Are we able to laugh at disbaility through comedy?
Comedy is a very divisive thing. In particular sketch comedy.
Sketch comedy has to drive the point that you are trying/hoping to convey/shine a light on/make people sit up and think all within a limited time frame.
So on that basis today’s question is
“Is it ever ok to poke fun at someone’s disability?”
So here is my case presented to you with two very different programs that took aim and poked fun of people with a disability.
Network Ten has been running what they call “Pilot Week”, which will air one episode from eight different TV shows and will use a variety of factors to determine which ones to commission for a full season next year.
“Audience reaction, social media buzz and ratings will help us decide what shows will return to our screens in 2019,” said Ten’s chief content officer, Beverley McGarvey.
Back to the shows in question.
The first show is called Skithappens. Oh I’ll pause while you laugh out loud at such an ingenious pun.
Skithappens! Oh my how funny is that? Answer it isn’t but the name of this show isn’t what I take issue with.
So an Autistic drama called the “Good Doctor” has been running on the seven network. A quick synopsis of the show;
“Shaun Murphy, a young autistic surgeon who has savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join the surgical unit at the prestigious San Jose St.”
So far so good right? Well within the show Skithappens (god I hate writing this show’s name), they decided to do a parody of the “Good Doctor” renaming it and again using such an imaginary title they went with “The Good Hospital”.
Wheel out the Emmy’s, the BAFTA’S, the Logies.
They then proceeded to mock the Autistic community. (See Video below by clicking on the link)
Here then is my response;
- We are not simpletons. If we have a task to perform such as being a surgeon in this case, we sure as hell wouldn’t allow our focus to be distracted by a shiny object.
- Not all Autistic people speak in that monotone voice
- We wouldn’t allow a patient to die, whilst we express our emotions differently, we are well aware of death and we certainly wouldn’t stand back and let someone pass away on an operating table.
- We are competent people, we are knowledgeable and can carry out tasks such as surgery if that was indeed our chosen field to work in.
- Having Autism isn’t a joke, it’s a way of life for me and for others who are on the Autism Spectrum. By making fun of our condition you are in fact stereotyping us and allowing for others to assume the same inaccuracies that were portrayed within this skit.
- Whoever wrote this sketch clearly isn’t aware and sought no guidance from any Autistic Organisation, if they had the outcome would have been different.
- Shame on Network Ten for even considering airing this, why wasn’t guidance sought from someone from the network? Why didn’t someone from either the network or the production company speak up and raise any concerns that they may have had?
- I am sick and tired of being made fun of. My life as someone with Autism is hard enough without having non autistic people feel that as comedians they have the right to poke fun and make jokes as my expense. Someone needs to stand up and take responsibility for this and make amends.
So is it ever ok to mock the Autistic Community? In short the answer is NO.
But hang on one minute. I laughed at a comedian mocking the disabled only a few nights later?
Am I a complete hypocrite you may well be asking yourselves?
Because Nick only moments before you were condemning a show for doing exactly the same thing but now you’re applauding another show as if you’d just been given all of Oprah’s favourite things and were now hysterical with tears and screams and the obliquity oh my god! Cue ugly cry.
Ok hold on. Let me explain myself. The show that I am now focusing on like a giddy teenager in love was called Taboo.
Here is the synopsis of the show
“The premise is as confronting as it is simple. The very funny Harley Breen spends five days and nights with members of a disadvantaged group in society and uses the experience to perform a stand-up routine about them – with the subjects sitting in the front row.”
So what’s funny and heart-warming about this you may well be asking yourself having already made up your mind that I am doing a complete backflip here.
Well the comedian Harley Breen actually spends time with those who have varying disabilities. He then gauges from them what life is like for them on a daily basis and from that goes away and writes a stand-up routine.
You can watch the full episode by clicking on the link here
And this is where the big difference is/will become clear.
He’s actually laughing with them, i.e. they are all in on the joke.
It’s not offensive because he’s not being malicious, the comedy that he has written is beautiful and kind and caring and warm and It comes from a genuine place of love and respect for these people who have opened up to someone that they hardly know.
Whereas with (and I am so loathed to write the dam stupid pun name) Skithappens (I promise that this will be the last time that I write their name) they were malicious, it came from a place of being un educated, from trying to achieve a cheap laugh, by poking fun at a community that they have probably never had any experience or interaction with, it was cruel, and the bigger question is how on earth did anyone think that was a good idea? Seriously?
I for one would watch Taboo with Harley Breen if the show comes back in 2019 on the other hand the other show whose name I won’t write next time please heed this advice ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️
Carry on the Conversation
What are your thoughts? Do you think that the disabled community is fairly portrayed in comedies? Are you outraged as I am about what you have seen?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.