DRF News

Special Issue on ‘Disability and Television’ out now!!

This month the Journal of Popular Television is publishing an exciting special issue on ‘disability and television’ edited by Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University) and Brett Mills (University of East Anglia).

More info can be found here: http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-issue,id=2916/

Articles include:

  • Something special: Care, pre-school television and the dis/abled child ~ Amy Holdsworth
  • ‘It’s really scared of disability’: Disabled comedians’ perspectives of the British television comedy industry ~ Sharon Lockyer
  • From awww to awe factor: UK audience meaning-making of the 2012 Paralympics as mediated spectacle ~ Caroline E. M. Hodges,  Richard Scullion and  Daniel Jackson
  • Supersize vs. Superskinny: (Re)framing the freak show in contemporary popular culture ~ Allison Leadley
  • In their words: How television and visual media can raise awareness of dementia and other health conditions that carry stigma, including disabilities ~ Michelle Heward, James Palfreman-Kay and  Anthea Innes
  • Disability in television crime drama: Transgression and access ~ Katie Ellis

Reflection Pieces include:

  • Disability and television: Notes from the field ~ Sarah Barton
  • A ‘surprising and mature portrait’? Reflecting on representations of mental illness in Rookie Blue ~  Shane Brown
  • Is New Zealand ready for more diversity on-screen? ~ Philip Patston and  Barbara Pike

Enjoy 🙂

DRF News

Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) Research Seminar Series 2014/15 ‘Comedy, Health and Disability’ – Seminar 1

To celebrate their 1st birthday, the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) are holding their first Comedy Matters Research Seminar for 2014-15.

Date: Wednesday 8th October 2014

Time: 4.00pm-5.30pm with a drinks reception/birthday party 5.30pm-6.30pm

Location: Mead Room, Hamilton Centre, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH

Seminar 1 = Comedy and Mental Health Symposium

This symposium will discuss comedy and its relationship to mental health, with speakers discussing the psychology of the stand-up comedian, the use of stand-up comedy in reducing mental health stigma in the military and uses of comedy with mental health service users.

Speakers: Gordon Claridge is Emeritus Professor of Abnormal Psychology, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Emeritus Fellow, Magdalen College, and Visiting Professor, Oxford Brookes University. Professor Claridge is an internationally renowned expert in the relationship between personality and psychological disorders, adopting a broadly dimensional view. Recently, he has been involved in research on the psychology of the stand-up comedian. More generally, his research on the relationship between personality and psychological disorders has been inspired, on the practical front, by working as a clinical psychologist and, on the academic front, by experimental research on the topic. In mid-career he began to focus particularly on psychotic disorders, developing measurement scales for assessing schizotypal characteristics in the general population and using these to examine laboratory correlates in a wide range of subject samples, including relatives of psychotic patients. The central thesis in all of this work is that, while genetically predisposing to mental illness, psychotic characteristics are not in themselves pathological. On the contrary, they may have many healthy adaptive qualities, of which creativity is the most salient example.

Tim Sayers works as one of the arts in health co-ordinators at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT). He has a background in mental health nursing, specialising in working with people with severe and enduring mental health problems and also with people with drug and alcohol problems. Tim has been involved with arts in mental health on a voluntary basis for approximately fifteen years; initially as a founder member of the Brainstorm Arts in Mental Health Group in Birmingham, then as the founder member of BrightSparks: Arts in Mental Health Group in 1999. BrightSparks is dedicated to promoting positive images of mental health through the arts and has an expanding portfolio of arts projects which are mainly delivered in partnership with LPT. Tim is dedicated to using the arts, in particular comedy, to promote positive images of mental health, social inclusion, and service user and carer involvement. Tim is studying for an MSc in Recovery and Social Inclusion at Nottingham University at present, and has had articles published in his field in the past. He has extensive experience of teaching and workshop leading and is also an experienced freelance performer and workshop leader in the fields of music, poetry, comedy, magic and circus skills.

