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Ricky Gervais ‘condemned for ableist slur’ in new Netflix special

Disability charity Scope has been forced to moderate its social media accounts after receiving hateful messages in response to Ricky Gervais’ comedy routine.

The British charity had criticised a joke made by the 62-year-old comedian, who used the term “baldy” while referring to terminally ill children.

In his new Netflix special Armageddon, he joked that the children, supported by the Make a Wish foundation, were “f****** r*******” for not “wishing to get better”,

In response, Scope warned that “language like this has consequences” and that “the people this kind of language impacts are real” in a tweet on Tuesday 5 December.

“Language like this has consequences. The stage is real. Netflix is real. The people this kind of language impacts are real,” their message read. “‘Joking’ about this kind of language trivialises it. It risks normalising the abuse that many disabled people face on a day-to-day basis.”

Two days later, Scope said it had been forced to turn off its replies on X/Twitter after receiving hateful messages, while clarifying that “we aren’t here to dictate what anyone should or should not find funny”.

Scope denied any attempts to “police comedy, or speak on behalf of all disabled people” when they responded to a now-viral clip from the stand-up set, originally posted online by Gervais.

“Comedians using the r-slur emboldens others to use it,” Scope explained why it originally drew attention to Gervais’ routine. “We’ve seen this first hand this week, with disabled people being abused directly in the replies to our post.

“We aren’t here to dictate what anyone should or should not find funny. But we can’pretend that this comedy exists in a vacuum. This week has proven that.”

The Independent has contacted Gervais for comment.

The controversial comedian is no stranger to backlash for comments made in his Netflix comedy specials.

In May 2022, Gervais’ special SuperNature was criticised as “transphobic”, ”toxic” and “ignorant”.

In response, GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ rights organisation, branded Gervais 2022 comedy special as “dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes”.

“Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on their platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. While Netflix is home to some groundbreaking LGBTQ shows, it refuses to enforce its own policy in comedy.”

In a two-star review of SuperNature, The Independent’s Nick Hilton wrote: “As is all too frequent these days, the longest riff is reserved for the humiliation of trans people. ‘Full disclosure,’ [Gervais] reveals towards the end of the show, ‘in real life, of course I support trans rights.’”