Special needs

Comic jokes about replacing “R-word” in new sketch—and it’s awful

Comedian Tom Segura's Netflix special, "Disgraceful," provokes anger from families with children who have Down syndrome and bullying retaliation by fans.

Comic jokes about replacing “R-word” in new sketch—and it’s awful

Photo: Netflix

Comedian Tom Segura has provoked outrage in the Down syndrome community, and unleashed a spate of bullying by fans, with a sketch from his recent Netflix special "Disgraceful." The stand-up sketch, which launched on January 12, has Segura suggesting that the use of the R-word be replaced with the term "extra 21st chromosome."

A transcript of the sketch from The Mighty has Segura saying, "You can’t say 'retarded' any more. [audience] It was just here. Don’t you remember? -“'Retarded.'” That’s how I… -[audience] People get very upset. I don’t really support the arguments against it. When people are like, “You shouldn’t say it.” “Why?” “What if there’s one over there?” And you’re like… [audience]

We never said it like that. We were never like, “Look at that guy!” [audience] You didn’t say it like that. You said it to describe an idea, or a situation, you know? If your friend was like, “I’ll pick you up at your house, and then we’ll come back to my place, and later we can go back to your house. And we can get your bags. And then, we’ll come back over here after that...'" Now you’ve gotta be like, “That’s not… smart. Your idea has an extra 21st chromosome, if you ask me.” [audience] It’s not the same."

His comments sparked anger among the parents of children with Down syndrome. For Nao Hatamochi-Pinard, the Toronto mother of a two-year-old with Down syndrome, Segura's comedy is unacceptable.

"I speak up because my daughter works extremely hard, every single day to accomplish many of the things that most people take for granted, but with patience and grace that I think everyone can learn from. And I, as well as the entire Down Syndrome community work hard every day in an effort to let the world know how much people like my daughter have to offer," she said.

Comic jokes about replacing “R-word” in new sketch—and it’s awful Photo: Nao Hatamochi-Pinard

"So although bringing Tom Segura up draws more attention to him, I speak in hopes that it will also spark more productive conversations about vulnerable populations and the use of discriminatory language, and ultimately pique people’s’ interest to look further into the Down syndrome community, where they’ll probably find so much more positivity than they ever expected," she added.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) agrees, calling Segura's language offensive. “You should say it is never okay to use the R-world. By using that word on TV you are setting a terrible example,” said self-advocate Alana Gersky, in a news release statement by CDSS.


“It hurts not only my feelings, but also my families' and friends,'" self-advocate Paul Sawka, the CDSS Awareness Leader, added. "Words like this it makes me feel very mad that you don’t think I have a great life. I do have a great life. When you use this word it makes us look bad and shows no respect to our feelings."

Segura took to Instagram to ask Netflix in response to complaints, further fanning the fire: “Hey @netflix please don’t take my special down. That’d be so r*tarded.”

Some parents and individuals with Down syndrome who objected to the show on social media have received threats and bullying comments form Segura fans, both in public comments and direct messages. The Mighty reports that "One of Segura’s fans posted on the Instagram of a teen with Down syndrome, 'hey I have a downs kid too. Let’s do a play date and you can sit in the corner and drool together.'"

So far, there's no word if Netflix will respond to requests from the Down syndrome community to remove "Disgraceful" from their programming.


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