Paterson Can’t See Humor In Blind Jokes

Governor David Paterson was not amused by a skit on Saturday Night Live this weekend. In it, Fred Armison portrayed the blind Paterson as a bit of a bumbling idiot. After a sketch where he says stupid things, Armison continues to wander aimlessly around the set in front of the cameras.

A couple of things. First, the skit was mocking Paterson’s ability as Governor of New York. He has done plenty of stupid things in his life and being blind is not one of them. The biggest point was that Paterson was unprepared for the job and his behavior, not his disability, was the joke.

Next, they did show Paterson wandering aimlessly much in the same way they did when they mocked John McCain during the presidential debates. If anything could be construed as “mean” it was this bit. However, if you saw the skit, it was actually humorous.

Since Paterson did not actually see the skit, his being offended by it seems suspect. Either he only listened to the skit or others relayed their impression of it. While I don’t condone making fun of blind people, I hardly found the humor offensive. Kanye West? Now that was offensive.

The National Federation for the Blind also filed a complaint against NBC and requested an apology. Who knew that when you lose your sight you also lose the ability to laugh at yourself? I am also considering filing a complaint against NBC for the skit where Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph mock all New York women with preposterous accents. It insinuates that New Yorkers cannot be articulate or intelligent. And while that may be true, especially for Yankee fans, I don’t think it is funny and am outraged.

Supposedly, all blind people are owed an apology. Again, none of them saw it so my guess is that they wouldn’t know what the apology is for. If Paterson wants to play with the “big boys” in politics, he needs to be willing to take the punches that come with it. Complaining that he is being ridiculed due to his disability is ridiculous. It’s like saying Sarah Palin was ridiculed for her accent or perceived lack of intelligence. Oh wait, that’s not a good example.

Let’s face it, we all have some sort of “deficit” we must overcome. Even strikingly handsome and well built people like myself struggle. I never know if the ladies are after me for my looks, brains, incredible cash flow, or all of the above. However, it is a handicap I must live with.

If you want an example of mocking the condition of blind people, here is one. I used to have a friend that would “act” blind when we would go to bars out of town. (He carried a cane and wore tinted glasses). He did it for the pity factor and, in spite of its “lower than a worms belly” moral factor, it worked like a charm. He never broke character and scored virtually every time. I am not endorsing this behavior but, if you are really struggling with the ladies…

I am starting to think I should have run with a better crowd as a young man.


9 Responses to Paterson Can’t See Humor In Blind Jokes

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I totally agree. And what’s with all these black people taking offense at the “N” word?

    Come on, man, don’t flaunt your insensitivity quite so publicly. Somebody might actually be reading this. There are 11 million blind people in the US, and their collective unemployment rate is 70%. They qualify as a persecuted minority under virtually any metric you’d care to throw out. They don’t need NBC going for a cheap laugh at their expense, and they don’t need to be told to “get over it.” When they can find a bathroom in an airport without having to feel for the braille sign over an acre of wall space, then maybe a joke or two won’t be in such poor taste. Until then, there’s nothing funny about a blind guy bumping into a desk.

    • tannerleah says:

      Anon- Could I use the “I have a friend who is blind” excuse?

      Again, the joke was aimed at the governor…not blind people in general. Every time someone does an “Ah-nold” impersonation doesn’t mean they are putting down the Austrian people.

      Don’t confuse a disability with having a sense of humor. You could also make a laundry list of things that people in wheel chairs deal with everyday in real life. That doesn’t mean putting a rocket on one and shooting it off a ramp can’t be funny.

      Did I mention I have a blind friend?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Some of my best friends are black, so its okay when I make an occasional watermelon joke, right?

    Look, I get as irritated as the next person when the PC police get all hyperventilated about some venal transgression or another, but it is important to remember the sensitivities of the target group when it comes to humor. There’s nothing to take offense at when someone does the “Ah-nold” bit, because there’s nothing inherently disadvantageous about being Austrian. But if you make Jew jokes with an Austrian accent, suddenly nothing about it is funny anymore, either to Jews or Austrians.

