Friday, July 16, 2010

Comedy, Deafness, and Political Correctness

One thing that I've increasingly noticed on the internet is the argument of political correctness. Not only in terms of names used to describe people (hearing-impaired vs. deaf vs. hard-of-hearing), but also in terms of joking- what's okay, what isn't. I do think part of it is due to the fact that over the internet it's very hard to interpret tone of voice for tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic comments.

What really struck me is how widely opinions vary. Is it ever okay to make fun of a disability? Does having the disability give you the excuse to joke about it? Are these jokes ever even funny? A month or so back I was reading about Joan Rivers's new documentary, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work", and it briefly touched the subject. At one of her shows, Rivers made a Helen Keller joke (which, my deafness aside, I never really found them to be particularly funny. Can't say that I'm offended by them either), and a man in the audience was outraged, yelling at her that he has a deaf child and was offended by such a joke. "The comedian tears into him, informing him her mother was deaf and howling, 'Let me tell you what comedy is about — comedy is to make everybody laugh at everything and deal with it!’" - as quoted from this site.

Most of the time, I try to not take a defensive, sensitive standpoint. More often than not, people will say things that offend people out of pure lack off knowledge, not necessarily ignorance or out of  intent to harm.I am not a big fan of stand up comedians. I do believe that it can be okay to laugh at our struggles, since they certainly aren't going to go away. Here is one joke I've heard a few times regarding hearing loss, and I do think it's funny in a cheesy humor sort of way.

A concerned husband went to the doctor to talk about his wife. He said to the doctor, “I think my wife is deaf because she never hears me the first time and always asks me to repeat things.”
“Well,” the doctor replied, “go home tonight, stand about 15 feet from her, and say something. If she doesn’t reply, move 5 feet closer and say it again. Keep doing this until we get an idea about the severity of her deafness.” The husband went home and did exactly as the doctor had instructed. He started off 15 feet from his wife in the kitchen as she was chopping some vegetables.
He said, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” He heard no response. He moved 5 feet closer and asked again. No reply. He moved 5 feet closer. Still no reply. He finally got fed up and moved right behind her, about an inch away, and asked again, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
She replied, “For the fourth time, vegetable stew!” -Taken from Only Funny Jokes

 As I've mentioned before, I'm Jewish. Living in Texas, people from time-to-time are shocked and as pretty strange questions. Sometimes people crack a little innocent joke, and I do sometimes find them funny. I think the key is knowing where the line between offensive and hilarious lies, and not overstepping it. (For those wondering, here is a little key of the difference between amusing and stupid. Jewish guilty mother jokes=funny. Big nose jokes= can go either way. Holocaust jokes= waaay overstepping the boundary.) When it comes to serious disabilities that I am not personally affected by, I would never dare make a joke about it. I don't think it's fair to joke when I haven't lived through the day-to-day struggles of a particular disease or disability.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks. Is there a time and place for these jokes? Do you think people can be too sensitive, or are others just being too ignorant?


  1. I hate PC with a vengeance lol. I think we should line up rights lawyers and all the silly awareness people and thrown fruit at them in the stocks, they should all be dispensed to some desert island somehow where they organise their own little sad lives and live in their own caves... if something is funny I will laugh,not read up if they used the right words... one of the funniest people I have ever watched was an outright racist... it didn't make me one.

  2. Wow. A very thought provoking subject, Miss Pink.

    Indeed, you are asking some basic questions that any sane, sober, person of conscious should carefully consider.

    And as you speculated, it's not such a simple matter to resolve. I truly doubt that there is "an answer" that could be very simply applied to your question of "is there a time and place for these jokes?"

    Funny that (pun not intended!), but just a few moments ago I saw a news article on Yahoo that relates to your post( you can see it here at ). Interesting reading.

    I think your writing, as well as the news article brings up some really good points and counterpoints. At the very least, this topic has given me a refresher in what I already believed as well as few new things to consider, and that's a good way to start the day!



  3. :D This is the topic that makes all of my teachers cringe. In 7th grade I had a science teacher that would ask me what the right term was, and I'd just shrug. Then I got to 8th grade and was surprised when a scienc teacher said "We have a deaf student" when handing my FM to a teacher. I've had several other teachers call me both hearing impaired and deaf. What am I? *Shrugs* What are you? *Shrugs* Most often, now, when I'm explaining my hearing loss I'll say "hard of hearing... like Deaf, but not.." :D
    Also, as to the humor... I get H.K. jokes constantly. Really doesn't bother me. Wait until you're sitting there in high school and someone starts singing " the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.."

  4. These comments definitely gave me food for thought. Thanks for the article link Dan, I think it may have slightly changed my perspective. I think this is one subject that people will always disagree on!


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