I’ve occasionally asked myself that when comedians such as Francesca Martinez, Liz Carr, Rosie Jones and Alex Brooker joke about their problems, why can’t non-disabled comedians do the same?
I SAW Francesca Martinez on Live at The Apollo on t.v the other day, and during her routine she made jokes about her problems which got several laughs from the audience. During her routine though I began to ask myself a couple of questions; the first being that when people who don’t have any form of disability make jokes about those who do it turns into immediate outrage along with a furious backlash on social media, yet why is it acceptable when those with problems do it? The other question that sprang to mind was that if those with problems can mock themselves then why can’t non-disabled people do it? Just curious to know, that’s all.
Now before you go down the hell have no fury route, or similar routes, let me just point something out to you; I’m autistic and I live with a disability known as Asperger Syndrome which I a mild form of autism. And yes, I openly admit that once in a blue moon I referred to myself as a ‘spastic’, but only in the example terms or whenever I am mocking myself.
Back in 2007 Heat magazine apologised to glamour model, Katie Price, over one of their free giveaways when it featured a sticker with her son, Harvey, with a speech quote ‘Harvey wants to eat me’. Understandably Katie was furious with the magazine, as were many of the publication’s readers. In 2010 another controversy ensured when controversial comedian, Frankie Boyle, made a remark about Harvey during an episode of his Channel 4 show Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights.
Whenever I look at episodes like this, as well as others, one thing that it always sparks off is the whole issue within regards to free-speech, what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to live comedy, sketch shows or satirical programmes. Another thing that I always find is that there are some people who seem quite content and claim that how the comment or the joke hasn’t harmed anyone. Others would say how people need to get over it and stop being so mardy. Looking back over the past couple of decades we’ve always had this debate within regards to free-speech and expression whenever it comes to stand-up comics and the material that they do.
Now I openly admit that I am a supporter of free-speech and expression as much as the next person but what I also know is that you have to take responsibility for what you say and do as well. In a way it’s a bit like the line in Spiderman ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Sure, we’re supposed to be living in a country where we’re able to say what we want, do what we want etc but at the end of the day we can’t void ourselves of our individual responsibilities either.
However, going back to comedians who mock themselves. Whenever Francesca does her set, she frequently refers to her disability in a self-mocking way cos in way, or as I see it, it’s a way of owning the so-called tag and reusing it in another way. During my life there have actually been times when I’ve been mocked for my disability and it’s left me feeling upset and annoyed, and yes it was from people who I didn’t like. Yet whenever I do it to myself, I don’t feel any upset whatsoever.
So, this all in all, has left me wondering in theory that maybe why people with disabilities mock themselves cos it’s a way of finding the humour in their problems, and also because it’s coming from themselves and their nearest and dearest there’s no cold-hearted malice in it. However, this still leaves one question that will every so often will rear its head whenever things like this rise up again; if disabled comedians can mock themselves, why can’t comedians with no disabilities or problems do the same?