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Funny … or Bullying?

Comic jokes about female comic for being fat and having only one arm.

In his Comedy Central special, Ari Shaffir viciously took on Damienne Merlina, a female comic, for being overweight and unilimbed.

Here are his “jokes.”

“Her name is Damienne Merlina and she is so annoying … Also, she has one arm … I’m only telling you this because when you see her you’d be like, wait is that her or not? She had the fat smell. To wash under her belly fold, you just can’t get under there. I’m sure the one arm didn’t help.”

Ouch! Do you see any jokes in there? A joke, by definition, is something that makes you laugh. Shaffir’s material is mean-spirited and identifies him as a bully, not a standup comic or a standup human being. Good comedy requires punch lines, a premise, a point of view. Ridiculing someone else is … well, best left to the politicians and to Donald Trump, who is now seeing corporate America pull away from him and cancel his contracts. True, we have first amendment rights, but there are consequences for being wrong and cruel.

Recently, some established comics—Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher—have complained that colleges and liberals have become too politically correct. In an ESPN interview, Seinfeld said, “College students throw around 'that's racist/sexist/prejudice' without knowing what they're talking about.”

Yes … yada yada—free speech … yada yada—comedy with an edge. But when that edge personally cuts someone, is it still comedy?

Kudo to Damienne for a classy YouTube video response. She could have ranted, mirroring his hatred, or demand that Comedy Central remove his hateful rant. But, like Monica Lewinsky, she chose to be honest and share what it’s like to be the target of bullying, reminding us to consider what we say about others.

“It’s not OK to attack people based on their size or their physicality. You can be a comic without being super crappy to other people.”

I hope you’ll watch the video here and share your responses with us. I’ll go first: A standup comic picking on someone with a disability is an older version of the school bully, and older means you should know better.

One of the commandments in my book, The Comedy Bible, is to joke fairly and never use comedy to further oppress someone who is already oppressed. Hate crime laws were passed for good reason. They make it illegal to harm someone because of their “immutable characteristics.” That’s legalese for race, gender, creed, religion, and disability (and sexual orientation will soon be added). Bottom line—it’s not fair to pick on someone about something they cannot change.

Comedy is meant to entertain. One factor motivating me to become a comic was I wanted to make my older sister, Marsha, laugh. Severe cerebral palsy made it impossible for her to walk, talk, or use her hands. She drooled and couldn’t control it. Sitting in a restaurant with her when we were young, I heard others laugh at her. “What if you’d been born this way?” I wanted to ask them.

We should all remember Don Rickles saying, “They always use the word 'insult' with me, but I don't hurt anybody. I wouldn't be sitting here if I did. I make fun of everybody and exaggerate all our insecurities.”

Ari, you have the right to be mean, but even those of us with only one arm can change the channel when you’re on TV. If we’re turned off, we can turn you off.

Have you seen comedy that you thought was offensive?

Go to for free MP3s on how to be funny.


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Judy Carter, is the author of The Message of You and The Comedy Bible. She speaks and writes on finding happiness when you're stressed and broke.