Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My son with special needs is funnier than you are, Margaret Cho

"I don't necessarily want to have a retard," so-called comedian Margaret Cho said last month. She was on Bravo TV's Watch What Happens Live, discussing her new comedy tour, Mother, which is about motherhood and her hopes of achieving it at age 43. "My eggs are jumping ship," she said, as reported on Fox News. "Seriously, they're like 'The last one's out a retard.'" Host Andy Cohen shook his head and said, "You can't say that" as the audience tittered. (Love the commenter on Breitbart who noted, "That's all right. I'm sure the kid feels the same way.")

How not funny is she? I mean, seriously. Even if I didn't have a kid who was cognitively impaired, I know I still wouldn't get what's amusing. I am weary of comedians who use the word "retard" as a crutch in their routines. (Hel-lo, Tracy Morgan and others.) Sure, comedians sling around other slurs, too. But I say that if you make people with special needs a punchline, you have a humor disability.

I'll tell you about funny, Margaret Cho. My son has a more developed sense of humor than you do. He knows how to joke; you rely on a derogatory term for cheap laughs.

Max, as I pour cold milk into his Rice Krispies at breakfast:
"It's HOT!"

Max, when I ask if he wants a medium or big chocolate milkshake:
"Medium and big!" [Cracks up.]

Max, at the barber shop when I jokingly ask what to do with all the hair the guy just cut off him: He points to the barber's nearly-bald head and says "Him!"

Max, listening to Sabrina sing "Call Me Maybe":

Jon Stewart, he's not. What I'm saying is, I'm thinking Max could help you write some material, Margaret Cho. For a small fee.

Update: Cho issued an apology. Glad to hear it. Saying she has "very little experience with children and mothers," however, doesn't seem like much of an excuse.


  1. Is it so much better if they don't use the R word? Someone I know says directly "I only want to find a young wife, because I don't want any Down Syndrome kids". I can't help but think less of that person for thinking he can control reproduction; plus I know young women in their twenties who have given birth to Down Syndrome babies. Even without the word, it's offensive.

  2. The haircut comment was quite hilarious. However, just some food for thought, I have a relative who doesn't understand why it is socially acceptable to mock his lack of hair... I wonder how we decide what is OK?

  3. Ellen - I winced every time I heard a George Bush malapropism joke when it was clear he had cognitive speech issues; his brother is dyslexic and I"m as sure as I am of anything that many of his speech stumbles have the same origins. One of my sons is dyslexic too and I FEEL it when people mock such challenges.

    Seriously - I never disliked a president more but there are things that only those living with issues can understand unless they TRY. And that's the thing. There is no reason for attempts at humor based on such challenges -- they're not funny and make a speaker appear stupid and crass.

    At least these days there are people like you to speak up for all those who may deserve the respect that all others demand - but don't always get it. Thanks for all you do here. You KNOW I'm a fan but I'm so glad you wrote this one in particular.

  4. Although she was horribly wrong to use that word as a punch line, she did issue an apology. You didn't mention that at all. She can't take the words back or take away the hurt she caused, but she was sincere in her apology and won't be using that word again. You should have at least mentioned that, it's just good journalism. At least she is now aware, I guess.

  5. Ugh...she's so lame.

    Max needs his own show!

  6. Thanks for pointing that out, jtj, I wasn't aware of it and added an update.

    Lisa, Max could be great on a show except that he'd wig out from all the action!

    Anon #1: Her comment was offensive either way. But that much more so because of the word "retard." Anon #2: I hear you but teasing someone about a lack of hair is different than using a slur.

  7. She 'has little experience with children and mothers'? What type of excuse is that? I mean, aside from the fact that she HAS a mother of her own, of course she wouldn't have experience with children. Ugh.

  8. I remember when Tracy Morgan was in the media for using the R-word in his routine...not long after getting a lot of flack for using a homophobic slur, if I remember correctly.

    I don't like comedy that takes cheap shots like that, personally.

    But if comedians really feel the need to use cheap shots at a particular group of people to get a laugh, then they should be willing to use a cheap shot at *anybody* to get a laugh, and be willing to deal with the consequences. Either your comedy style is one where everyone's worthy of respect, or one where everyone's a target - be fair. I can at least *respect* that, even if I don't like the comedy or respect the comedian's stance.

    But I've seen very few comedians that have the integrity to take a stand either way - Morgan, Gervais, and a couple of the other big guys included.

    And...I've written a book. Sorry. Great post. :)

  9. I hate that word & how people throw it around - or use it at all really. Wish people would realize just how powerful words are. Well said, great post {:)

  10. I did a post about that in September or so. http://nobabynoblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/funny-people.html

    I love comedy. I love funny movies. But I always find myself tense, waiting to see if the r bomb is dropped. UGH.

