Special Olympics Blasts Showtime for Comedy Special's R-Word 'Jokes'

Special Olympics is asking Showtime to remove a section of its comedy special, “Gary Owen: I Agree With Myself,” which repeatedly uses the word “retarded” and makes tasteless jokes about people with intellectual disabilities.

The 75-minute special aired in January but has just been brought to Special Olympics’ attention. It is still available online and OnDemand. In it, Owen jokes about his cousin, who has an intellectual disability, calling her the R-word and poking fun at her sex life.

On Tuesday, Chairman of the Board Tim Shriver released the following statement and launched a petition against Showtime:

We live in an era where bullying has become public sport, where public figures and leaders from dozens of walks of life seem to believe that humiliation and viciousness are acceptable ways of communicating. The results are disastrous: racism, sexism, fear, violence, and even terrorism. They all have the same root: demonizing someone who is different.

Some think it’s funny. We don’t. We think it’s horrific and we’re asking you to help us stop it.

Showtime’s comedy special, “I Agree with Myself,” includes Gary Owen’s disparaging use of the word “retarded” to describe his cousin with intellectual disabilities. His routine ranges from being insulting to people with intellectual disabilities to being dangerous in that it recalls practices ranging from institutionalization to infanticide. He mocks their speech, mocks their love, mocks their sexuality, mocks them as people and worst of all, does so without any qualms or hesitation. He can pick on his cousin. Why? According to him: because she’s “retarded.” Apparently, she isn’t worthy of even the most basic dignity. To him.

None of this is funny. At all. It is callous and gratuitous verbal violence. It is infuriating and dangerous and should not be condoned by citizens, corporations, or leaders.

We are determined to stop it. Read more and sign our Change.org petition.

Spread the Word to End the Word ambassador and acclaimed actor John C. McGinley took to Twitter on Tuesday to voice his disappointment. “You are a spineless-comedy-coward, of the first order,” McGinley wrote, tagging Owen. “Congrats, on mediocrity. #bullying.” McGinely has written extensively to end the use of the R-word. You can read him on The Huffington Post.


Shriver told Disability Scoop he’s reached out twice to David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks, to no avail. Showtime has not yet responded to The Mighty’s request for comment.

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