“Now that the Britannia Awards are televised, viewers can see Sacha Baron Cohen knock an 87-year-old woman out of her wheelchair”.
Comedy depends on surprise; that’s not a problem.
Crossing the line.
Making fun of people in wheelchairs is a disturbing continuation of making fun of people who are in any way different.
It is acceptable for a comic to make fun of himself, or a comedienne to use her personal life as a basis of her act. But it comes from the right place: this is me, and I can poke gentle fun at myself, and it’s okay for you to laugh. WITH me. I give you permission before you grab it.
The instant the laughter turns to making fun of something that, if the commenter but had to live with it, would not be in the least bit funny, and encouraging other people to laugh at the same, it has crossed the line.
The audience’s reaction
The people who watched the ‘stunt’ – in which the actor pretended to knock a woman in a wheelchair off the stage and kill her in the fall – and were somehow reassured enough to find it funny and laugh when they realized no one had actually died, may be reacting from nerves. That goes with the surprise, a nervous reaction as a way to release stress.
I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as funny if anyone in the audience’s mother is in a wheelchair, or one of their children have a similar disability.
The point is that it was a stunt intended to shock – and it got its desired effect. But it also showed an unparalleled level of mean-spiritedness. These things are tragedies. They are not funny.
True comedy is funny
A true comedian walks a fine line. Jerry Lewis was not funny when he patronized people with CP on his fundraiser. Chevy Chase WAS funny when he hurt only himself in his pratfalls; I only hope he didn’t actually hurt himself by trying to entertain the rest of us.
A comedienne who happens to be fat can make fat jokes – if she wishes. Maybe she is being pre-emptive – comedy often comes from personal pain. Some of the laughter that comes from fellow fat people is of the ‘laugh at yourself before other people can laugh at you’ variety – defensive humor, as it were. The laughter that comes from people who don’t have a weight problem is… meanspirited. Again. But it’s not really funny. I rather see her make jokes about driving. Or the state of the economy. Or the lack of dates who will pay for their share. Or something else.
What you find funny shows who you are
Humor is descriptive of the person who laughs, and tells a lot about that person. I would seriously recommend people dating go out and see live comedy and ‘funny’ movies together: listen carefully to what your date finds funny, and you will see who your date is. Then follow up with whether you would want to spend your life with a person who feels that way.
It is way too easy to make fun of other people’s disabilities – and anything else that makes them different. And it’s not really funny. Pick foibles instead – those are under some degree of control by their owners; pick observations about human nature in general, people who make you shake your head at their choices. And unless you have spent your entire life on a diet, unsuccessfully, skip the fat jokes.
I have mobility issues. I may end up in a wheelchair sooner than I like – walking is a continuing battle. The story appalled me.