Comedians Shouldn’t Joke about People with Disabilities

Bill Maher

(Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

If a comedian truly has talent, he or she does not have to attempt to get laughs at the expense of people with disabilities.  While there’s nothing wrong with being a controversial comedian, one should have enough decency not to disparage individuals with disabilities by exploiting their shortcomings.  With numerous other things and people comedians can use to generate laughs, individuals with disabilities should be off limits.  It’s quite insensitive to mock people with disabilities.  Comedy fans should openly and vociferously express their disapproval of comedians who tell vicious jokes about individuals with disabilities, especially children with disabilities.

When people continue to support comedians who take advantage of those with disabilities, they’re complicit in the wickedness of those comedians.  We have to criticize the comedians who do this and those who support them.

Effective comedy is uplifting and does not take advantage of the vulnerable.  It’s okay to use race, gender, sexuality, and other things that can be controversial to use in comedy, but just be respectful when engaging those things.  One can never employ individuals with disabilities in comedy in a way that’s going to be respectful.  Individuals with disabilities should simply be left out of comedy—period.

Reckless arrogance governs those comedians who insist on exploiting people with disabilities.  It’s mean-spirited to attack those who have disabilities during comedic performances.  Comedians who feel the need to lambast individuals with disabilities need to work on ameliorating their craft and engendering new material.  When comedians resort to using individuals with disabilities in their comedic performances, this reveals their lack of comedic prowess.  When a comedian has authentic talent, he or she never even thinks about speaking negatively about people with disabilities. 

Jokes about people with disabilities are simply not funny—they are sinister.

We have to question if some comedians have any decency.

Let’s begin to boycott the shows, performances, and events of those comedians who maliciously attack individuals with disabilities.  One of the most powerful ways we can get comedians to stop saying ugly things about people with disabilities is to hurt them in their wallets and purses.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison                

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9 comments

  1. A good while back, a comedian I’m England made a joke about glamour model Katie ‘Jordon’ Price’s son Harvey, he’s disabled and basically said because he was mentally handicapped he would grow up to rape her. I was thoroughly horrified by it! It got record amounts of complaints but sadly he’s still going xXx

    1. It’s unfortunate that people would continue to spend their money in support of someone like the comedian you mentioned. They use comedy as a means to disguise their hate speech. People who pay their money in support of them are simply just as guilty. I appreciate you for reading and your comment.

  2. I love stand up comedy, I have a great sense of humor and occasionally tell jokes. I grew up on Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, caught wind of how funny and raunchy Red Foxx was at that time. I will say this, making fun of people with disabilities is never funny and if one was to notice Pryor took pleasure in making fun of himself and his drug addiction. To me the stand up comics that took aim and make fun of their own lives were funny to me. There are certain topics I can never find funny and disabilities and making fun of children is one of them.

    1. Absolutely. I will never approve of comedians who make fun of people with disabilities and children. There should be some things that are just off limits. I had a long Twitter conversation with some people with disabilities who are comedians in response to my article, and they argued that they should be allowed to make fun of themselves and their disabilities. This conversation spurred new thoughts for me and was quite healthy.

  3. I agree with you that comedy that targets people’s disabilities as the point of humour is unacceptable when it is done by an able bodied person. But disabled people are part of life and the world; if a joke includes a disabled person, but their disability is not the target of the joke, I don’t see a problem with the joke.

    I slightly disagree that “One can never employ individuals with disabilities in comedy in a way that’s going to be respectful.” because it sounds as though you’re saying comedians with disabilities can’t participate in comedy, or shouldn’t appear in comedy shows or jokes.

    Also, there are many comedians with disabilities who play with the humour of how they are perceived by society, and how they manage to work around or take advantage of their disability to make life better. Those comedians are important.

  4. I slightly disagree that “One can never employ individuals with disabilities in comedy in a way that’s going to be respectful.” because it sounds as though you’re saying comedians with disabilities can’t participate in comedy.

    1. I actually agree with you. My intention behind writing that sentence was to protect people with disabilities from attacks from ruthless comedians, but people with disabilities are, of course, welcome to make jokes about their disabilities and the disabilities of others. In no way, however, am I saying that comedians with disabilities can’t participate in comedy.

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