U.K. Regulator Probing Rowan Atkinson Sketch on BBC

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Portraying an archbishop, the "Mr. Bean" star compared boy band One Direction to Jesus' disciples and said praying "doesn't work."

LONDON -- U.K. broadcast regulator Ofcom is investigating a Rowan Atkinson sketch aired on the BBC after more than 2,200 viewer complaints.

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The sketch was part of last month's annual Comic Relief special that raises money for poor and disadvantaged people across the U.K. and Africa.

Atkinson, best known for his "Mr. Bean" character, portrayed a fictional version of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the sketch. He compared boy band One Direction to Jesus' disciples and said praying "doesn't work." The character also told audiences that Jesus said love your neighbors, but that "doesn't mean shag your neighbors."

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The regulator said it is probing the show, but didn't disclose further details. It is believed to be probing the sketch for offensive language and religious offense, the Guardian reported.

The BBC previously apologized for the sketch and removed it from its VOD platform, it said.

The public broadcaster told the regulator in a submission that the sketch was "intended to amuse and entertain." It added that audience feedback made clear that it "was problematic for a number of different reasons." It also said that Comic Relief is "known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy," but would keep people's expressed concerns in mind for the future.

The BBC had already cut jokes from the Comic Relief show that Scottish stand-up Frankie Boyle had made during its taping. They included jokes about Queen Elizabeth II, Kate Middleton and South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

The Comic Relief special marked the event's 25th anniversary and drew more than 12 million viewers at its peak.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai