Thursday, October 8, 2009

38. Is This Thing On?

Today I want to write about something that Down syndrome has stolen from my life.

I'm a funny guy. Maybe that's debatable, but I think most people would agree. I enjoy funny movies and funny stories and funny songs and funny jokes. I used to be an aficionado of stand-up comedy. But since Ozzie's birth, the laughs don't come as easily. Why? Because stand-up comedy has become a curious mixture for me - equal parts laughter and anxiety. As I watch, I anxiously anticipate the next retard joke. I don't even like to watch stand-up unless I'm alone, just to avoid uncomfortable situations. And there's nothing funny about that.

I used to think this was all in my head, but this new reality was recently driven home like an arrow through my head (one of those joke ones) as I listened to the podcast of my favorite comedian. He went on an extended jibe about how awesome it would be to pretend he had a Down syndrome kid so he could get out of work whenever he wanted:

"I gotta leave early today."


"LIttle Johnny - my little champ. He's such a fighter. I just need to be there for him..."

Hardy har har - this went on for several minutes. Apparently my life is extremely funny. It was nice of him to point that out - now I don't feel the need to tune into his show to have a laugh. I don't listen to him any more. And I hate that - I really do - because he really was my favorite comedian. I still think, deep down, he's a decent guy. But that bastard owes me a big, fat apology. Hear that, Ace man?

You may notice I didn't mention him by name. And the reason I didn't is another sad fact of reality. If I did, there's a good chance his fans would take notice and start leaving offensive comments on my blog. They would tell me to lighten up, it was just a JOKE.

No, I won't. I can't. Down syndrome stole my sense of humor. A portion of it, at least.

Eddie Murphy, in his prime, used to pepper his monologues with "faggot" jokes. Andrew Dice Clay poked fun at "midgets." Hardy har har. I laughed along with what I thought was the rest of the world. But the rest of the world wasn't laughing. Not everyone. The faggots and midgets sat silent, along with the retards (and the parents of the retards).

I wish, one day, we could all enjoy stand-up comedy.


Laurie said...

I totally, totally, get what you are saying. What you said about feelings of anxiety and anticipation while watching stand up - I feel this as well. I even notice myself feeling this way while watching sitcoms, reading people's status updates on FB, listening to my neice and nephews as they talk about Dylan...It's like Im just waiting for it...and lately my reactions have really sucked.
Hugs, my friend.

ds.mama said...

I remember how hilarious I thought Eddie Murphy’s “You don’t got no ice cream” piece was the first time I heard it so many years ago. This summer as I chased the kids down the driveway to catch the ice cream truck, I got thinking about the children that “don’t got no ice cream” and why that might be, and it bothered me. It didn’t feel funny anymore.

Ds may have taken your ability to laugh at other people’s expense, but it gave you back an awareness, a sensitivity for other people. And, Dan, you are still pretty funny and you still have a great sense humor. Don’t take my word for it... ask your iPod.

Cori Sarno Villacres said...

I am with you Dan... We saw Lisa Lampanelli this weekend. It was the first stand up comedy have seen since Joey was born. I knew she was the "queen of mean" and that she makes fun of everyone...what I was not expecting was jokes about Trig Palin who she called a "retard" or mothers of special needs children (who she said caused their babies to be "retarded." I was appalled and our entire group was watching me and it was extremely uncomfortable. Lets just say I am no longer a fan of hers and would discourage anyone from buying her book or listening to her routines! In fact... I am ashamed that I ever liked her. If I though it would make a difference I would say lets make it a mission for the Oz Squad... but it won't. She also mocked the mothers who have written to her in response to this aweful portion of her routine.

Anonymous said...

You are still hilarious, Daniel. I agree with you, though, about how we ever thought any joke made at the expense of some group of human beings could ever be funny. Life does usually teach people what they need to know, so maybe someday these so-called comics will learn how much their comments hurt. I wish no sadness for them, only growth.


Anonymous said...

I'm the mom of a wonderful daughter with cognitive impairment. I am who I am today because of her.
I started a Facebook group you might want to join. It's called Facebook: Stop Allowing Groups that Mock Special Needs and Disabilities. We're up to 30,000 members and can use your help!
It's one person at a time.