John Ryan is a stand-up comedian and one of seven co-researchers at the Department for Military Mental Health, Kings College, London, on a project that examined ‘modifying attitudes to mental health using comedy as a delivery medium’ in the armed forces. The research aimed to use comedy to help persuade military personnel to seek help with mental health issues. John is also winner of the 2011 Scottish Mental Health and Arts Film Festival Best Short Documentary Award, the 2010 NHS Regional Health and Social Care award winner for Mental Health and Well Being and in 2010 received a Royal Society for Public Health Special Commendation for contributions to the field of Arts and Health Equalities.

We are pleased to announce that we have one £40 travel grant available for a low income researcher or PhD student attending this event. Please email Simon Weaver [simon.weaver@brunel.ac.uk] by Monday 29th September 2014 if you wish to apply.  To apply please send a short paragraph (max 250 words) explaining why you wish to attend the seminar.

For catering purposes please register at comedy.studies@brunel.ac.uk

Everyone very welcome!

For more information, please email Dr Sharon Lockyer (Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Communications + Director, Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR), Brunel University, UK) [Sharon.Lockyer@brunel.ac.uk]

Twitter: @Comedy_Studies

DRF News

New JLCDS Special Issue on Disability, Comedy and Humour out now!! (eds – Coogan and Mallett)

Volume 7, Number 3 / 2013 of Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies is now available.  (You can keep up to date with the journal by clicking here to sign up to new issue alerts, and can learn more about the title at its website page here.)

This issue is a Special Issue on Disability, Comedy and Humour edited by Tom Coogan (Univ. of Birmingham) and Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University). It contains:


  • Introduction ~ Tom Coogan and Rebecca Mallett ~ pp.247-253


  • “People Who Look Like Things”: Representations of Disability in The Simpsons ~ Moritz Fink ~ pp.255-270

The article discusses the television series The Simpsons in the context of disability studies. Referring to David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder’s theory of narrative prosthesis, the argument is that their notion of disability as a metaphorical device falls short of the specific function of disability in satire as both a source of humor and social commentary. As the reading of The Simpsons suggests, the show uses images of the grotesque as a form of
graphic humor; furthermore, these images provide potentials of distanciation and critical thinking concerning the objectification of disability in the dominant discourse and the visualization of it in the media.


  • Cool Aspie Humor: Cognitive Difference and Kenneth Burke’s Comic Corrective in The Big Bang Theory and Community ~ Shannon Walters ~ pp. 271-288

The article explores the complexities of humor in the context of intellectual disability, autism, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Specifically, the rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s theory of perspective by incongruity is applied to humor theory, and there is a focus on his comic corrective as a way of understanding potentially transformative contexts of humor and disability. Two television shows, The Big Bang Theory and Community, are considered, the
argument being that each offers new and unexpected ways of understanding and blurring categories such as “autistic” and “neurotypical,” as well as “nondisabled” and “disabled.”


  • Handi-/Cappin’ Slaves and Laughter by the Dozens: Divine Dismemberment and Disability Humor in the US ~ Darryl A. Smith ~ pp.289-304

The article claims that insofar as “the dozens” or “capping” – black combative humor – arose out of slavery and its prohibition against fighting (which threatened “property damage”), it is fundamentally a humor of disability. Because of this more or less unique form of comedic creation and conditioning, not all contemporary American humor that deploys disability demeans it. Rather, some such humor deploys disability in remedial, considerably redemptive ways, demonstrable through black folklore and literary texts. Such texts illuminate the peculiar form of American comedy as a practice in tragic “extravagance,” one substantially born of its own extravagant source in racial bondage.


