I got back from our family holiday on Friday and immediately dived back into the Paralympics. I loved watching the Paralympics. I loved almost everything about it. Before it started, I was a little leery of the “superhumans” title Channel Four were using, although I did like the advert campaign . I enjoyed the sports themselves – and while I was overseas, I did enjoy hearing that Gideon had been booed [Guardian link].
But I have to admit, what I’ve really been enjoying is The Last Leg [Channel 4 link]. I’ve been a fan of Adam Hill for a while – there’s a copy of his show Characterful/Joymonger on youtube (unfortuntely not subtitled) – and I find his approach to disability refreshing. If you haven’t seen it, The Last Leg was a fairly standard comedy-chat-show formatted short piece, that focused on the day’s events at the Paralympics, with guest athletes, and manages at once to be utterly irreverent and wholly celebratory of disability – it laughs at non-disabled people’s assumptions and occasionaly squeamishness, while also laughing at itself, at the experiences of being disabled. They talk about disability – the clip of Jody Cundy and Adam Hill talking about prosthetic legs is refreshingly honest and matter-of-fact – and demonstrate that, just like every other aspect of life, there will always be jokes to be made and things to laugh at. In many ways, The Last Leg reminds me of Disability Bitch [twitter link], albeit without some of the snark (and I do love her snark). The introduction of the #isitok hashtag [twitter link] to ask those questions you think of but aren’t sure if they’re appropriate was, frankly, a genius idea – because unless you are yourself disabled, or know a disabled person well enough to ask about their disability, sometimes you really can’t understand what it means to be disabled, or how to approach something. It’s a fact of life that being disabled makes some other people uncomfortable – and sometimes we do laugh at their discomfort, because otherwise rage is the only option. I admit, some people – as Allen Johnson [wordpress link] has said – have been asking stupid, offensive questions on the hashtag. Because some people are dickheads. But what I’ve also seen is the number of people appreciating having the space to ask these questions, and others appreciating the humour and joy in the show.
This does tie into my writing, honest. One of the things I found in all three interviews was humour – we laughed at the silliness of the things people say, or do, or the things we find outself doing and saying; we didn’t always laugh at disability – because disability isn’t a bundle of laughs all the time, and sometimes the humour was a little bleak. But there was laughter.