"It Was a Joke For Him and a Life For Me": A Discourse on Disability Related Humor among Families of Children with Disabilities


  • Alicja Rieger




humor and disability, families of a child with a disability, familial humor interactions, and qualitative research


This study examines closely in what ways six families of children with disabilities considered themselves insiders and in what ways and context they perceived themselves as outsiders with regards to disability humor. In-depth interviews, participant observation, and selective cartoon analysis were used to collect data. The data were analyzed qualitatively with the help of the constant comparative method. In terms of the findings, different phases through which disability humor passes (Haller & Ralph, 2003) were identified among families from this study. If the disability was the one that they as a family encountered in their familial circles, they were able to move past protest humor toward a humor of equality. That is, they achieved regular lives via their displays of familial humor interactions and thus "demystified the disability experience" (Haller & Ralph, 2003, p. 5) for themselves and other families, as the audience. Within this framework, children with disabilities had not only the right to participate in familial discourse on humor but also an equal status in humor appreciation and production. However, if the disability humor was about a disability other than the one they were personally acquainted, they largely perceived such humor with "sympathetic and lamentable attitudes" (Baum, 1998, p. 3), indicating that they still remained steadfast in their "ableist" conceptions of disability and, thus maintained a "politically correct" orientation toward other disabilities and humor.