Insensitive comments, language, and jokes

I was watching Smartless and Sean Hayes is married to someone with T1. Out of nowhere he makes a lousy diabetes joke and I can’t shake it. It was upsetting. I’ve heard so many before. Amy Schumer had a few in her stand up special. I even walked out of a comedy show years ago after an especially hurtful joke. I have a sense of humor and can, and do, make fun of myself. I am married to a comedy writer. But I just have never found diabetes funny.
I’ve also heard the “oh, my (grandmother, mother, father, relative) has/had diabetes and… (fill in the complication). I am wondering how you all react when someone says that to you? I usually say, “well I am doing everythig in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen to me. I am so sorry that was your loved ones experience”.
Finally I am wondering about person first language. So many people don’t mind being called “a diabetic”. It just bothers me so much and I always use first person language. I am a person with diabetes. I have diabetes. Etc. I use language like this in my work with the individuals I work with who are neurodivergent.

I am wondering how others feel about all of this. Thanks :slightly_smiling_face:

I believe I’m in the minority on this and it’s personal preference, but I grew up using the term “am diabetic” and it’s what I use now - for me it "runs more for off the tongue " - it’s quicker and easier to say and is just more natural for me. From what I’ve seen people who object to the phrasing do so because they feel it means diabetes defines them. For me I use the wording because I consider diabetes one of the many things that make me who I am.
I’ve never been to a comedy club so have no feelings on that except to say I find it in bad taste to joke about someone else’s medical condition, whatever it may be. Let your thick skin be your armor and don’t sink to their level by letting them get to you.


Thank you for the insightful reply. I try so hard to not let it bother me. I agree, I don’t find any illness funny. I think it’s also when it comes out of nowhere. I was enjoying the show and BOOM!

I remember as a kid at my grandfathers. He was sitting talking with my mom with his legs crossed. I could tell she wasn’t paying attention and seemed to be staring at Pop. She broke in and said, “Pop, do you have your shoes on the wrong feet?” Pop looked down traced from his one foot to his leg…and started laughing!

Over time, I think we’ve lost the ability to laugh at ourselves like Pop did that day and need to reclaim it. I don’t mean it’s ok to seriously and intentionally make fun of others. However, we too easily take offense. Plus, we can take the opportunity to laugh and educate…often at the same time. If someone is doing it intentionally with harmful or deprecating intent or out of ignorance, that’s different and I can calling them on it.

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Thank you for sharing that story Maybe it’s when others who don’t have diabetes make jokes about it. I can laugh at myself for sure. If the comic had it, I think I’d feel differently. It’s only been the past 3 years(after having diabetes for 36 years) that I realized it’s considered a disability. I was very surprised. Perhaps it’s also that. Jokes at the expense of someone who is considered disabled. Thank you for sharing your take on it. It’s interesting to hear how others feel.

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I am 22 and being in college and joining a fraternity i see a lot of this. There are many insults and statements thrown around that are uncalled for and hurt, but it helps you develop thick skin. There will be people who have no idea how hard diabetes is and therefore it’s easier for them to say things and hurt you. I realized there will always be people like that and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I choose not to let it affect me. These people associate all diabetes with the bad stigmas like poor health and obesity, and they will never quite get it. I also realize these people act this way because they probably have stuff going on in their life that is worse than what I have going on and I’m an easy target. I’m not saying it justifies their actions or makes me feel better, but it sure makes me relieved I’m not them. They will get what comes to them when they mouth off to the wrong person, but I will brush it off and if I let it affect me and play the victim, I’m just playing into their hands. It always works to kill them with kindness.

With that being said, making fun of a disease or illness is one of the worst things you can do in my opinion, but it will always exist. I will let people call me whatever they want, but if they go out of their way to degrade me knowing what I go through, I will calmly address it and watch their laughter turn into guilt. It’s not always easy, and I may sound a bit harsh in the way I think, but it is what it is especially with social media and online platforms where people have no consequences for their statements.

My friend said it best just actually a few weeks ago. He said that I was so resilient that God had to level the playing field for everyone else by giving me diabetes. It helps me work harder and realize that despite the fact I have diabetes, I can always tackle it and be the best I can.