    Listen. Comedy Universe, I'm about to tell you something really important. If you have to make fun of people with cognitive disabilities to get a laugh? You are NOT funny. You're just not.

  11. I hope that Margaret Cho's apology is sincere, but I take it with a healthy dose of skepticism as I believe that her remarks were part of a "shock 'em" comedy routine, as opposed to a "slip of the tongue". I have had difficulties sharing the link, but I would encourage readers to go to Bravo TV's website & view the "After The Show" episode with Margaret Cho & Rosie Pope. During the 1st portion of the episode at about the 6:25 min mark, Ms. Cho explains that she knows that because she used the word r-tard, that she will have to go all "Tracey Morgan" & be a "spokesperson for the Special Olympics" or the "GLAAD for r-tards" to apologize. She also claims that she "looks like she has Down syndrome" & that is why she has "an issue with retarded people.... because "people often mistake her for one". I don't know about you, but it sounds like she's been planning that "comedy" routine for a little while....I personally am waiting for Andy Cohen & the rest of the execs at Bravo to apologize for allowing this type of garbage on their show. Shameful.

  12. That is totally & completely horrible. It is not the least bit funny - it's cruel to children with delays & cruel to mothers, all mothers.
    And I like the milk shake thing - I would also like a medium & a large. With extra chocolate syrup please.

    1. Really, I am not that bothered by it. And I am a mother.

  13. My son has CP and does not happen to have any cognitive delays, but people actually ask if he's retarded on occasion. Someone asked me why it's offensive since he's not retarded, and I can't believe their stupidity in asking! I'm offended because it is offensive! I would feel this way if I didn't have a special needs child. When I'm asked this, I always think...what if he was? What business is it of yours, random rude curious person? My son is in a wheelchair and someone even asked if he was dying once. people are just ignorant, I pray for patience!

  14. I'm not going to engage in a discussion on how the slur "retard" compares to other offenses in this world (especially with someone hiding behind anonymity). It bothers me, and many people.

  15. Uh, bald is a description. Anyone can be bald. Bald people are not disadvantaged in society. Bald people are not treated as burdens on society.

    There are no slurs for bald people, for a reason.

  16. Excellent post.
    I find some of the above comments quite childish. 'Why can't we say this, you probably say that". Really? Obviously all such slurs are hurtful and thus wrong.
    A society is judged by how it treats its weakest members: the very young, the very old, and the handicapped. Be kind people!

  17. This one is my fave! Max, listening to Sabrina sing "Call Me Maybe":

    He is funnier! Glad to hear she issued an apology. Not much of one, but some kind of response is better than not caring at all, I guess.

  18. I do want to point out that Cho wrote a longer apology later, also on her blog on June 1st. I found it to be heartfelt and affecting. Certainly it is terrible that she used the "joke" in the first place, but she is publicly acknowledging that it was wrong, that her motivations were wrong, and that she wants to be a better person. She cannot go back and change what happened and it seems to me she is doing her best to make amends and do so in a public way that will hopefully influence others.

  19. Wefare and Social Services Minister, Moshe Kahlon announced Sunday, that {in Israel) the term "mental and intellectual disability" will replace mental retardation as reported in the Jerusalem Post and Hebrew press, Tuesday, June 19. Better late than never...
    see link to source

  20. Let me correct the new term in Israel: Intellectual and developmental disability.

  21. I have erased the thread of comments involving the anonymous "Donna in Little Rock AR" and will continue to do so, given that she seems quite disturbed. (For the record, if you do not have a profile with an email attached to it, you are posting anonymously.)

  22. Hi Ellen
    Why are people like this?
    Lisa Taylor summed it up best. Any joke which uses the weakest among us just isn't funny.
    We joke at work because we can all take it. I'm nearly 50 so I get 'old' jokes, I'm a bit overweight so I get 'chubby' jokes. I - don't - mind. But to joke about a child, or a disabled child, or a disabled person just to boost your public profile is cheap.
    She apologized. Good. Feel some shame Ms Cho. And then grow up.

  23. Yah. Max IS funnier that her. Thake that, popular entertainment people!

  24. I have a sister with CP i have 3 kids..one just found out he is autistic..he only knew he was dyslexic since this is what we had to focus on along with add, oh and he is in his twenties. the other one is adhd, bipolar, and odd. My eldest is epileptic. And my family is hilarious!! I wouldn't want any other kids in the whole world.They are the best. Successful and independent.


Thanks for sharing!

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