  • “Why so serious?”: Cripping Camp Performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight ~ Cynthia Barounis ~ pp. 305-320

Using as a case study Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight, and building from recent work on disability and humor, the article explores the disabled body as a potential site of camp performance and outrageous parody. The Joker’s sartorial flair and his commitment to style over substance, it is argued, construct him as a variation of the Wildean homosexual dandy whose superficiality is politicized as a form of queer resistance to both capitalism and the institutionalized hierarchies of the state. Furthermore, the crip dimensions of the Joker’s drag performances – and in particular, the narrative agency with which he continually destabilizes the origins of his facial scar – extends that camp sensibility beyond sexuality to explore disability as performative process rather than a pathological state. Developing a concept of disability camp not only helps us to shake up the representational terrain of both queer studies and disability studies, but also provides new and exciting opportunities for theorizing the intersections of disability, humor, and performance.


  • Invalid Animals: Finding the Non-Human Funny in Special Needs Pets ~ Brett Mills ~ pp. 321-335

The promotional material for the UK Channel 4 documentary Special Needs Pets asks, “how far are pet owners prepared to go when their pets develop special needs?” The programme recounts the stories of a number of what the voice-over refers to as “invalid animals,” and asks, “Do we love our pets too much?” In its use of music and voice-over, the programme can be seen to encourage a confusingly comic response from its audience, who are invited to find funny both the behaviour of the animals featured and that of their owners. While not simplistically equating human and non-human notions of disability, the article suggests that exploring the comic aspect of the programme gives insights into human understandings of this category. It argues that while some aspects of the programme might be seen as encouraging audiences to find disability funny, the humour more often works to confuse readings of the programme’s content, and therefore, perhaps, opens up a space for a range of contradictory understandings of disability.


  • Comment from the Field: Perspectives on Comedy and Performance as Radical Disability Activism ~ Alan Shain ~ pp. 337-346



Disability Studies and..., DRF News, Media and Culture

Lawrence Clark Returns to Edinburgh

Underbelly (The Wee Coo), Edinburgh – 3rd-28thAugust (not 16th) @ 6.40pm
Tickets from 0844 545 8252 or the Underbelly website.

What links Stephen Hawking, cardboard tube fights, Shane MacGowan, private health insurance, George Washington, Mussolini, a religious cult, the Queen, global Armageddon and the NHS?  Find out as highly acclaimed comedian Laurence Clark embarks on a one-man mission to help Obama sell the benefits of free healthcare to the American people.

“Intelligent and challenging… always a thought-provoking point behind the laughter.” **** Chortle

Following his critically acclaimed 2008 Edinburgh Fringe show which received an impressive total of eight 4 star reviews, Laurence Clark has taken a couple of years off from the Edinburgh Fringe to focus on his writing and creative development. He now gives talks and performances all over the world – including the US where he found inspiration for his show – and has a dedicated BBC1 documentary secured for Autumn / Spring broadcast. If you’re lucky you may see the crew following him round Edinburgh during the Fringe.

As an actor, presenter, commentator and comedian on BBC, ITV and C4, Laurence appears in documentaries, sitcoms, news shows and features and has also topped Shortlist magazine’s Britain’s Ten Funniest New Comedians. He is now returning to the Edinburgh Fringe to perform his brand new live show Health Hazard!

“Close to the bone and very funny… makes Chris Morris look lightweight.” **** The Scotsman

Inspired by his trips to the US, and the furore surrounding American health reforms, Laurence returned with camera-in-hand to find out for himself exactly how the American public view state-funded healthcare. Surely tales of Americans actually believing the NHS operates specialist death panels who decide whether you live or die are just propaganda and sensationalist press reporting … aren’t they? With personal tales, political exposés and an educational journey punctuated with bizarre incidents and amazing characters, Laurence Clark’s Health Hazard! is a show not to be missed.

“Any vaguely sentient being ought to leave this stupendously funny and thought-provoking show with their sides split and their minds buzzing. Laurence Clark has a wit drier than the Navajo desert, a control of timing that would put Seiko to shame and scores upon scores of fizzingly funny one-liners.” The Stage

Laurence has written 5 highly acclaimed solo shows, is a regular writer for BBC Ouch! and performs and writes sketches for comedy group Abnormally Funny People.  Across all his shows Laurence has had 18 x 4-star reviews and 3 x 5-star reviews.

