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As well as being a freelance writer I am also a qualified counsellor and I work for a low cost counselling service in Exeter and for the NHS Gender Clinic also in Exeter.

Simultaneously, I work as a Disability Member of the First Tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber sitting on disability benefit tribunals on an ad hoc basis.

As a writer I specialise in writing about disability and health.

My articles have been published in the Guardian, Times, OUCH! [BBC disability website], Disability Now, Broadcast, Lifestyle [Motability magazine], The Practising Midwife, 'Junior, Pregnancy & Baby', Writers' News, Able, Getting There [Transport for London magazine], Junior, Community Care, DPPi [Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood International]. I have also had articles commissioned by Daily Mail.

For more information about me and for examples of my writing please see below.

If you would like me to write an article for your publication, about any aspect of disability, please do get in touch:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Comic Relief or Comic Flop?

I must admit I didn't watch the entire BBC 1 Comic Relief output but I definitely saw enough.

I laughed out loud at two bits - the first was the Master Chef sketch with Dame Edna in it, I just think s/he is brilliant and the second was when James Corden introduced "David who went to school in a mankini, yes he's a primary school teacher... now under surveillence by Social Services..." or some such similar wording.  Hilarious.

What was not quite so hilarious, or in fact not hilarious at all, was the Peter Kay sketch.  Don't get me wrong Peter Kay is one of the funniest people around and I liked the idea that he was doing the opposite to what everyone else does on Comic Relief day ie instead of being active he was doing a sit in.

But that for me was where the humour ended as he was shown being pulled around the country by a group of short statured people.  Why by short people? It was simply unfunny, demeaning and stupid.

As short statured actress Kiruna Stamell points out in her open letter to the BBC/Comic Relief [see link below] some of the money Comic Relief raises goes to anti-bullying projects - but where's the positive representation of short statured people in the Peter Kay sketch?  How would a short statured child have felt about watching that I wonder?

Apparently Zoe Ball also thought it hilarious to make a joke about 'midgets' and Ricky Gervais managed to add his tuppence to deriding disabled people too.

Where are all their quips and digs at black people, gay people, women?  Nowhere that's where.  So why do these comedians/presenters think it's still OK to insult and dehumanise disabled people/short people in the name of humour?

When I challenged the Comic Relief press office on this, this was their total brush off of a response:

Comic Relief aims to raise as much money as possible to help vulnerable people here in the UK and in the world’s poorest countries. The night of television is a light hearted and entertaining programme which does not aim to offend. The BBC has full editorial control of all content on BBC channels and platforms and  the programme is made by the BBC, not Comic Relief.  Please contact the BBC with enquiries about the night of television.

I was insulted for the first time in my life on Saturday purely on the basis of being short statured, coincidence after Comic Relief's coverage on Friday?  You decide.

To read Kiruna's letter to the BBC/Comic relief in full follow this link, she's going to make an official complaint but I suspect she'll get the usual response along the lines of the above:


Paul said...

So am I not allowed to laugh at a Lenny Henry saying "it's 'cos I'm black init!"?
When Adam Hill makes a one legged joke do I have to be ashamed because I find it funny?
I'm sorry but I didn't see anyone forcing the "group of short statured people" to take part. If the sketch was so offensive then why did they agree to be in it and more to the point why haven't you questioned THEIR motives for doing so rather than blaming Peter Kay, Comic Relief or the BBC?
As viewers we can only assume that the participants in sketches who poke fun at themselves do so because they want us to laugh with them be they tall, short, fat, thin or anything else.
If we all choose to take offence at jokes about something that has affected us personally and use that as a justification for saying that it shouldn't be shown then there will be no comedy. I spent many a school break being bullied and taunted with terms like "four eyes" and "speccie", I was made to feel ashamed because I had poor eye sight, but YOU laughed out loud at Dame Edna with her trade mark comedy glasses, and these are just a prop, Barry Humphries doesn't actually need glasses . . . Hilarious!

EmmaB said...

If Lenny Henry says 'it 'cos I'm black init!?' or if Adam Hills makes a one legged joke THEY making the joke. That is a crucial difference to someone else making the joke ABOUT the fact that they are black or one legged.

I'm sure no one forced the short statured people to demean themselves by dressing up as leprechauns, fall over and be picked up like 'toddlers' - but the sketch was demeaning because of its very nature.

Perhaps those individuals need the money or wanted to be on TV more than they wanted to preserve the credibility that short people are human beings rather than objects of fun? Some people have more principles than others.

There are good jokes about disability and I'd be the first to laugh at them. Then there are jokes that don't work, the portrayal of the short people in the Peter Kay sketch just didn't work. Certainly within the context of a programme which promotes anti bullying it was totally inappropriate.

Thanks for your comment!

PS I didn't laugh at Dame Edna because she wears glasses, her funniness is all in her/his facial expression which is comic genius.