In his special, “I Agree with Myself,” which first aired in January 2015 and aired again Monday night (the program is now available on Showtime On Demand), the comedian uses the word to talk about his cousin, Tina.
“Tina’s retarded,” he says. “She’s not slow. It’s full-blown. It is what it is.” He then goes on to describe learning that she had an STD, and make jokes about her having sex.
His routine also mocks the Special Olympics as well. “The 100-meter dash is the funniest s–t you’ll want to see,” he says, “because it’s literally eight people running with no arm swing.”
Special Olympics chair Tim Shriver has reached out to Showtime president and CEO David Nevins to request removal of the offending segment of the show.
The organization has also launched a petition on social media, which has over 1,000 signatures to date. “We live in an era where bullying has become public sport, where public figures and leaders from dozens of walks of life seem to believe that humiliation and viciousness are acceptable ways of communicating,” says the petition. “Please join us in signing the petition to demand that Showtime remove this segment of the comedy special from their air and implore Gary Owen to apologize for his use of the R-word and take the pledge to not use the R-word.”
“People with intellectual disabilities—one of the largest groups of people with disabilities in the world—have suffered generations of discrimination and humiliation,” Shriver told Variety in a statement. “In the 21st century, they, together with their families and friends, are continuing their battle for the simplest form of justice: the justice that comes with a recognition of their full humanity. In my own experience, when I ask people—be they first graders or media figures—to join in stopping the casual use of the word ‘retarded,’ they universally agree to do so. Most want to go further: they want to understand better how they can serve as agents of acceptance and dignity. None of this comedy routine is funny. At all. It is callous and gratuitous verbal violence. We are determined to stop it.”
A rep for the comedian and Showtime were not immediately available for comment.