In my last blog I mentioned that I was going to be appearing on this Sunday’s Big Questions. Well, I’m not anymore, so don’t go setting your alarms on my account.
I was contacted about going on the show the day I flew to Spain, and didn’t get a chance to blog about it at the time, so here’s the back story.
The researchers read my articles on disability jokes (here and here) and wanted to get me along to debate the subject, ‘is everything fair game for humour?’
I suspected they wanted me there as a foil for one of their Christian regulars. Who would expose me as the obvious hypocrite that I am for criticising religion, whilst concurrently disapproving of jokes about disabled people.
Naturally I couldn’t wait to go on!
I had all my arguments ready. Principally that I do think anything is fair game for humour. Humour is how we appropriate what we see going on in our world and our communities.
A viewpoint which I suspect may have pissed on their chips somewhat.
You see my article for New Humanist was without doubt a criticism of disabled jokes, but it was above all an expression of bafflement at how God is more protected from ridicule than the most vulnerable members of our society.
I will happily admit that I’ve hated every single disabled joke that I’ve heard during my time on the circuit. But I’ve hated them because they have been, in every instance, callous, witless and pointless. Resembling at best schoolyard taunts, and at worst hate speech.
But I don’t rule out the possibility that disability can be handled with humour. In fact here comes a stellar example.
I love South Park, and think that their disabled characters Jimmy and Timmy are superb. They get their own storylines, they deliver punch lines, they’re endearing and they are as vital as all the other characters.
That is how you deal with disability in comedy. By talking about people’s reactions to it, how it’s perceived, people’s experiences of it.
This is how you don’t deal with it:
“A down’s syndrome walks into a bar. The barman says – why the mong face?”
Or the 3 minute long, savage impersonation of someone with cerebral palsy that I saw at The Comedy Store.
Of course people will defend this kind of thing by saying it’s ‘just a joke’.
But when you consider that 8/10 disabled children are bullied and when you also look at the rising hate crime statistics in regard to disabled people, I would have to differ.
These jokes chip away at people’s compassion towards the disabled. And considering that most people have limited or no experience of disabled people, they do nothing but build on pre-existing prejudices and ignorance.
If the mainstream attitude towards those with a disability tends towards derision, this has the knock on effect of creating a society where the bullying and persecution of the disabled can thrive unchecked.
And as to the reasons why I think it’s ok to criticise religion? Well, religion and its accompanying dogma effects society and, like politics and any other far reaching issue, it needs to be subject to enquiry and satire.
The bottom line is – you won’t catch me calling Christians names to get a cheap laugh.
You’ll only ever find me questioning religion and dogma. I might use the occasional shock tactic to underline a point, but I never stoop to personal attacks.
So, there’s what I would have said.
Anyway, further to Chris Moyles’ recent reprimand from OFCOM and the controversy surrounding the Bill to criminalise incitement to hatred over sexual orientation, they have decided to discuss that instead.
But they are going to have me on at a later date, so I’ll keep you posted.
To leave you on a light note, as I do get preachy and serious when it comes to this subject, I’ve been jokily reviewing more stuff on Amazon.
And in the process I stumbled across the strange world of knitted desserts and cakes.
Combining the edible with the inedible to pointless effect.
Have a good weekend.