Comedy And Disability -- A Sour Mix?
February 18, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND--Should humorists that don't have disabilities be doing jokes about people who do?
That question is the subject of a half-hour BBC radio program presented Tuesday night by comedienne Francesca Martinez.
Throughout the ages, people with disabilities have been the target of jokes, pranks, pratfalls, scorn and ridicule. In the Middle Ages, for example, royal courts usually included people with disabilities as "jesters" or "fools", to be made fun of.
The days of carnival "freak shows" are not all that far behind us.
The practice of using people with disabilities to get a laugh continues to this day. Martinez notes in "Should We Be Laughing" that most modern British television comedies, for example, have poked fun at such characters.
Comedians and actors with disabilities are now taking a stand. Some suggest that people who do not have disabilities should not be going for laughs at the expense of people who do.
"We're the last bastion of shock," said actor and performer Mat Fraser.
"Anyone scrabbling about in the depths of their own mediocrity can get a cheap laugh at our expense: you're different, ha ha ha."
"Radio explores disability humour" by disability affairs reporter Geoff Adams-Spink (BBC News)
"Should We Be Laughing" (Link to audio recording -- BBC Radio4)