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Disability and Comedy

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Edinburgh fringe logo Image credit: http://pauljcreegan.com

The Edinburgh Fringe festival kicks off today and for the next month Scotland’s capital will be showcasing the best and worse in comedy talent.

We thought we would delve into the funny world of comedy itself and how disability pays it part in this laughable form of entertainment.

First off let’s start with the Fringe festival itself and a couple of shows by comedians with various forms of disabilities. First of all there’s Funny as a Crutch at the Rambunctious Theatre from 7-13 August. The performance includes nine sketches which portray prejudices and stereotypes in the disabled community; it even has its own fairy tale about Cripperella! The second story we suggest you check out is by Laurence Clark, a very funny comedian with cerebral palsy who first played the Edinburgh Fringe in 2003. His current show ‘Health Hazard’ plays at the Underbelly (The Wee Coo) until 28 August excluding 16 August.

It’s all well and good if you mock those with disabilities if you have one yourself, but in today’s PC world the subject a controversial one for comedians in general. Take for example Tracy Morgan, star of the American TV series, 30 Rock. Morgan has recently been criticised for making a joke aimed at disabled kids, which haven’t gone down too well over in the States.

At a New York comedy club last week, Morgan said: Do not "mess with women who have retarded kids” because “them young retarded males is strong … they’re strong like chimps," the comedian has been advised to apologise for his remark, something he had to do in the past after offending gay and lesbian groups which another controversial outburst.

Last year Frankie Boyle hit the headlines after making a joke aimed at Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey on his Channel 4 series Tramadol Nights, the channel later defended his comment.

Even though Boyle and Morgan have been criticised making jokes in this nature, is this excluding disabled people? If you attend a typical comedy show you expect jokes which refer to all kinds of controversial topics from gender to sexuality, race and religion. If a comedian made headlines every time they touched on these topics we would be bombarded with daily stories and one thing a majority of disabled people are good is having a very good sense of humour.

Of course some would argue Boyle stepped the line making fun at a certain individual but in most cases isn’t a joke relating to disabled people no more discriminating as having a jab at any other minority? The argument against this is because ‘Disabled people can’t defend themselves’, which on the whole is a load of rubbish!

Edinburugh Fringe 2011 runs between August 5 - 29