT...it's more than a gray area when it involves brown or black skin. It's a lot easier to still laugh at Irish, Italian or Jewish accents, or make fun of the Scots for needing subtitles.
One reason for ethnic comedy is that it is a way of coping with fear. Fear of foreigners. In America, comedians circa 1916 made fun of the immigrants and the assimilating Southern blacks. Blackface even turned up in the British music halls. Immigrants didn't seem to scary if there were jokes involved. To some degree, people were also fascinated by accents, and it made the "odd" immigrants seem harmless. Many jokes in Irish or Jewish dialect were just funny jokes, and inter-changeable. A classic "Irish" joke could be found in a Jewish or Scots jokebook, with just a change in name and dialect.
Done with affection, the comedians using ethnic humor could become superstars. A white team in blackface, "Mack and Moran" sold tons of 78 rpm records, and "Amos and Andy" of course would be the superstars of radio not long after. Chico Marx was just the tip of the ethnic spaghetti pile, and in the 40's and 50's all kinds of accents could be heard on radio and on records: The Mad Russian, Ajax Cassidy, Mrs. Nussbaum, etc.
While part of the humor was, as most humor is, an escape valve and a joyful ridicule, a lot of it was sympathetic, and a lot of it was intended to push for assimilation. The children or grand children of immigrants were proud NOT to sound like Yogi Yorgesson, Stepin Fetchit, Harry Lauder or Mickey Katz. There's a gray line between being proud and ashamed of ethnicity.
One of Flanders & Swann's most beloved little nose-tweaks was called "A Transport of Delight." As most Brits would agree, even at its best, taking a bus (or omnibus) could be a trying experience. Today, it can excruciating.
But even back in Michael and Donald's time, there was another change going on, aside from the increasingly dodgy service. The workers were no longer white. Immigrants were now working the low-wage jobs. And as you'll hear in the rarity below, Flanders took to mimicking this type of worker, in an accent that sort of wavers a bit between Jamaican and Pakistani. It's quite a surprise, because he and his partner rarely touched on ethnic humor. At best, Donald Swann would do some horrid, eccentric song in Greek or Russian, but that was it.
No question, Michael is NOT being racist, he's being a realist. He is also enjoying the comical aspect of the accent he's using.
Note the pun that references then-Prime Minister Hume, and most certainly, the accent Michael uses as the long-dead duo return to life for you, affirming that ethnics are all over and bus service in the 21st Century, like the preceding century, is shite.
Michael and Donald Transport of Delight