A Tourette’s syndrome charity has criticised a “rubbish” and “unsophisticated” joke that won a top award at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
The one-liner from Swedish surrealist Olaf Falafel won the award for Dave’s Funniest Joke At The Fringe, and contained a pun about vegetables.
It was: “I keep randomly shouting out ‘broccoli’ and ‘cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets.”
But a support charity for people with Tourette’s has hit back, saying the gag was “cheap” and did little more than to reinforce stereotypes of those who are “extremely stigmatised”.
Tourette’s Action said on Twitter that the joke was not about vegetables, but was actually about the incurable neurological disorder, which causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements.
“Why is it still ok to joke about the disability, or more alarmingly, provide a platform to further perpetuate tired stereotypical jokes that only reinforce stigma?” the charity wrote.
In a further statement on its website, it said: “The issue remains that Tourette’s syndrome is extremely stigmatised, and people suffer at the misunderstanding and mocking made by people who just see it as some sort of joke, because that’s what the media tells them.”
The charity added that it had also been contacted by people in the community to express weariness at hearing the condition being used repeatedly as the punchline for “cheap gags”.
“It seemed that so many people failed to see the undertones of the reinforced stereotype and it is exactly this which is the insidious problem,” it added.
The charity’s chief executive Suzanne Dobson told the BBC that she found the joke “rubbish” and thought it had brought “shame on Dave”.
Meanwhile, writer Adrian Reynolds, who has Tourette’s syndrome and describes himself as a “slight comedy obsessive”, said he wasn’t offended by the winning one-liner, but was more “exhausted” by the “clichéd stereotypes”.
He said: “My heart always sinks a bit when I hear it, but mainly it’s just exhausting.”
“The vast majority of Tourette’s jokes seem to be from people who don’t have it, haven’t been around it and haven’t read anything. It’s all focused on vocal outbursts and cringeworthy wordplay.”
He added: “There’s a really difficult side to Tourette’s, sometimes a really dark and lonely side. It is often extremely physically painful, exhausting, limiting and a million miles from funny. It’s also often funny.”
Falafel’s gag was voted the winner by 2,000 members of the public after it was shortlisted by an expert panel.
In a speech after winning, the comic likened performing at his seventh Fringe as a “painful pregnancy”.
“It’s like pregnancy – you go through a lot of pain and then the child is born, and enough time passes and you forget about the pain and decide that you fancy having another one, but straight after you’re like ‘I’m never doing that again!'”
Did the public make the right decision on the winning joke? You can vote on the shortlist below.