New Sitcom Features Comedian With Cerebral Palsy Who Uses His Disability to Be a 'Jerk'
Disability takes center stage in a new sitcom airing in the U.K. called “Jerk.” The show features comedian and actor Tim Renkow, who has cerebral palsy, and the hijinks his character gets into for being, well, a “jerk.”
“Jerk” features Renkow as an American immigrant in the U.K. who is, according to the show’s overview, a bit of an “asshole.” While he tries to get a Visa to stay in the U.K., he offends co-workers, fakes being a refugee, “makes a disabled nemesis” and generally makes people uncomfortable when he finds himself in situations that are irresistible.
According to the Guardian, for example, in the first episode of the sitcom, Renkow spots a customer without disabilities using the cafe’s disability stall in the restroom. Renkow then pours water over his crotch and hangs around outside the stall on his walking frame until the customer without disabilities comes out of the stall.
Renkow told the Guardian that earlier in his career he felt his comedy got “pity” laughs because of his disability. So he turned his tone darker matching the vibe of TV favorites like “The Office” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The result has been a brand of comedy uniquely his own that is very much centered around his disability.
“I do use [cerebral palsy] to get away with a lot,” Renkow told the Guardian. “Not so much now, but at school I’d be like, ‘Oh, no, I’m too disabled to do that.’ But I liked it when teachers called me on it and said, ‘No you’re not!’ They’re the ones I’d do well for.”
Renkow said his goal with comedy is to explore “punching up” — the idea of not making fun of people with less privilege than you. He’ll take this concept on the road in April with his show “Tim Renkow Tries to Punch Down.” Because of his disability and Jewish and Mexican identities, Renkow said he can go places with comedy that others can’t.
“The rule in comedy is you can’t make fun of anyone worse off than you,” he said. “Well, I’m disabled, Jewish and Mexican. So I’ve been allowed to make fun of everyone. This show is me trying to find a group of people that I’m not allowed to make fun of.”
The comedian also said “Jerk” gets into the politics of disability, but he wanted to make sure people with disabilities are seen as three-dimensional humans who are just like everyone else.
“That includes flaws, because disabled people are kind of seen as holier,” Renkow said. “If someone like me is your hero, then you’ve really made mistakes.”
In addition to Renkow, “Jerk” stars Sharon Rooney, Rob Madin and Lorraine Bracco.
“Jerk” airs on BBC Channel Three and BBC One at 11 p.m.
Header image via Tim Renkow’s Facebook page.