Comedian's televised autism joke outrages viewers

By | April 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm | 8 comments | News, Opinion, TV/Movies | Tags: , ,

Did this comic take it too far when joking about autistic kids? Australian comic Russel Kane has viewers of the show Good News Week, recorded during the Melbourne comedy festival, enraged over a comment he made on the air regarding children with autism. Here’s what went down:

Earlier in the festival, Kane had engaged in a lively televised comedy debate with show host Paul McDermott. Referencing back to that moment during the episode in question, Kane had said, “We went at it like an autistic kid at a drum and destroyed you.”

The remark was reportedly met with stark silence to which McDermott replied, “You can see they don’t like autistic humor here.” Indeed, they did not. It would seem that the majority of the outrage was voiced on the Channel Ten website, pointing out that the pre-recorded show should have been edited to remove the offensive comment.

“‘Making a stereotype comment like they did is way off the mark,” said a spokesperson for Autism Spectrum Australia. “As well, it shows a lack of understanding. Those sorts of comments should not have been put to air.”

Having a child of autism myself, I understand why parents would be hurt and why organizations would take offense and sound the advocacy alarms. However, being a student of comedy I also get that the simile made by Kane was meant to walk the line, invoke feelings, and ultimately be laughed off. To me, funny is funny. In this case, while no specific child with autism was being pointed out, Kane managed to trip over that line and come across as offensive instead of funny. Was Kane wrong in this situation? How does a comic know when they’re crossing that line of edgy-but-funny into the realm of just plain offensive?

About the Author

Chase Roper

Chase Roper is the Internet’s only comedy writing, podcasting, stay at home dad (maybe). His comedic sensibility has been described as bitingly sarcastic. He’s not sure if he agrees with that but is pretty sure that “bitingly” isn’t a real word. You can check out his show, The Stay at Home Dadcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

  • Travesty

    I think the joke is funny, screw everyone else.

  • Choptop

    Yeah, he wasn’t joking about any particular person, it was a semi-funny shot at a group. Any and every group under the sun has been made fun of, no one should be immune in the world of comedy. I’m a “liberal”, but some people need to learn when to stop being so damn politically correct.

  • http://www.psloveblog.com PS Love

    People really ought to get a life. This politically correct crap is really out of control. The joke was funny and it was a good visual, even if some autistic kid out there somewhere doesn’t behave with wild, free gestures in his or her daily business.
    OK, I’ll go back to waiting for an Indian to refer to himself as “Native American” when I’m in earshot.
    Pam
    Oh Wait! I’m back. I have a request. Could all the white people who were born in Africa and immigrated to the US, please start a stink about “African American” meaning Negro? And all the people of color from anywhere else in the world start a stink about that too, while we’re at it?
    OK, I’m done now. I swear! I’ll go bake some cookies while I’m waiting on the Indians.

  • canders

    If a joke’s going to cross the line it needs to be well worth it*. This one isn’t. It’s not terrible, it’s just not that funny. Eugene Mirman’s aspergers joke on the other hand is HILARIOUS and worth it. If it does that then you know that all the PC people are just being their ol’ PC selves, if it doesn’t you probably screwed up. However, like all jokes that aren’t funny, the appropriate reaction is to not laugh rather than go out of your way to make a media event of it.

    *by “worth it” I mean being edgy for the sake of pushing the funny envelope and not for the sake of being edgy.

    Also “PS LOVE” is “start a stink” code for farting or protesting? Either way I’ve got no clue where you were going half way through your rant.

  • Elaine

    “How does a comic know when they’re crossing that line of edgy-but-funny into the realm of just plain offensive?”
    The answer – When that comic has the “good fortune” of being blessed with an autistic child and now has to spend the rest of his/her life dealing with what other parents of autistic people deal with on a daily basis.
    When you love your child so much and you see other children or adults mimicing your childs “constant rocking” or “funny verbal sounds” and then start laughing or saying “what a retard” or just the fact that your childs doctor or teacher or therapists don’t want to do something for your child that you know will help but they refuse to do it because the child is “autistic” and the so called “profesionals” know what is best for an autistic person – not the person who is with the c hild 24/7. I could go on but as the mothere of a non-verbal autistic child I just want to say this because I beleive it is what Sarah Palin was trying to point out in the Family Guy episode – Hurtful comments don’t bother the person with special needs – they bother the person (mother) who LOVES the person with special needs because its just one other reminder of what your loved one has to go through in his/her already hard life

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikey2shoes Mikey 2 Shoes

    Everyone has lost their friggin minds! Everyone is too damn sensitive! I thought it was a great comment and if people are that sensitive then stay the hell out of comedy clubs and turn off your tv because you are a big fat pussy. Enjoy your cave and stop pushing your pussy beliefs on everyone else! Autism sucks, but so do a lot of things! You can’t limit freedom of speech!

  • Eoghan The Devil

    I have Asperger’s and I didn’t find the joke either funny nor offensive! I think people need to grow up and stop being so PC about things but also be aware of these things as well at the same time!!!
    If there was a person who has both autism and the mind of a comedian around then that would be funny!!! I wouldn’t mind being that comedian making jokes about my AS but I’d also give a warning to those parents first before making the jokes and say “If anyone here has a child who is “labelled” as being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder then I suggest you turn your ears off!” Then they might actually laugh afterwards and forget the jokes were offencive XD
    I believe it’s tactics that comedians seem to lack these days, and that they only ever think about 3 things: entertainment, money and booze (that excludes those comedians who don’t)

  • Jjrocker10

    I’m Autistic and I laughed