I hope this helps you!


Thank you. Yes. I remember being in college and hearing the comments also. I was very newly diagnosed when I headed to college- less than a year actually, and there was so much to get used to. It was a tough time.
Your post had me reflecting on how I felt in the past vs now. I think I am more sensitive now because I had a bout with retinopathy two years ago that is now controlled but was pretty rough when it happened. It terrified me and really made me realize this all is no joke.
You are very insightful for someone so young! Thank you :blush:

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I love listening to Smartless…and had no idea that Sean Hayes was married to t1d…his love of Swedish fish, I would think I’d have heard a joke about sugar already. That being said, for me, i think it depends on the intent. Having had t1d 37 years, and now a 13 yo with it, we find humor when we can. I am sensitive to what his friends say. Theres a balance between making light of some things, because saying you’re high, esp at 13, is just funny. The double drop low sound we have set, sounds like the Wayne’s World music. Jokes are fun and funny.
What i get hurt by, are comments, usually from adults, like, my kid should have diabetes from all the sugar they eat! That kind of comment/joke hurts. It tells me they haven’t bothered to understand what and why we do what we do.
All in all, i know these things make us more sensitive to other’s situations. And…i am positive that ive said things, with good intent, but came out wrong.
I don’t think its wrong to be hurt by some comments…jokes dont always land well. Usually, the intent is to be funny, not mean.

T1D is such a grind, making light of it helps my household. But, I also believe in educating those around us about the realities.


I’m at 37 years also. The joke on Smartless was on the HBO Max behind the scenes documentary. I love the show and have a crush on Jason Bateman and Will Arnett so was really enjoying it.
Yes the situation really does matter and also whether there is trust with the people you are sharing the joke with. I used to do Muay Thai kickboxing every day for hours. The owner of the gym relentlessly told me if I just stopped eating sugar and carbs I could cure myself. I endured the comments for years. Even giving her printed info on the difference between T1 and T2 made no impact.
It is certainly a grind. Relentless. I managed all these years with a great attitude and strength. When I had an eye issue, everything changed. I also recently lost my dad to Parkinson’s and losing a parent has changed my view on life.
Thanks for you thoughtful reply

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I’m so sorry to hear about your scare with your eyes. What a stressful addition to all this. And the loss of your dad. My dad passed 23 years ago and I still really miss him. Sending you my sincere thoughts and sympathy.
I honestly have not heard any diabetes jokes so I’m not sure how I would feel. But you are good proof that a joke like that is not well received by everyone. Maybe you want to write them your feelings. Even if nothing happens, putting your feelings down and sending might be healing.
I find comedians with disabilities that make that part of their show to be very funny. It would be completely different saying the same stuff if they didn’t live with the challenges themselves

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I’m fine with being called a diabetic; I call myself that. What really irritates me is when I say I have diabetes and the person I’m talking to says “oh yeah, my grandpa has diabetes too”, just for it to turn out to be type 2. I really dislike being compared to type 2 because I am very active, eat healthy, play a lot of sports, and spend a lot of time outdoors. To be clumped together with those who didn’t treat their body right annoys me.
I even had one person ask, “so what’s your secret?” I just looked at him confused. He said “You know, because you used to be fat? That’s why you have diabetes right?”
I understand that most of America is uneducated about diabetes and will never know how it feels, but it still hurts sometimes.

Well I love comedy and comedians but I have never heard one with a diabetic joke. I have been a diabetic since 12 and I am now 67. I would never ever be offended at a joke!! They are not personally attacking you. I think people who do not have diabetes and even likely this comedian, are talking about people with type 2 since their diabetes is mosting because they eat poorly. I can not think of any way a comedian would think Type 1 was funny but again, you can not let that affect you. And I used affect on purpose. When I managed many folks in a very high stress job, they would always complain at things that affected what they were doing. I told them, listen I hired you because I know you can do this job. Things come up in your work and your life that you can not control. Those that let those things affect them, will never be happy because something is always going to come up. It is YOU that is letting that comedian change you. Those that deal with the things in life we do not like well, are successful and happy. If everything around you bothers you and gets to you, then you will not be a happy person. Let it roll right off you!!