“Remarkably funny… a damn fine comedian” **** Fest
“intelligent and incredibly mischievous” **** Metro
“nothing short of an excellent comedian” **** Three Weeks

Also visit Lawrence’s website at: www.laurenceclark.co.uk 

Development funded by Arts Council England, DaDafest ’10, Liverpool Decade of Health and Well-Being and North West Training and Development Team

DRF News, Media and Culture, Publications

Disability, Humour and Comedy ~ a Special Issue of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies: Call for Papers

In recent years disability’s relationship with humour and comedy has begun to be theorised.  A special issue of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies seeks to provide a platform for these debates.

Guest edited by Dr. Tom Coogan (University of Leicester) and Dr. Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University) the Call for Papers is as follows:

According to Morreall (2009), the Incongruity Theory “is today the most widely accepted theory of humour.” This theory holds that what makes a situation humorous is “that there is something odd, abnormal or out of place, which we enjoy in some way.” Add to this Mitchell and Snyder’s (2000) concept of narrative prosthesis, which identifies disability (and with it oddness, abnormality and “out of placeness”) as the crutch upon which narratives lean for their representational power, and a more fundamental relationship between disability and humour is suggested. As Moran (2003) has observed, humour is a term with a multitude of meanings. Among other things, she observes, it is a “cognitive style”; a term for a stimulus (e.g. a joke) or the response (e.g. laughter); a term for complex interactions between individuals; a “personality trait”; and an inherent characteristic.

Whatever the meaning, humour remains a multi-faceted thing. It can include as well as it excludes. It can both ease and exacerbate. What is clear is that humour creates many more questions than it answers. Who is allowed to make jokes about disability? If we are offended, should we just “get a sense of humour”? Is there a hierarchy of impairments, with some impairments being “fair game” and others “off limits”? Is there such a thing as “disability” humour? Does humour run the risk of attacking the seriousness, and thus the legitimacy, of disability rights? Or does it have a part to play in the struggle for such rights? How is disability playing out in the current vogues for satirical comedy and the comedy of embarrassment (e.g. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Office”)?

This special issue of JLCDS will explore the interplay between humour, impairment and disability across all forms of culture and the media. Submissions might consider representations of disability in particular texts or specific forms. Alternatively, they might examine disability theory in relation to humour theory. Submissions on all topics related to disability, humour and comedy are very welcome. Considerations of the impact of “political correctness” – the policing of what can and cannot be made funny – as well as the impact of “critical correctness” (Mallett, 2007) – the policing of what can and cannot be said about humorous/comedic representations of disability -are encouraged. We urge submissions to think the unthinkable and address the difficult questions.

Proposals (400 word abstract and a short bio) should be emailed to the guest editors Tom Coogan (University of Leicester): tac7@le.ac.uk or Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University): r.mallett@shu.a.uk by March 1st, 2011.  Final submissions will be due by October 2011.

Critical Theory, DRF News, Publications

Recommended Reads for September

So far, September has been a good month for publications from DRF members. Rebecca Mallett‘s long-awaited piece on disability in British comedy (entitled ‘Claiming Comedic Immunity: Or, What Do You Get When You Cross Contemporary British Comedy with Disability?’) is now out in Review of Disability Studies and Anne McGuire‘s ‘Disability, non-disability and the politics of mourning: Rethinking the ‘we’has just been published by Disability Studies Quarterly.  That particular issue of DSQ is jam-packed with Anne’s University of Toronto colleagues, including another DRF member. Tanya Titchkosky‘s ‘The Not-Yet-Time of Disability in the Bureaucratization of University Life’ will be well worth a read for anyone who has struggled with the joys(!) of ‘disability’ within a university context.