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Category — Newsworthy Notables

OBESITY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER

OBESITY ISN’T FUNNY

By now, I’m thinking that most of you have already read Dr. John Kelly’s unfortunate article, where he used one-liners to “find humor” on the subject of obesity. If you haven’t read it, I’m not going to post a link to it because I think enough people have already read and responded to it, and there is really nothing new that could be added to the discussion.

That article (and the reaction from the obese community) inspired today’s post, because everyone has the right to be unfunny.

Let’s begin:

COMEDY IS NOT A LAUGHING MATTER

Comedy is important to me. Being funny takes guts and you have to be a risk taker to pull it off well. Sometimes that works out great; other times…not so much. Just take a poll of people who know me, and ask them to describe me in 5 words. I guarantee you, the word “Funny” will be near the top (and might be repeated). It’s who I am, and it’s a part of myself that I’ve always embraced — especially when I was obese. You see, being funny was a great way to deflect attention from my obvious *indelicate condition.* Like most comedians, I used my humor as protection from the world, figuring that if I said something derogatory about myself first, others would realize that nothing they could say would hurt me. I was offensively offensive. (Or defensively defensive. Or defensively offensive…I can’t be sure).

However you define it, you and I know it was a lie, but that didn’t stop me from believing it.

LAUGHING UNTIL YOU CRY

Have you ever laughed so hard, tears streamed down your face and you couldn’t see straight? There’s a fine line between humor and anger — at least in my experience. The thing that truly makes something “funny” is the kernel of truth behind the joke. We feel better when we can laugh at an uncomfortable truth; it diffuses the tension. And, any comedian worth his salt will string you along, dropping bread crumbs of your life experiences so you can follow the joke to it’s “inevitably” funny conclusion. He’ll invite you to agree with him so you can laugh with him. How many times have you listened to a comedian and said, “Oh my gosh! That’s happened to me!” or, “That is SO TRUE!”

Basically, the comedian’s job is to make sure we are on his side, in order to keep the laughs coming.

WHEN THE JOKE FALLS FLAT
(Alternately known as, “Oh Crap!” or “I Take it Back!”)

Unfortunately, humor is not a guaranteed thing, and what one person finds funny, another might find disgusting or offensive; what I laugh about might not be what you laugh about, which is why there are so many forms of humor: Visual, slapstick, potty, crass, edgy, whimsical, goofy, biting, audible, sardonic, droll, juvenile, etc. Ever think about the number of comedy movies out there? Trust me, I’m a very discerning comic, and I admit that I don’t find much of the contemporary movies to be funny. But, just watch my daughter and husband viewing “Jackass” and you’ll see what I mean. I’m left scratching my head, going “What’s so funny about someone getting locked in a car with a swarm of angry bees?” and my family is saying, “Let’s watch that again! That’s freaking HYSTERICAL!”

Comedians put themselves out there and hope that everything they say or do will be funny. When it isn’t, it can be downright uncomfortable. Ever seen a joke go over like a lead balloon? At best, you’ll hear uncomfortable laughter and throat-clearing; at worst, you’ll get a roomful of boos, or some walk-outs. Comedy isn’t pretty. But, that doesn’t stop us from trying. Maybe we’re slow learners, but as a comic, I LIVE for the laugh. I LOVE it when someone gets my humor. I LOVE it when I can make my best friend laugh so hard, she snorts cherries through her nose and begs for mercy (as best she can between guffaws.) I’m relentless and sadistically string her along — waiting for the moment when the laughter will die down (meaning that she is recovering) just long enough to spring my next salvo on her. It’s my favorite pastime.

