Comedians often talk about the fact that they push limits and hover over the line of "funny" and "gone too far" with their jokes, but for one comedian, the internet is sure of the fact that he went way too far when he insulted the Down syndrome community. Seven minutes into Tom Segura's Netflix special, Disgraceful, the comedian notes that "you can't say retarded anymore" because people get very upset. Although he tries to defend the use of the word in describing a stupid idea rather than an actual person, he then jokes that instead of calling a dumb idea "retarded," you could just say: "that's not smart — your idea has an extra 21st chromosome if you ask me."
In the beginning of the joke, it seems like Segura is trying to do what other comedians have done before — justify the use of a taboo or uncomfortable subject to make people laugh. But the fact that he targets people with Down syndrome directly is what is leading people to sign a Change.org petition urging Netflix to take down the special.
"In the Netflix Original comedy 'Disgraceful' by Tom Segura, members of the Down Syndrome community were appalled to find Mr. Segura suggesting replacing the words 'that is retarded' or 'that is not smart' with the words 'that idea has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome,'" the petition reads. "This petition calls for Netflix to: Remove the anti-down syndrome rhetoric from the show, take the anti-disability sketch out of the trailer for the show, [and] issue a public apology for perpetuating hate speech and stereotype to the Down Syndrome community."
The petition-creator, also a parent to a child with Down syndrome, continues, outlining why Netflix is morally wrong for promoting Segura's "anti-disability rhetoric":
The words used in this program are wrong, offensive and by definition is hate speech against the Down Syndrome community. As a parent to a child with Down Syndrome, I worry daily about the stereotype surrounding Down Syndrome and what that will mean in the future for my son as he makes his place in the world. By allowing people like Mr. Segura to make a joke of the daily struggle this community faces for the sake of promoting his brand is morally wrong. For a company like Netflix to promote it and to go so far as to add in anti-disability rhetoric to the trailer for the program shows that the almighty dollar is more important to them than the basic human right of safety, love and belonging.
The petition isn't the only place people are expressing their outrage and concern — statements have been shared from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC), and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), to name a few.
In its statement on Facebook, the IDSC's president, Shannon French, addresses Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, directly. "As the organization with the largest Down Syndrome Community following on social media, we are asking our community to join us in the effort to request that you immediately remove the Netflix Original Comedy Special, Disgraceful, with Tom Segura. In this special, Segura openly degrades and mocks individuals with Down Syndrome citing their third copy of the 21st chromosome as a replacement for the word retard," French wrote.
After transcribing the sketch in question within the post, she continued: "The derogatory language in this special is simple hate speech that sets out to laugh at the expense of a group of people who fight every day to make their place in this world. It is time the general population learns that it is not acceptable to marginalize any group of people to get a laugh and make money. Please, Mr. Hastings, remove this show immediately."
People are commenting on this issue all over the internet, replying to Instagram comments, tweeting opinions, and sharing Facebook posts. And while Netflix hasn't yet commented on the campaign, it's clear based on a post to Instagram that Segura is fully aware of the petition and people's thoughts on his special. Rather than issue an apology, however, the comedian has done quite the opposite. Underneath a screen grab of a social media comment in agreement with the fact that the special should be taken down, Segura captioned the photo: "Hey @netflix please don't take my special down. That'd be so retarded."