I appreciate comedy that is irreverant. It’s my favorite kind. Society needs it, imo. I don’t know what the jokes you’re referring to are–but depending on context I might be offended, I don’t know, but even if I was, I don’t think a comedian’s jokes would bother me too terribly. They aren’t meant personally. They’re trying to get a laugh. Everyone has their own issues and struggles, and we can’t all be expected to just so fully totally appreciate everyone’s struggles like we do our own–it’s just not feasible or reasonable. Imo.

Friends/acquaintances making jokes at one’s expense is another issue.

I have no problem being called “a diabetic.” If asked, I’d say, “I’m diabetic.” If someone said about me, “She’s a diabetic,” it wouldn’t bother me. I understand the effort to change language to capture various nuances that might enlighten society a bit more–but it’s small potatoes compared to real issues of injustice, oppression, and disrespect (imo). If someone said about me, “She’s a diabetic person,” or “she’s a person with diabetes,” I’d appreciate their effort to not offend, but have no preference that that’s what they call me, and would probably feel bad they’re trying so hard to dance around language for my benefit. I don’t think people are really thinking when they say, “She’s a diabetic” that diabetes is all that person is and totally defines her life. Same when people say, “She’s an electrician, she’s neurodivergent, she’s happy, she’s sad, she’s friendly, she’s a good student, she’s a violinist” etc. I think everyone pretty much understands the implication that these are all just facets of a person’s broader life and personality and other aspects. Again, I don’t have anything against creating better language, and definitely nothing against respecting how anyone wants to be addressed–I would certainly address people the way they personally would want to.

Anyway, that’s just my perspective/two cents.


@Spooky, could someone tell how I may find that joke? I would like to see it in context.

I’m not amused at anyone putting people down who have a medical condition. I don’t find that funny, especially if it’s based on myths or erroneous information.

I am not offended by being called a diabetic, however I’ve read that some people are and in order to be sensitive to their feelings, I try to avoid using that term and instead work to use terms such as someone who has diabetes. In my region of the US (south) it’s common for some people to refer to people who have Type I diabetes as BAD diabetics. This term is used for people who require insulin treatment or have suffered complications. They don’t use Good diabetic, as I suppose that would be reserved for a Type 2, who has no complications and manages their BG with diet and meds. They mean no harm, but it’s so insensitive.

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Hi. The joke is in the the HBO show Smartless:On the Road. Episode 4 Portillo for the Burp. It happens a little more than 6 minutes from the end of the episode when Sean Hayes introduces his husband to pitch an idea to Mark Cuban of Shark Tank. Watching it again I am sad to say the entire cast joins in on the joke. It’s not funny. It’s not cringy. It’s just out of nowhere upsetting to me.

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I think it’s about first person language and how important it can be. I work with neurodivergent adults and first person language is essential. I think a comic with diabetes making fun of what we all go through would actually be refreshing. But someone pulling out the same old list of complications and making fun of those, I just really don’t see any humor in it. Years ago (mid 1990’s) I attended a theater/ comedy show staring Jerry Lewis. He is well known for his work with muscular dystrophy. In his routine he started up with pretty lousy diabetes jokes. Mentioning eating too much sugar, amputations, obesity, insulin shots that had a gallon of insulin. Not funny or clever. I was young and fearless. At the end he had a question and answer segment and I stood up and said, “you make fun of one of the leading causes of death in this country. A disease I and millions others struggle with, why is diabetes funny and muscular dystrophy isn’t?” He replied, “Get her the hell out of here!” And security escorted me out.

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I wrote in another comment the episode of Smartless that has the joke. Also you will find one in Amy Schumers comedy special.

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Exactly. It would be relatable and funny if the comedian themselves had diabetes. Thank you for your thoughtful replies.

She has type 2 or her husband does, I forget which. She actually did a cooking show with her husband on the Food Network. It lasted 3 seasons. Amy Schumer Learns to Cook Most of her recipes were low carb.

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Interesting. I’ll have to look for her show. I wonder why she’d joke about someone having their foot amputated if someone she loves has T2 diabetes?

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