But, guess what? Not everybody likes my humor. Some people think I can be mean, while others are sure I’m just trying to be superior by saying things so cerebral, no one will ever get the joke. Trust me, it’s the “Jackass” crowd; I’m convinced…but anyway…

WHEN LAUGHTER IS NOT THE BEST MEDICINE

If you will recall, I began this post with mention of Dr. John Kelly and his unfortunate article. I’ll be honest: I experienced a broad range of emotions when I first read it. Initially, I was disgusted. I remember saying that I thought the man was a “pig.” I might have even said he was a “stupid pig” (I’m not sure). Next, I was dismayed, because I didn’t think the hurtful one liners were even FUNNY. It’s one thing to say something mean that’s funny, and quite another to say something that’s both mean AND unfunny.

Fortunately, I didn’t stop there. I decided to write the “stupid” doctor a letter — but took great care not to lambast or insult him. After all, it’s pretty hard to educate someone you’ve just eviscerated. People are funny that way…

Anyway, here is why I took the time to write the letter:

  1. I felt he deserved to be treated the same way I would want to be treated if I found myself in a similarly untenable position.
  2. I knew he was already getting run through the meat grinder by angry obese people, and didn’t want to “pig pile” on him.
  3. I really wanted an explanation, so I could better understand the “why” behind the article.
  4. I truly believed he had made a catastrophic, yet innocent, error; he had a momentary lapse of judgment; he made a huge mistake. I wanted to help him understand why he was getting attacked.

Guess what? He wrote me back — and boy, did I feel his pain. He’d been insulted, verbally assaulted, lambasted, grilled, belittled and yes, even threatened. Why? Because he wrote an INSENSITIVE and UNFUNNY article. He poked fun at an easy target. Everyone laughs at the fat person, right? Sadly, I think what made the situation the worst was this simple fact: HE IS A DOCTOR, and he should *know better.* That’s right, he, more than just about anyone else, should understand the pain of this disease.

Guess what? He’s human and he screwed up.

But…he OWNED it — immediately. He fell on his sword and did everything he could to stuff that genie back into the bottle. But, of course, just like when we (weight loss surgery people) eat something we shouldn’t, and get horribly sick, we can’t undo the damage; we can only try to do better next time and HOPE we are given a second chance. Sadly, that is not at all what happened. He wasn’t given a second chance, and apparently, to some letter writers, only death by a thousand cuts would come close to serving as penance for his grievous sins.

Here’s what confuses me: We (as obese and formerly obese people), demand compassion and understanding. We scream and holler about how insensitive people can be; how rude and judgmental they are; how mean and unforgiving they are. We don’t let anyone get away with ANYTHING that smacks of insensitivity to the obese population.

So, if that’s the case, why wasn’t Dr. Kelly treated with the same compassion and understanding we demand? Why wasn’t he given a chance to explain himself, acknowledge his error, and apologize?

I don’t know about you, but I was given a second-chance when I had weight loss surgery.

I was treated by a doctor who was probably just as frustrated as Dr. Kelly with having to operate on an obese patient — but he operated on me anyway — just as Dr. Kelly does.

Fortunately, there is a lesson to this mess:

We  Should All Be Perfect and Never Make Mistakes.

Wait. Maybe that *isn’t* the lesson, although, to read the hate mail Dr. Kelly received, you’d surely *think* it was.

Let me try that again…

The moral of the story is this:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Take the time to understand what you do not understand
  • Make decisions based upon accurate information
  • Forgive when forgiveness is honestly requested

Pretty simple, don’t you think?

I am a fan of Dr. Kelly — the man who made a serious mistake.
The man who offended a million people in one fell swoop.
The man who tried to be funny, but wasn’t.
The man who saves people’s live through surgery.
The man who apologized for the error of his ways.
The man who is not being given a second chance.

I’m not asking you to be a fan; I’m asking you to forgive and allow him to make amends. I truly believe he is a “convert to the cause.” He wants to join the battle against bias, stigmatism and criticism of the obese. I think that, if you’ll give him a chance, you might hear something you actually agree with.

At the end of the day, no one issued me death threats when I was obese; I believe Dr. Kelly deserves the same consideration. He is, after all, only human.

October 27, 2011   11 Comments