I like Denis Leary. Ever since those MTV spots back in the ’80s. I can’t say that I’ve followed his career, but whenever I’ve seen him in something he’s either made it better or not actively made it worse. And I’ve got enormous respect for what he’s accomplished with Rescue Me. Television is not the easiest place to examine personal responsibility, puncture our ongoing addiction to hero worship, and show how some of the worst people can do the best things—the fact that Rescue Me is still going strong is laudable. He’s a funny guy, one who can do almost anything with that talent.
He’s chosen to write a book, Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Lazy, and Stupid. And in this book, Leary writes “There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks…to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a s— what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you—yer kid is not autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”
F— you, Denis Leary.
I’m not writing this as the parent of an autistic child (though I am), who’s angry and hurt by that statement, which lesser educated people will likely glom onto when faced with local and federal tax increases going to special education and genetic research. And I’m not writing it as someone who thinks that certain topics are off-limits to comics, because I don’t—Bill Hicks’ “Your Children Are Not Special” bit is phenomenal; George Carlin’s incendiary, fearless skewering of religion; Sarah Silverman kills with jokes about everything, including rape. I firmly believe anything is fair game, so long as the joke works.
Which is the problem with that autism “joke”: It’s not funny. It doesn’t bring anything to the table aside from a desire to denigrate without perspective. It doesn’t expose a truth, in the way that Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle did. And, as such, it qualifies as a galactic fail.
So, f— you, Denis Leary. The fifth season of Rescue Me starts in Spring 2009.