Are you having a laugh? #tvdis

This morning I had the absolute pleasure of watching my mate Kate Monaghan appear alongside Mat Fraser on @bbcbreakfast. They were being interviewed about the documentary that Kate produced and Mat starred in, Are you having a laugh? TV and disability #tvdis which will be shown this Friday night at 9pm on BBC2.

You can see Kate and Mat’s breakfast interview on the BBC website. They had the job of talking disability, lets be honest never the most popular topic, which was competing for air time alongside the World Cup, the emergency budget, Wimbledon, @beardyman, Willie Nelson and Trinny and Susannah.

What was fantastic, aside from seeing a friend talk so passionately and competently about her work, was the fact that the BBC gave them seven minutes of coverage. That might not sound a lot but I thought it was a really good interview, Sian and Charlie had obviously watched the programme, or at least seen enough of it to talk meaningfully about it and they obviously really had enjoyed it. Always a bonus.

I loved their interview and I can’t wait to watch the programme, which is on BBC2 at 9pm this Friday. Mat Fraser was an absolute gent, ensuring that Kate was brought into the conversation and his personality shone through. The person he reminded me of most, in terms of self-deferential humour, is Paul ‘I’m no Terry Wogan’ Carter whose wit and humour you can pick up on twitter @juniorc0 – two finer examples of people willing to laugh at themselves you’d struggle to find.

So the key points that Kate made in the interview, that are also I believe covered in the documentary were:

  • TV portrayal is oversimplified – soaps do disability as though disabled people can only be baddies or get miraculously healed. This struck a chord and reminded me of Ann McPherson’s words at #box10 yesterday when she pleaded for normal stories – not just heroic or tragic experiences to be shared.
  • Disability is a subject that is inherently funny and we should be able to laugh at it, and we shouldn’t be scared about it and that’s what we’re trying to put across in the programme”. The discussion covered the huge progress that the political correctness movement had led to, Mat no longer being called a spastic in the street for example, but it was also acknowledged that one legacy is that some people are so concerned about saying the wrong thing that they’d rather say nothing at all.
The next bit was one of my favourites in the interview. Kate tried to suggest that for her at least it was ok to be called a spas when sitting in her wheelchair if it was a friend joking about it. This overstepped a line for Sian, she couldn’t contemplate how anyone *could* joke about that – she then moved to Mat for his opinion. I wonder whether this was down to two things:
  1. her own sense of discomfort at joking about disability
  2. her uncertainty as to Kate’s credentials to say such a thing – you see Katie Kate is an unusual case in that she doesn’t appear to have a disability, most of the time. Indeed in all the time I’ve known her I’ve never even seen her wheelchair – but it does make a star appearance in the documentary, look out for the snazzy purple number.

Mat states the need for disabled people to reclaim the language used. The conversation then turns to Oscars being given to able bodied actors playing disabled parts – Mat’s response, a quip that he is getting long prosthetic arms made so he can win an Oscar playing an able bodied person 🙂 Then, when this interview couldn’t get any better, the conversation turns to Glee, you couldn’t ask for more. There is a discussion about Kevin McHale, the actor who plays Artie – but is himself able bodied. Mat and Kate explain that it probably wouldn’t have happened in the UK any more, the BBC policy is to cast to fit – “if the shoe fits or if there’s no shoe, or no leg” – brilliant.

The interview ends with high praise indeed from Sian and Charlie who state that it’s a genuinely very funny programme, that’s absolutely fascinating and not worthy or PC in any way.

Mat F signs off the interview with passing the spotlight back to Kate Monaghan ‘the future face’. I couldn’t agree more. So one final time, it’s on BBC2 this Friday at 9pm; don’t miss it.

2 thoughts on “Are you having a laugh? #tvdis

  1. Really looking forward to watching this – and well done to Kate on this morning’s interview as well.

    Like Sian, I too cringed at Kate’s comments. Maybe it’s because I’m involved with mental health? The progress in politically correct language might have worked well for physical health, but it’s not been so successful for mental health. Where long term mental distress is concerned, there is still very negative reporting and use of language so that it’s not so easy to see any lighthearted side to it.

    I hope Kate’s programme isn’t limited to physical health and includes something about mental health as well – have you any idea if it does? If not, that’s fair enough – but I hope she’d consider making a second programme about it.

  2. Thanks for commenting Karen. I suspect it’s because I know Kate that my cringe was more aimed at the fact that it appeared that Sian deferred to Mat (because he was the obviously disabled one), rather than at Kate’s comments. You’re right though, still a long way to go, but the programme can only help with that.

    I’m not sure – have asked her, I’m sure she’ll let us know though. I’m sure Kate is up for doing more….just a case of getting it commissioned or finding some £££ – as ever.

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