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?