Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Governor Paterson and Satire

There's a story and a video circulating among disability activists about a skit performed by New York governor David Paterson, who happens to be blind.

The story begins ...
Governor Paterson may not have laughed when SNL made fun of his blindness, but he apparently has no qualms skewering other people's disabilities. At the LCA dinner on Saturday, an annual event held by the Albany press corp featuring humorous appearances by politicians, Paterson portrayed an extremely whiny version of the wheelchair-bound man from those TV ads criticizing health care budget cuts a couple of months ago — while also taking shots at Malcolm Smith, Sheldon Silver, and the Post's Fred Dicker.
The question is, "Should people with disabilities laugh, or should we be offended?"

Based on the video is tough to judge. The audio is so poor as to be nearly undecipherable, and the jokes are based on information perhaps only relevant to New Yorkers.

The idea of disability can be an object of fun. John Callahan does it. There have been stand-up comedians using their own disabilities as a foil. I do it myself, making reference to my wheelchair in a surrealistic manner in order to put people at ease. It's a tool. And a weapon.

I suppose what makes me ambivalent about the Paterson romp is that what I see is so poorly presented that it is difficult to comprehend if it is funny.

I suppose what makes me queasy about the attempt is that it was focused outward. Paterson used a disability different from his own as his prop.

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