Keith Lard, is a fictional fire safety officer from Bolton played by Peter Kay. Lard has appeared in two of Peter Kay's television comedies on Channel 4, That Peter Kay Thing (in the episode "Eyes Down") and in the first series of Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights.
Keith Lard is portrayed as an overzealous jobsworth who takes immense pride in his work raising awareness of fire safety through training seminars and safety inspections. He despises people's apathy and seemingly ignorant attitude toward fire safety, often scaring his bored audience with an air horn.
Lard's private life is the subject of speculation and ridicule regarding his unhealthy relationship with dogs (even with claims of bestiality). In his first appearance in "Eyes Down," Lard is seemingly oblivious to the snide comments made to him by the bingo staff attending his seminar. However, at the end of the episode he is seen being led away by police. When he appears in Phoenix Nights, it is made apparent by Brian Potter that he was charged with bestiality by the police but not convicted due to lack of evidence ("You try getting an Alsatian to testify!").
A real-life fire safety officer, Mr. Keith Laird, complained to Channel 4 about the character of Keith Lard, claiming the character damaged his reputation and personal integrity (in particular Keith Lard's interest in bestiality).
Mr. Laird possessed some similarities to the character of Keith Lard, working for Bolton Council as a fire safety officer and even resembling the character in appearance.
Channel 4 and Peter Kay were forced to apologise to Mr. Laird for the embarrassment caused, with a reported payment of £10,000 being split between Mr. Laird and various fire safety organisations. In addition, Channel 4 broadcast a statement at the end of the third episode of the first series stressing that the character of Keith Lard was fictional and not based on Mr. Keith Laird:
Channel 4 and Peter Kay would like to state that the character of Keith Lard may have led some persons to wrongly believe that the character was based on a Mr. Keith Laird. We wish to make it clear that this is not the case, and would like to apologise to Mr. Laird and his family for the distress caused. We have also agreed to make a donation to the Fire Service Benevolent Fund and to Mr. Laird's family for his and his family's personal distress.
This was followed by message inviting viewers to write to Channel 4 for a fire safety leaflet prepared with the cooperation of Laird:
Mr. Laird's contribution to fire safety in Bolton is well documented and his professionalism and personal integrity are not in any doubt. If you would like more information on fire safety either contact your local fire station or go to channel4.com/firesafety for a list of links to useful websites. This information has been put together with the co-operation of both Greater Manchester County Fire Service and Keith Laird.
DVD releases of Phoenix Nights also carry this disclaimer at the end of the episode. The URL however no longer works, and redirects to a generic page about That Peter Kay Thing.
- BBC News article on the Keith Lard controversy
- Channel 4 link about fire safety
- Character information and video clips
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