Comedy is the great equaliser

I FIRMLY believe that the best way to eradicate old fashioned attitudes to disabilities or attention-grabbing conditions it to normalise them so that what differentiates someone – be it a disfigurement, a missing body part or a twitch – becomes, not invisible, but certainly inconsequential and all that matters is the actual person.

A few years ago now, I watched a series of about 24 videos on YouTube which would horrify today’s holier than thou types and have me pilloried in public.

The series was called Retarded Policeman, a deliberately provocative title in which director Greg Benson recorded short comic adventures with a lead character played by Josh Perry, who just happens to have downs syndrome.

Initially I was, of course, concerned that this was going to be exploiting or mocking someone who was vulnerable, but I soon realised that it was quite the opposite.

It was a group of people having an absolute ball and sharing a unique experience.

Perry has since deservedly carved out a successful career in TV and films.

It became one of the most watched things on YouTube and confirmed a slow burning theory that had occurred to me in the early 90s – that humour without malice is the great equaliser and if something is funny, then so long as you’re laughing with and not at someone then the source of that humour is irrelevant.

Of course, things have changed a little over the past 10 years or so thanks to shows like Channel 4’s The Last Leg and comedians such as Lee Ridley, the lost voice guy, Francesca Martinez and my own personal favourite, Rosie Jones.

There’s also a new set of videos appearing on Facebook in which Jade O’Connell, an Australian teenager with chronic Tourette’s tries to cook with her mother, her grandmother, her brother and his girlfriend.

Eggs go flying over her shoulder instead of into the mixing dish and sieving flour turns into a veritable snowstorm as she swears, pokes pieces of chicken (to calls of “chick-en, chick-en”) and tells her older sibling that she’s the favourite child and he’s adopted.

It’s hilarious and it’s meant to be.

If she wants to be funny then who has the right to say she shouldn’t be allowed, or that it’s inappropriate for us to enjoy it in the spirit that it was created?

People don’t have to be defined by their disabilities. Paralympians prove it time and time again and if someone wants to make that same point through comedy, then it’s up to us to accept that without any misplaced guilt.

Carry on screening

With a month break until the next football season starts, it looks like the stock of fresh TV has finally reached the bottom of the lockdown barrel.

When the BBC has to plug reruns of Total Wipeout with new commentary by Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff, you know that things are so desperate that the next step is likely to be ‘Allo ‘Allo and Are You Being Served.

So when you’re lying on Southend seafront without a care in the world, think on that.

Steamed up

Breathing out with a mask on makes my glasses steam up.

If that’s all I have to moan about for the rest of the year I’ll be a lucky man indeed.

Stupid TV quiz answers of the week

Tipping Point – where do they get these people from? And these were on the same day!

Q: Which town shares its name with the body of a ship?

A: Bury

Q: In 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to run what distance in under four minutes?

A: Marathon?

Q: Which mountain in Tanzania is the highest free-standing mountain in the world?

A: Everest? (Two of them thought this was the answer!!)

I try to laugh at these thickos, but it just winds me up so badly.

It’s this level of ignorance that is unacceptable, not a comedy policeman with downs syndrome arresting his parents for being Mexican drug runners.

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Edward Case

Columnist