“Laughing with” or “laughing at” people with disabilities?

Screenshot from the Netflix series "Love on the Spectrum"

Article by Don Kulick in HUMOR. International Journal of Humor Research, 2024,

ABSTRACT This paper explores the charged line between “laughing with” and “laughing at” people with disabilities. It documents how “the line” is structured, how
the line between “laughing with” and “laughing at” is manifested, and how we might
reasonably surmise when it has been crossed. Two television series are examined
and compared. The first, Love on the Spectrum, is an Australian reality series that
follows a number of young adults on the autism spectrum, as they search for love and go on dates with others who also are on the spectrum. Much of the charm of the series is that it evokes laughter, frequently at the seriousness of the people it portrays. The laughter raised during Love on the Spectrum is compared with the laughter encouraged by British comedian Ricky Gervais’s 2012–2014 series Derek, which is about a character who many viewers identified as being on the autism spectrum. The paper discusses similarities between the two series, but concludes by proposing that the laughter invited by the protagonists’ seriousness during these two series in fact is structured very differently.