    And the same is true for the blind (actually the PC term is “visually impaired”, and even that has been supplanted by the even less poetic “people with visual impairments”). There’s nothing wrong with involving blind people in humor, and probably nothing wrong with using the fact that they can’t see as one of the mechanisms for a joke. But when you use blindness to make someone look stupid or inept, you are linking the two concepts in a way that is unfair and offensive, because sets up an equivalency relationship — blindness equals ineptness.

    There’s nothing about putting a rocket on a wheelchair that emphasizes anyone’s disability, or makes anyone appear as being somehow less worthy than the rest of us. I think that’s a significant difference, and I think it is the source of offense at the SNL skit. By portraying the Governor as a bumbling blind guy, SNL equated “bumbling” and “blind”, and inferred (probably without meaning to) that bumbling blind guys make bad governors.

    But all this is an aside anyway. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General? Criminy — if you want something to criticize, here’s your stage prop. Reminds me of the “Harriet Myers for Suprreme Court” debacle.

    • tannerleah says:

      Anon – I acquiesce to your argument. It is well stated and I can’t quibble with your logic. (Plus you get bonus points for not cursing me).

      I think Sanjay was nominated so they could get everyone to quickly forget that Leon Panetta is in charge of the CIA. I have a much bigger problem with that appointment.

      And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to tell watermelon jokes to your black friends. (You can also do a riff on fried chicken).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting…I never get that much respect when people know who I am. Turns out there is something to be said for lurking.

    I must be the only person on Earth who doesn’t hate the Panetta pick. I continue to think he was chosen to be a guy from outside the intelligence culture, but with enough credibility to do a little house cleaning in a place where there’s going to be lots of defensiveness. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m glad Obama didn’t pick a spook to clean out the spook-house. When the head of the CIA tells me they aren’t breaking international laws and torturing people, I want to feel confident of two things: a) he actually knows if it is true or not, and b) I can believe what he says.

    We’ll see if Panetta turns out to be that guy or not, but to me it wasn’t an entirely illogical choice. Gupta on the other hand…way too made-for-TV to suit me. I want a guy who will tell me that smoking is dangerous (in 1964, when tobacco was socially de rigueur, and had 4 lobbyists on staff for every 3 smokers). My sense is that Gupta is more of “benefits of selenium” kind of guy.

    • tannerleah says:

      So when you say the word “spook”, you mean that in the sense of a spy of some sort…I only ask because my PC radar is in hyper drive.

      Plus, you used the term “de rigueur”. This blog usually attracts the trailer park crowd so you might be on the wrong side of the tracks…although we welcome all with open arms. (Except for Cheney or Rummy).

      I think to be part of a dirty organization you have to have a little stink on ya. Leon doesn’t seem like that kind of guy.

  4. elizabeth3hersh says:

    I take exception to the above comment referencing your trailer park contributors…”de rigueur” is part of my Français vocabulaire…vous êtes excusés! I share your readers concern about Sanjay Gupta. The Review-Journal (Las Vegas) recently replaced highly esteemed and beloved columnist Dr. Paul G. Donahue with new age docs (the Oprah-esque Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen) who give us tips on “how to get smarter in six minutes!” Whoo-hoo, I’m ready to sign up for Mensa! Gupta will have us passing the bong and bathing in herbal tea with vitamin impregnated loofahs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What Elizabeth says about the loofahs, tea and vitamin-infused bongs sounds intriguing — maybe I was wrong on this whole Gupta thing.

    But getting back to Panetta, I’m particularly fond of your quote, “I think to be part of a dirty organization you have to have a little stink on ya.” Panetta was Chief of Staff for many years in the Clinton administration. He’s got _at least_ a little stink on him, and really there’s no telling what else might have stuck to him (how’s that for trailer park?). I just hope he could write off his dry-cleaning bills as a business expense. Like I said, we’ll have to see if he’s got enough cred to bust heads inside the CIA, but I don’t automatically discount it.

    As for the “spook” reference, some of my best friends are black spies, and besides you said it was okay….

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