How A BBC Journalist Accidentally Got High During A News Report

Many of us have been there. You take a drag of the old sticky-icky, exhale, zone out, maybe contemplate the nature of infinity, and bam: Is that a ballet skirt on that chihuahua? Cue the endless laughter at practically anything and everything. "The giggles" and similar responses are out of our control when using marijuana. Cannabis increases blood flow to the frontal and temporal lobes — the areas of the brain that regulate laughter. Meanwhile, the THC-induced release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine makes people feel elated, euphoric, content, etc. In other words: You're arguably your best, stress-free self when on weed.  

But how many people have gotten high while at work? And we don't mean a little work-from-home puff-'em-up (shh, we won't tell). And we also don't mean sitting on your desk in the middle of an open-office floor plan and whipping out a Zippo and blunt while staring your boss dead in the eyes. We mean being recorded while standing in a rocky desert. With a big 'pile of drugs behind you. And the drugs are on fire. And you're standing too close. And you can't stop laughing. Also, you're a serious war reporter.

That is precisely what happened to one Quentin Sommerville of the BBC sometime around 2010. As The Washington Post explains, the clip was never aired, but it got shared online to Sommerville's followers. In 2014 the clip went viral and caused fits of giggles around the world. 

Baked on film

The clip of Sommerville getting unintentionally high is legitimately funny and giggle-inducing itself. The Telegraph broke the story late 2014. There was also an original tweet and YouTube video, but those are gone, too. The Young Turks, however, have the video on their own YouTube channel dating to January 2015. 

The video shows Sommerville doing exactly what we described earlier: Standing in a rocky, desert-looking place somewhere vaguely in the Middle East (no further information anywhere) with a pile of burning drugs behind him. It's not just marijuana, however. As Sommerville himself segues, "Burning behind me is 8.5 tons of heroin, opium, hashish and other narcotics." That's as far as he gets, though, before breaking down into a "hee hee hee hee hee" giggle fit. He tries to get things back together, says to the cameraman, "Quick quick quick quick, we just need one more," tries to deliver another line, and loses it again, and then again. Judging by the sound of things the cameraman was getting a bit blazed, too. After all, that's what happens if you stand too close to a pile of burning drugs — even outdoors.

As The Telegraph says, Sommerville originally posted the video himself online as an "Xmas laugh, at my expense" after a "year of bullets & bloodshed." And even though the video got taken down, Sommerville still has his job at the BBC to this day.

Corpsing in the war on drugs

Even though Quentin Sommerville's career remained intact after his incidental inhalation of multiple burning narcotics, the BBC very good-naturedly and casually brushed the whole thing off. "The video of Quentin corpsing, which has now been deleted, was posted in the spirit of a blooper," a spokesperson said (via The Telegraph). "It was filmed four years ago — it hasn't been seen before and was never broadcast." That was it as far as the BBC was concerned. 

And for the non-Brits out there, The Guardian details what "corpsing" means. We've all seen it on shows like "Saturday Night Live" or other live, on-stage, theatrical performances — one actor causes another to break down laughing, and the whole production goes up in giggles. It's possible that the BBC's use of the term "corpsing" was more of a well-natured dig at the performative immaturity of the whole scene rather than a simple description of what happened.

Regardless, Sommerville has since started covering the ongoing war in Ukraine. "Quentin Sommerville is the BBC's Middle East Correspondent," his profile on The Orwell Foundation reads. "He has recently been reporting from Eastern Ukraine on the sharpest reality of war, as lived by soldiers and civilians." He's also — as we can see on his X (formerly Twitter) profile — remained a fan of funny news clips and is an obvious jokester. In March 2021, he commented on a hilarious clip from the COVID-19 days of another reporter speaking to the BBC from home with his kids and presumably spouse rambling around in the background. There's no word on whether or not Sommerville's inhaled anything recently.