>At the gig I went to tonight the headline comedian (Milton Jones) made a joke about people faking disabilities to get benefits. Which as you might imagine ruined my enjoyable of the rest of the show. I’m not going to share the joke here because I don’t want to give it “air time”. However I’ve since found an e-mail address for him and have let him know my thoughts on the matter. As it’s a subject which I don’t think gets the attention it should (Ricky Gervais, Frankie Boyle and Jim Davidson all being well known for doing the same but still popular) I thought I would share the e-mail here.
I was at your show in [place] tonight. I am a full time wheelchair user as I have a lifelong disability. I was very very disgusted by your joke about crutches and benefits. Completely unnecessary and you clearly haven’t researched it – DWP figures show that less than 1% of all claims for Disability Living Allowance are fraudulent. In fact, more people who apply are turned down but then appeal and receive it then receive it first time.
People such as yourself have an influence over the way people are treated. Last week a friend was the victim of a disability related hate crime by someone who assumed she was faking her disability (you can read this on her blog http://incurable-hippie.blogspot.com/2011/02/hate-from-government-hate-on-street.html) we live in different areas of the country and yet less than 24 hours later I also had abuse screamed at me in the street (details on my blog http://writerinawheelchair.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-can-hate-me-but-you-wont-break-me.html)
It might just be a cheap way to get a laugh and make some money to you but to people like me perpetuating that stereotype is causing a lot of hurt and making us feel unsafe to go out in the areas around our own homes.
Living on benefits I don’t have much money and a night out like that is an occasional special treat. It’s upsetting to hear something so hurtful to people like me used for laughs. I won’t come to one of your shows again, there are other comedians out there who manage to be just as funny without using disabled people as a subject for ridicule.
I’m sure you won’t read this and even if you do you won’t listen but can I please ask you to think long and hard about the power and influence you wield when speaking to large audiences. And consider whether your jokes are appropriate and in good taste before going ahead.