ITV may have spent a reported £1.5m on securing Nigel Farage on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, but that didn’t stop channel boss Kevin Lygo from apparently mocking the politician during a recent event.

The former Ukip leader is among the celebrity cast competing in gruelling trials and living in rough conditions in Australia, all in hope of being named king or queen of the jungle.

The announcement that the controversial right-wing politician would be appearing on the show prompted outcry and calls to boycott I’m a Celebrity, with the launch show’s viewing figures dipping significantly compared to last year.

ITV’s director of television Lygo is said to have taken a dig at Farage while speaking at the recent ITV Palooza event at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

As reported by The Sun, Lygo appeared on stage, where he was joined on stage by a British Sign Language interpreter.

“Thank you to the signer,” Lygo said. “I don’t know any sign language, I just know the sign for Nigel Farage.” He followed his joke with a “lewd one-handed gesture”.

He then joked of Farage: “Don’t worry, he knows he has to come home from Australia in a dinghy.”

A source in attendance told the publication: “Lygo was joking but really went in on Farage and made him the butt of all the jokes. There were a few gasps from the crowd at how crass he was being but it was funny.

“It’s mad that ITV have paid so much for someone they just want to mock. Surely Nigel is having the last laugh with his new bank balance.”

The Independent has contacted ITV and Farage’s representatives for comment.

According to reports, Farage is being paid £1.5m to appear on the show. This would be the third-highest fee amount any contestant has received in the show’s 21 series.

The former Reform Party leader joked about this when he announced his appearance on the show. In a clip shared to social media, Farage play-acted a phone conversation with producers of the ITV show, quipping: “Oh, hello. Yeah, no. I’m a Celebrity, I’m used to the annual call.”

“I normally say ‘no’ but I’m a bit more thoughtful about it this year,” Farage replies, after a brief pause . “Oh god, that’s short notice. To be honest, I’m actually off fishing next week, so [it’s] a little bit tricky in terms of the dates. How much?! Well, I’ll see you in the jungle!”

When Farage’s appearance on the show was announced, many viewers threatened to boycott the programme. When the 2023 launch episode aired on Sunday (19 November), I’m a Celebrity had an audience peak of 7.8 million, and an average of just seven million.

While this makes it the biggest entertainment launch across any channel this year, it was still down from the peak of 10 million, and average of 9.1 million, who watched the launch episode in November 2022.

Viewers have attributed the dip to Farage’s inclusion, with many dubbing it “the Farage effect”.

For the most part, however, the show hasn’t focused on Farage. The first week largely revolved around the short-lived feud between YouTuber Nella Rose and First Dates star Fred Sirieix, as well as Jamie Lynn Spears’s struggles adapting to jungle life.

So much so, in fact, that Farage volunteered to take part in Friday (24 November) night’s Bushtucker Trial, after being “certain” that the public would have voted for him. During the following show, he was voted to take part in the challenge, which saw him and Tony Bellew drinking concoctions including cockroaches and a cow’s anus.

I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! airs Sunday to Friday at 9pm and Saturday at 9.30pm on ITV.

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2023-11-26T13:16:54Z dg43tfdfdgfd