Showtime Comedian Agrees to Remove Offensive Content After Meeting With Self-Advocates with Special Needs

After being confronted and criticized by disability advocates, comic Gary Owen, who repeatedly used the word “retard” and mocked people with intellectual disability as part of his Showtime special “Gary Owen: I  Agree With Myself,” agreed to remove the content from his show and refrain from using the word “retarded” in future routines.  This decision was reached after Gary Owen met with four self-advocates this week in Washington, D.C.

Comedian Gary Owen’s 75 minute comedy special premiered on Showtime networks in January 2015 and  was available for viewing on Showtime online and On Demand.  In the show, comedian Gary Owen repeatedly used the word “retarded” and mocked people with intellectual disabilities. Owen looked for laughs by discussing his “retarded” cousin Tina and telling the audience about how Tina contracted a sexually transmitted disease. In the show, Owen says “I didn’t know retarded people had sex,” before wondering what sex might have been like for her and a man with intellectual disability. When Owen sees an audience member who isn’t laughing, he chides, “it’s cool, it’s my cousin.”  Owen’s routine also discusses how he volunteered for Special Olympics before mocking the athletes.

Special Olympics, The Arc and other disability advocacy groups banded together this spring to call on Showtime to take down the content, which they called “verbal violence.”  The groups’ efforts culminated with a meeting between Owen and self-advocates Julie Petty, Loretta Claiborne, Ricardo Thornton and Frank Stephens. In a statement that was issued by the four self-advocates, the meeting was described as “educational, positive and productive.”

Mr. Owen stated that the inclusion of his cousin in his routine “was never meant to hurt anyone”  and told reporters that “Out of sensitivity to and respect for the community that was upset, I removed the related segment of my Showtime special.”

A spokeswoman for the Showtime cable network said they are “pleased to support Gary Owen’s decision to edit his Showtime comedy special” and that the updated version is now available.

Sources for the article: ‘Retarded’ Comedy Routine Pulled From Showtime, by Michelle Diament, June 9, 2016, Disability Scoop; Showtime Under Fire For Airing ‘Retarded’ Comedy Routine, by Michelle Diament, April 27, 2016, Disability Scoop