Jane Holmes Blog: Comedians' cheap laughs at expense of the disabled never funnyBy Jane Holmes
December 07, 2012
There's been a lot of publicity over the last couple of years surrounding comedy directed at disabled people.
Frankie Boyle's jokes about Jordan's son's disabilities, for example, were in appalling taste and definitely not funny.
For a lot of people, jokes about disabled people are still considered to be acceptable. I say 'still', because humour directed at other minority groups has long since died.
Just imagine if Jim Davidson was still on our screens portraying his 'Chalky' character, or even Les Dawson with his mother in law jokes, which now just seem outdated and off-colour.
Perhaps the reason why disability is the last minority group to catch up is precisely because many disabled people are not able to defend themselves.
Or perhaps it's because they have more important ways to spend their days.
Or because they feel that taking on the media, who have even defended humour directed at disabled people, would be an insurmountable task.
But where do you draw the line?
Nobody wants to live in a world where we are constantly walking around on eggshells, afraid of insulting anyone.
Disabled people are certainly able to laugh at themselves, far more than your average Joe or Frankie, but when jokes really hurt people, then surely that is when it is too much.
Who can forget the mother of a Down's Syndrome child sobbing on Radio 2 over Ricky Gervais's use of the word 'mong'?
At least he had the decency to apologise for insulting her child in the name of humour.
Building For The Future's Patron and campaigner for disability rights, Francesca Martinez, has a brilliant line in humour which is often directed at people who misjudge disabled people, forcing people to question their prejudices. Insightful and respectful, It's also a whole lot funnier than anything that comes from a comedian who specialises in taking cheap shots at the disabled.
So where these comedians fall down is when they cause real pain to others, by using their disability as a point of ridicule. Bullying those more vulnerable than themselves, in order to try and raise a few controversial laughs. Nice.