RusW said...

I hear you brother. I love a good laugh too and have a liberal sense of humor. I just won't stand for those types of performances. I've learned to walk out, turn off the radio, and change the channel. At the end of the day there is alot of funny stuff out there that doesn't depend on making jokes about people with disabilities, race or sexual preference. When did mean become funny anyway? That kind of comedy is just plain lazy. I can tell you one comedienne who "gets it" is Kathy Buckley. If you have never seen her performance she has a clip on her home page at

kristen said...

Hi Dan,
I totally get what you are saying. I thought I would never laugh again either when my son was born with DS almost 3 years ago. I gave up my life as a fashion designer and went into full time therapy. I want to tell you we have made incredible progress with our son - I have just released a book about what we did for him - he reads at the level of a 6 year old, functions almost completely normally and goes to a 'normal' childcare a couple of mornings a week without an aide - he doesn't need help! check out my book, you may find it gives you reason to laugh sooner than you think!
Kristen Morrison

Brady and Madi said...

I completely understand this! I am very glad to find that other people feel the same way I do. Thank you for putting this into words for me, I have never been able to do so myself.

Nick McGivney said...

Aw Dan, I honestly feel for you here, but at the same time I feel a distance about the topic. Best I can characterise it is that there's a point when you get to see through another's eyes. A unique perspective that really we oughtn't to get, and in fact in many ways are lucky to get (yep, controversial I know!), but seeing however tangentially through the eyes of your own child, who has this difference, well let's just say that I think I learn more from my son with Ds than he will ever learn from me. Maybe not applied maths or political science, but stuff that actually seems yearly more important, like having the laugh that you find harder to come by right now. I'll wager that you laugh better, at what seems less, when you share a chuckle with the little man just for the sheer joy of chuckling, than you ever did at the sophisticated jokes of your ex-fave comedian. An intelligent guy I worked with for years always sought the mean streak in people. He swore that all humour needed a victim. Very often I found it hard to come up with counter arguments. Laughing buddhas didn't count. But I didn't know Jacob then either. And now I laugh at the most ridiculous shit and it feels fine.

Meantime I read about Cori's experience with the insufferable sounding Lisa Lampanelli and I get it, I really do, but I am NOT going to break my stride to try to educate a retarded spirit in ways that if she is lucky she will one day be enlightened enough to understand, and then cringe about her idiotic ways. I'm too busy laughing at Jacob laughing at me when I blow at his ear. She meanwhile is not even something on my shoe, and your starter at the top of the post, whoever he is, has a much lesser take on life than you do, and is a lesser man because of it, and while that may not be his fault, mining it for 'comedy gold' (Oh how we all laugh) sure as shit IS his fault. That, however, is all HIS problem, and don't for a second fear the attacks of other idiots either because there will always be a big fat quota of idiot to be filled. Just not by us. :) I know I'm rambling here but I promise you, when the moment comes you will know that Down syndrome did not steal your sense of humour. It gave it to you.It's up to the rest of the world to catch up or run the risk of thinking that midget-baiting, retard-mocking, faggot-bashing routines are high humour. Last laugh will be on them. Thanks for writing about this, dude. It's a wonderful post, in a wonderful blog, and I'm wonderfully crap at not being here nearly often enough.

Anonymous said...

I listen to that same podcast, and felt really bad after that rant about his fake special needs son. I don't know the solution, but it has definitely changed my opinion about him and the likelihood that I would continue listening.

Leah said...

Upon joining Facebook 3 years ago (before Facebook was THE thing!) I learned a guy I went to school with is now doing stand-up in the area. I really wanted to go see him, but I was hesitant. Like you, I didn't want to be stuck dealing with the crap that comes from short bus jokes, or retard jokes, or any of that stuff. But, I went anyway. To my relief he didn't crack one joke like that! He did tell one gay joke after another though. But he's gay, so I guess that makes it ok??? Fortunately I didn't find him the least bit funny so I don't have to feel bad for not going to see him again.

Sharon said...

Totally agree. My view of what's funny and what's not has definitely changed. I have that anxiety, too and am always so relieved when my anxiety ends up being unfounded and sad, upset, mad when it is.