• -Natalie

When Stand Up Comedy Meets Food Allergies

Every now and then, a stand up comedian will bring up food allergies during their show. We have seen many cases where the jokes made were inaccurate, uneducated, and portrayed those with food allergies in a negative manner.

I recently watched Kevin James, an actor and comedian, in his new Netflix comedy special. His food allergy segment started off with making fun of those with lactose intolerance, but as soon as I heard "nut allergy", I immediately perked up.

I have posted this short segment on my IGTV (Instagram TV) for you to watch. This blog post is dedicated to my thoughts on the jokes made. For this reason, I highly recommend you first watch the segment HERE before reading this post.

The segment starts off with Kevin making fun of those who are gluten free and those who are lactose intolerant. He continues on to say how they are trying to "one up" each other all the time, which personally I found was funny. I feel as if it was clear that he was talking about someone who is gluten free by choice, and not someone who has celiac or a wheat allergy, and he made it clear that he was talking about someone who is lactose intolerant and not someone with a milk allergy. These distinctions are the reason for why I thought the "one up each other" joke was funny.

He then brings in nut allergies by saying that the nut allergy is the "king kong of food allergies". I wasn't sure if to feel offended or if I found it funny, but after watching it a couple of times, I decided this comment was funny. I actually like the fact that he said "the king kong of food allergies" because he made the distinction that nut allergies are life-threatening whereas lactose intolerance is not.

I also liked when he said "if I eat a nut, I die" because many people do not understand that food allergies can actually be life-threatening. Believe it or not, MOST people have no idea that food allergies are life-threatening. The fact that Kevin made it clear that he knows that a nut allergy is life-threatening makes me feel better about laughing at his jokes.

He also seems to understand the realities of cross-contamination when he mentioned the fork comment, and I personally liked that. The joke was followed by a comment about jamming an EpiPen into your chest though, which bothered me because I am still not sure if he actually doesn't know that an EpiPen goes into your thigh, or if he just trying to make the joke dramatic. The reality is, many people in the audience who are not educated on food allergies and EpiPens may now actually believe that an EpiPen is supposed to be injected into your chest. That concerns me.

As he continues to talk about the severity of a nut allergy, he starts to take it over the top with his comments about the soil under the building harvesting nuts and seeds, or the dust from a peanut shell working it's way through the air over a far distance, causing an allergic reaction. I think that comments like these portray how we, those with nut allergies, come off as over dramatic to the general public.

I am personally okay with that because many people do not fully understand how much of an effort it truly takes to keep yourself or your child with a nut allergy safe. I don't really mind that Kevin thinks that those with nut allergies are over dramatic, because he does clearly understand that they are life-threatening, so I don't feel like he is portraying his opinion in a negative or condescending manner as some other stand up comedians have in the past.

At the end of his food allergy jokes segment, he brings up the "shellfish allergy" guy and this is where my opinion about being over dramatic starts to change.

Kevin makes a joke about how if "shellfish allergy guy" started complaining about his symptoms, then "nut allergy guy" would knee him in the face. This joke is basically making the point that "nut allergy guy" believes that his food allergy is superior to all others, and this is where I start to feel uncomfortable.

The fact that the general public sees those with nut allergies as much more dramatic than people with other life-threatening food allergies (I am specifically talking about anaphylactic food allergies here, not lactose or gluten intolerances), shows me that there is a real disconnect between nut allergies and food allergies in general.

A shellfish allergy is just as dangerous as a nut allergy. Both can result in anaphylaxis, and both are very difficult to deal with. I don't like the fact that the general public thinks that those with nut allergies see themselves as superior to all other food allergies. As someone with multiple food allergies, this makes me uneasy.

Whether nut allergies are harder to deal with or shellfish allergies are harder to deal with, is not the point here. They are both life-threatening food allergies that can cause anaphylaxis. Which is why they should be treated equally and as the food allergy community, we need to make an effort and portray to the general public that no matter what the food is, if it is a life-threatening allergy, it is equally dangerous and should be treated the same.

Kevin ends this food allergy topic by saying that he is very fortunate not to have food allergies. This shows me that he genuinely understands that food allergies are serious and very difficult to deal with, which is why he is thankful that he doesn't have them.

In conclusion, I can say that in general, I was not offended by Kevin's food allergy jokes in his stand up special. The only thing I was truly bothered by was the comment about the EpiPen going into the chest. Besides that, I think he was respectful and did not portray food allergies as a joke like many other comedians have.

What did you think of the segment? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

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