Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Making jokes about deaf children

Posted by Ian Noon on March 23, 2011

Ahh, Comic Relief. I settled down on Friday night for an evening of mirth and doughnuts. As the clock approached midnight, Jimmy Carr appeared on the telly. Ahh, I love Jimmy, I thought. Time for another doughnut. What followed was so unexpected that my cleaner is still wiping the doughnut stains off the wall. Yes, Jimmy Carr made a joke about the National Deaf Children’s Society.

I have rarely been so confused about my feelings and emotions, and I’ve watched The Only Way Is Essex. On the one hand, I was thrilled. Jimmy Carr has heard of the National Deaf Children’s Society! He quotes us on Friday night primetime TV! Beat that other deaf charities!

But then I thought, actually, shouldn’t I be offended by this?

The joke was thus: “11 Comic Relief singles at Number One is pretty impressive. Beat that National Deaf Children’s Society.”

If you’re looking as puzzled as my other half was, the joke is that it would manifestly be ludicrous for deaf children or the charity that works for them to do music or get to number one.

Which made me go: “Hey! Deaf children and grown ups listen to music! I may have terrible taste in music myself (I rather enjoyed the Susan Boyle performance on Comic Relief a bit too much after all) but I still “get” music. And we can make music too! My Mum says I have a beautiful singing voice AND I got a certificate for drumming at school!”

In other words, the joke did rather perpetuate the myth that music is alien to deaf children. I can see why some people might have been offended.

So does this mean it’s just not on to make jokes about deaf children?

I feel very wary of entering the debate but me? My own personal view as a card carrying deaf person who used to be a deaf child? I’m embarrassed to say I actually chortled a little at the joke. It was just a joke. It wasn’t particularly aggressive or victimising in its nature. I may have made worse jokes myself about my own deafness.

I guess equality means equality in being the subject of a few jokes once in a while. I don’t honestly believe that Jimmy has it in for deaf children – he is clearly acting a sarcastic persona as part of his comedy. I still love Jimmy, though my love now comes with a slight frown.

Overall, it was nice little light relief in a context where most of my day job is focusing on stopping cuts to services for deaf children. I’m saving my anger to fighting those cuts.

In the meantime though, I’m now on a mission to try and persuade Jimmy to come and make a record with some deaf children. 12 number ones by the time the next Red Nose Day comes along? Bring it on…

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3 Responses to “Making jokes about deaf children”

  1. Clare said

    I think you have to laugh. My deaf daughter is playing The Wanted’s comic relief single on a (very loud) loop at the moment and singing along to it so beat that Jimmy Carr!

  2. Sara mountford said

    My feelings exactly! Like you I was rather pleased the NDCS got a mention but then thought ‘should I be offended?’ and was concerned with myself that I wasn’t conflict everywhere! But I didn’t feel it was aimed at my deaf son directly and look forward to hearing that single

  3. mcconnell said

    I think the problem stems from the word “deaf” as to mean not able to hear anything at all when that’s not always true. It seems to be a paradox to mix “deaf” with that of “music” as to mean hear music. Just as well as how we perceive the word “blind” to mean one cannot see at all when that’s not entirely true when some just have limited vision and not total blindness. Combine “blind” with that of the “visual arts” you might find the two seemingly at odds of each other.
    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1899017,00.html

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