Ableist humour

I was sent this joke by an acquaintance, who is an amputee.

I saw my mate Charlie this morning, he’s only got one arm, bless him.
I shouted, “Where you off to, Charlie?”
He said, “I’m off to change a light bulb.”
Well, I just cracked up – couldn’t stop laughing. “That’s gonna be a bit awkward, innit?”
“Not really,” he said, “I still have the receipt, you insensitive bastard.”

Yes, it’s mildly offensive, I guess, especially in this age of overt political correctness and eggshell tiptoe-age. But then there’s the point that it pokes fun at the assumptions of the apparently ableist joke teller. There’s a lesson in there, I think.

And then add the fact that it was sent from someone who has a similar disability – albeit that he is missing a bit of leg, rather than an arm. Does that make it more acceptable? Is he ‘allowed’ to tell it, but me, not?
It’s an interesting question

I remember once going to the Jongleurs Comedy Club in Oxford. One of the acts that evening was a guy in a wheelchair. He had to be lifted onto the stage. Once there, he began his set with a plethora of jokes about people in wheelchairs. It was initially awkward, and then it was very, very funny. You could almost watch the crowd thinking, “Wow. That’s a bit harsh. But then… hey – if he’s in a wheelchair and he thinks it’s funny, why shouldn’t we laugh at it too?”
And then, suddenly, he told a joke about a blind football team, and it immediately all went very awkward again. But he was completely prepared for it. I recall him using the audience’s discomfort as if he’d just done some sort of social experiment – that it was ok for him to ridicule those with the same disability as him, but that he had seemingly crossed a line when he joked about a different affliction. He was absolutely right in his observations of our reaction.

It speaks volumes to me that it’s those aspects of the evening that I remember, rather than the actual jokes – although I do seem to remember that they were funny and it was an enjoyable night out.

Obviously, I hope that I never lose an arm like Charlie, nor the use of my legs like the comedian. But if I ever did, I’d like to think that I’d somehow still be able to appreciate this sort of humour.

As for the lightbulb joke above – I think it’s very amusing.

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