Larry Wilmore: Obesity in America 3

Obesity on Comedy Central? Surprisingly Thoughtful

Obesity on Comedy Central seems like a formula for disaster. Against low expectations, Larry Wilmore certainly performed well this week when he devoted his show to the subject, specifically focusing on the implications of disabilities and discrimination. You can watch the opening segment here:


This is one of those glass-half-full things. Comedy tends to be a mirror for our attitudes, especially about things that make us uncomfortable. So fat jokes are some of the worst you can get. Comedians often feel free to put bigotry about size on display.

Wilmore beat those expectations, issuing several apologies for fat jokes, even though he wasn’t totally able to let them go. He also did a pretty good job of sketching out the problem of size-based discrimination and calling it out. After showing Congressman Peter King essentially saying that Eric Garner was responsible for his own death at the hands of police because of his obesity, he said:

Wow. Now look. I’m not sure if obesity is a civil rights issue. But I’m sure of one thing. The way we’re treating obese people, it ain’t right.

The panel discussion that followed had its ups and downs. It included a fat-acceptance advocate, a comedian who made fun of his own size, a comedienne with a physical disability, and Morgan Spurlock (the Super Size Me guy). Medical expertise on obesity was seemingly banned.

Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, a respected advocate for health and size diversity, described the panel’s conversation:

Any thought of having a super significant conversation about weight on a comedy show — with panelists who aren’t actual experts — was holding the show to a standard that it wasn’t designed for. I was groaning and cringing at the male comedian, but that’s his job.

So, does it forward the conversation in my opinion? No. Does it teach anyone about health or civil rights? No. Did it show people being somewhat respectful and level headed while discussing size/shape/equality? Eh, ok.

One step forward, half a step back. We’ll call it progress.

Click here to read more from Talking Points Memo, here to read more from Shakesville, and here to see the whole show.

Larry Wilmore on Obesity in America, image from Comedy Central

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4 Responses to “Obesity on Comedy Central? Surprisingly Thoughtful”

  1. February 05, 2015 at 2:19 pm, Susan Burke March said:

    That was interesting – deprecating but then thoughtful for the most part – Did Peter King really say that? How disgusting.

    • February 05, 2015 at 2:42 pm, Ted said:

      I remember the minor fuss raised when Peter King made those stupid remarks. Sheesh!

  2. February 06, 2015 at 9:24 am, Rob said:

    It’s interesting how humor can be used to teach and inform… get us to think.

    Can it be done so without the deprecation? Or is that part of how humor works? Pointing out the absurdity of such thoughts/actions…?

    Are “we” laughing at it because it’s funny? Or to hide how close to home it hits?

    • February 06, 2015 at 9:32 am, Ted said:

      Good questions, Rob. Humor can bring the public to a better place or reinforce entrenched bigotry. It’s a mighty thin line, and it doesn’t work if the comedian get’s too far ahead of the audience. He stops being funny. I could have done without the guy on the panel who was making fun of himself for his weight. It’s like Chris Christie with his donut shtick on Letterman. It was just embarrassing.