Disability: no laughing matter?


Rood Eye

  • Saturday 31st August 2019, 11:29am
  • England
  • 2,577 posts

Ricky Gervais is under fire today in an article in The Independent.

Apparently, Ash Attallah has suggested at the Edinburgh Festival that Ricky might be "obsessed" with disabled people.

I think most BCG members will have heard Ricky make comedic references to Ash's disability and his subsequent use of a wheelchair. It seems Ash was not altogether happy about those jokes and now regrets his complicity in them.

The article also cites Ricky's jokes about Warwick Davis in Life's Too Short and about Ricky's creation of the character Derek in the sitcom of the same name.

Not mentioned in the article but certainly memorable (if I remember correctly) is the occasion upon which in The Office, a woman in a wheelchair was left abandoned in a stairwell during a fire drill as it was too much trouble to actually get her out of the building.

What is undoubtedly true is that Ricky is not a comedian who ignores disability: indeed he has often used it unashamedly for comedic purposes.

Over the years, some critics have suggested that such use is unacceptable - even deplorable.

On the other hand, however, it might be argued that Ricky's references to disability in his comedy serve more to include the disabled in the "normal" world rather than to exclude them.

Around 15% of the world's population suffer from some form of disability: clearly, it would be outrageous if comedians were to make a mockery of these people but is it essentially wrong for comedians to acknowledge these people's very existence? Is it not possible for a comedian to reference disability in a funny yet inoffensive manner?

It's a thorny question and one to which I suspect there is no ready answer.

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john tregorran

  • Sunday 1st September 2019, 5:49am
  • mornington,victoria, Australia
  • 236 posts

I recollect a Frasier episode.
He regrets befriending someone, as he soon discovers that they have nothing in common.But is reluctant to do anything about it,because this chap is in a wheel chair.However,he decides that telling him that the wheel chair is the problem( and not his personality)will be less hurtful.Of course he takes offence and Frasier is made to look the bad guy.



  • Sunday 1st September 2019, 3:20pm [Edited]
  • Nowhere, England
  • 8,982 posts

I've always had a sneaking suspicion that Ricky was a bully at school

Seems the type....



  • Friday 6th September 2019, 10:14pm
  • England
  • 550 posts

Certainly Gervais is the type to take the piss put of everyone then cry 'Free Speech' the very second someone dares to take offence. I'd take issue with the idea that Life's Too Short was seen as bullying. It's the entire conceit of the show surely? As for The Office, I recall those scenes with the disabled woman being purely to highlight Brent's ignorance of the subject rather than mocking the woman herself. As for the bully thing though, that could be on the money. The extras of his live DVDs of him torturing Robin Ince I never liked.



  • Saturday 7th September 2019, 10:40am
  • England
  • 29,654 posts

The trouble with Gervais is what was funny at first soon became quite tired as he repeated the same types of jokes again and again and again. If we could go back and assassinate him in 2003 it would do his legacy no end of good.



  • Tuesday 10th September 2019, 1:16pm
  • Dorset, United Kingdom
  • 29 posts

It's about time Ash Atalla stood up for himself.