Is it OK to laugh at the Paralympics?
“My friends are always asking if I’ve tried any other sports and obviously I’m not very good at the hurdles,” chuckles the ParalympicsGB Wheelchair Rugby team captain Steve Brown, who is paralysed from the chest down. “I’ve heard that one about a million times. Also, in Beijing some of my team members took the brail stickers off the lift buttons. Haha! Actually, that was quite mean.”
His team mate Ross Morrison concurs: “There should definitely be more Paralympics jokes,” he says. “I know some comedians have gone a bit far in the press recently but we joke about everything else so why not joke about the Paralympics?”
GB table tennis player David Wetherill also agrees: “There’s a lot of banter that flies around in our team. We find it funny taking the mickey out of our own disabilities. If you’re looking at it from the outside in then you might think some of it is a little bit inappropriate – but if we can make light of difficult topics like disability then perhaps it could help the general public get a more rounded perspective on disabled people.”
It seems easy for Paralympians to get away with crude humour about themselves – and humour is often one of the most effective ways to drill down to the crux of difficult issues. If disabled people only talked about each other in a deadly serious manner the whole time, doubtless their lives would be tougher.
But why can’t able-bodied people joke about disabled people in the same way? This week comedian Frankie Boyle found himself in hot water yet again after tweeting Paralympics jokes during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. His response the next day to those that had complained was:
As Channel 4’s Paralympics blogger, I’ve spent the last two years monitoring almost everything written about the Paralympics on Twitter. What surprised me most about the backlash to Boyle’s jokes was that harsher and more severe jokes than his are tweeted and retweeted dozens of times each day. Rarely do those jokes spark such outrage.
I caught up with Australian one-legged comedian Adam Hills, host of C4Paralympics’s daily highlights show The Last Leg, to find out what makes the perfect Paralympics joke:
Do you think it’s OK to laugh at the Paralympics? Let us know by leaving a comment!