Hate isn’t Funny

On Saturday Mum and I went to a Jack Whitehall gig in Oxford.  He definitely wasn’t the best comedian I’ve ever seen but most of the time he was pretty funny.  Once or twice he pretended to have forgotten his script and at least once he really did forget his script which was a bit frustrating.

Unfortunately however he also made several jokes that I thought were right on the line of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to disability.  I can take that.  I think I’m a lot more flexible than some people are on the sort of comments I find acceptable and I thought a couple of times “ooooh that’s a bit ableist but it’s just about ok.”

And then he came back from the interval used the R Word (r*t*rd) once and did one joke that went way over the line of ableism. Which is very definitely unacceptable.

So I wasn’t overly impressed and I very definitely stuck him in my “comedians I don’t want to see again” box.

And then Wednesday night Omid Djalili was performing in our very small theatre here as a warm up gig.  He was also here Thursday but Mum and I went on Wednesday.

I’m watching him and I’m sort of enjoying it but I’m also thinking that if you took away Jack Whitehall’s ableism he was probably a bit funnier.  They were very very different shows however and I don’t think it’s really comparable.

I did think Omid Djalili was probably pushing the boundaries of acceptable race jokes but I wasn’t really sure about that because of the whole thing where specific groups of people joking about themselves make things acceptable that might not otherwise be.  I’ve fallen foul a lot of that and joking about my disability so it’s not appropriate for me to comment  on that issue.

Then he was talking about an encounter he’d had with someone in the car park outside.  He used the R word to describe them and made several very very ableist comments.

And then it was the interval and the show continued.

Right at the end he made the most inappropriate disability related joke I’ve ever heard (which I’m not going to share).  It wasn’t designed to be funny.  It was designed to make us laugh at a stereotype of disability.  And it was horrific.

He made it pretty clear he thought there weren’t any wheelchair users in the room (I was sat at the back) and that was why he made the joke then went on to joke about how he doesn’t chose venues that have wheelchair access.

I was so angry I was practically shaking.  I gathered up my stuff to leave but didn’t actually leave because by the time I had it together he was finishing his act.

I’ve been going to live comedy for years – I went to the comedy club at my uni nearly every week for three of the four years I was there.  I must have seen hundreds of different comedians.

Some joke about disability and get it right.  Some don’t joke about disability, maybe they’d prefer we didn’t exist or maybe it’s just a case of they don’t know how to appropach it.  Some comedians joke about disability and it falls flat because it’s just a shit joke (one guy at the comedy club at uni made a massive deal about coming to me before the show started and letting me know that he had a joke about disability and it was just one joke and he hoped I would be ok with that and not offended.  It wasn’t in the least offensive.  Unfortunately however it also wasn’t funny).

And sadly some comedians prefer to get cheap laughs by throwing around hate speech like the R word and similar and mocking disabled people.

And this was the first time a comedian made me that angry.   Ever.  I made a complaint to the venue.

I’m pretty upset that it came to that.  But a small part of me is surprised that in over 12 years of semi regular live comedy this is the first time it’s been necessary.  I doubt it’ll be the last.

I hope, one day, comedians will realise that ableism isn’t big and it isn’t funny.  In the mean time I’m just glad that the next show I’m going to is a musical.  Because that should be a lot safer.

(edit: I have posted a follow up blog here)

9 thoughts on “Hate isn’t Funny”

  1. Few things are more irritating that paying for the occasion either of being insulted either singly or as part of a group of people. You write well about it. I did have a question, though. When the lights came up and you and the other audience members were leaving, how did people respond to you? If they had laughed at his hurtful remarks, did they feel guilty afterwards as they passed you, or did they just look the other way? Audiences are complicit if they laugh. If the room had gone stone silent after his offensive “jokes,” he would shelve them. He is most at fault, of course, but if anyone in the crowd laughed, they also bear some responsibility for keeping this kind of stuff going.

    1. Sadly most people did laugh Roberta. Or at least I didn’t notice that it was noticably quieter than at other jokes. And I didn’t notice people notice me after but most people would have used a different exit to the one I did. Thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated!

  2. Really sorry you had this experience. Apart from anything else, it is such a profound cop-out when a comedian has such little faith in his ability to tell jokes, that he has to set his sights on people who have less power than himself, who are not likely to be in the room. Still, you wrote about it very well.

  3. Well said Roberta!

    It’s a shame O D isn’t using a ticket reseller or obvious sponsor as that type of attitude should get his tour pulled.

    Good on you for tweeting him! I wonder what his response will be. Please retweet!

  4. I read this and it makes me feel sick. Even the little you said about Omid Djalili’s jokes…how, just how, can anyone think it is acceptable to say things like that? Your blog is great, but I cannot like it this time. I can’t bring myself to. I’m not particularly sensitive when it comes to disability, and often use humour – I’m a cartoonist so I’m always taking the mick out of stuff, including my disability, but ‘joking’ about deliberately excluding people with disabilities is totally out of order. It’s not funny, it’s not clever.

  5. Thanks Emma. I am beginning to ‘get it’. I worked in a ‘special’ school for 10 years. That it was ‘they’ call it. It was for children that mainstream could not handle. I am insulted and assaulted by the ‘r’ word too. I wonder what percentage of the British Public find it offensive?

  6. It’s a horrible word and not often used by pleasant people. I am so sorry this happened and you were made to feel like this.

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