Thank you all for coming. I’ve never thrown a press conference before, so I’m not sure how it works. I’m just a comedian who managed to get his own TV show. But I understand I’ve caused some controversy, and I want to apologize for that.
As you know, my name is Artie Stein, and I’m the star of the Fox sitcom “Who Arted?,” which airs Thursdays at 8 (7 Central). And as you’re aware — in fact, it’s why we’re here today — last week I got into an argument with my friend and co-star, David Schwartz, on the set of our show, and in the heat of the moment, I called Dave something that has caused a huge uproar. I called him a “retard.”
I now deeply regret this. When I called Dave a retard, I was angry. We’d had an argument about some of the dialogue on the show, and I lost my temper. But I didn’t ACTUALLY mean that I thought Dave was retarded. Far from it! Dave is one of the least retarded people I know! He’s very smart, he doesn’t poop his pants, and I have never once seen him fall down a flight of stairs, apart from instances where it was in the script and he was doing it for comedic purposes.
I was using a metaphor. I didn’t mean that I REALLY thought Dave was retarded. It’s like when you call your buddy a “fag.” You don’t actually mean that you think your buddy is sexually attracted to other men. If that’s what you thought, you would say “queer,” not “fag.” You just mean that he’s acting all fag-like. And in my case, I thought Dave was behaving like a retard — not that he actually WAS one. I mean, it’s not like he had ridden a short yellow bus to work and had sat in the back licking the windows the whole way. He was just being stupid, that’s all.
Now, I understand the retard community has been very upset by my words, and I apologize for that. But to be honest, I’m perplexed. Why would retards be insulted to have David Schwartz called a retard? I would think you’d be honored to have such a talented, funny actor as one of your own! Were the retards upset because it turned out Dave isn’t actually retarded, so I got their hopes up for nothing? I guess I can see that. You retards don’t have any real big names to support your cause, and then you find out TV star David Schwartz is retarded, and you’re like, “Man, that’s gold! We’re lucky to have him on our side!” And then when you find out he’s not actually retarded, and he’s actually really smart and normal and everything, you’re probably let down and angry. I can appreciate that. And for causing that emotional turmoil among you retards, I apologize.
* * *
Thanks for coming. I’ll admit, it’s been a hectic week for me since my last press conference. Some of you were at that one, too, and you’ll recall that the point of it was to apologize for an unfortunate thing I’d said on the set to my co-star, David Schwartz. Well, apparently my apology has caused further distress, and I’m here to set the record straight again.
I got a lot of e-mails this week. Let me share one of them with you. It says,
You’re not supposed to call them “retards.” “Retard” is an offensive word to people with mental handicaps. You should be more careful.
Always a fan,
I appreciate Pamela R. from Omaha, Nebraska, taking the time to write. Thousands of other letters I got expressed the same idea: that calling someone “retarded” is offensive. And ladies and gentlemen, that makes me sad. Why should anyone be insulted to be termed a retard, whether they are one or not? Retards are hard-working, honest members of society. Many of them are Olympic medalists! How many Olympic medals have YOU won? I know I haven’t won any! Honestly, I would be flattered if you called me a retard! (Although I’m not one.)
This is the kind of bigotry and prejudice that we need to overcome in this country. It’s really sad, when you think about it. Negroes have had equal rights for decades now, and racism is pretty much gone. Queers are able to get married in some places, and hardly anyone ever beats them to death on back roads anymore. That leaves retards as the last minority group that it’s still “acceptable” to persecute. And friends, that’s deplorable. I was raised not to discriminate against anyone, be they Negro, queer, or retard. “Retard” should not be considered a “slur,” and the world’s retards shouldn’t have to feel insulted or embarrassed to have that word used. Be proud, retards! Let your retard flag fly!
* * *
Wow. It’s been a pretty interesting week for me. Since my last press conference, I’ve had a lot of intense conversations with my publicist, my agent, and various community leaders and concerned fans. Here’s one of the e-mails I got:
Do you not get it? The word “retard” is offensive because people who are mentally challenged prefer to be called “mentally challenged,” not “retarded.” That’s why everyone got so upset.
Thank you, Richard M. Your sentiments were echoed in countless other e-mails, letters, phone calls, faxes, notes tied to bricks, class-action lawsuits, and graffiti that I received over the last week. I feel safe in saying that I now “get it.” I understand why it was wrong to call my co-star what I called him, and I apologize for that. I also apologize for any offense I have caused people who are mentally challenged.
It was childish of me to call David Schwartz a “retard.” I understand that now. I should have said, “Dave, you’re acting like a mentally challenged person!” If he was still unclear, I could have elaborated. “Dave,” I could have said, “you exhibit signs of Down syndrome, and my inclination right now is to smile tightly at you, get uncomfortable, and then pretend I don’t see you anymore.” I think then he would have understood where I was coming from.
A few days ago, I met with leaders in the mentally challenged community. They wanted to help me understand them better. To blend in, I wore an ill-fitting suit that I got at a thrift store, and I didn’t brush my hair that day. I had a fine afternoon with the mentally challenged leaders. We drank punch and ate doughnuts, which one of my new friends said he invented! We all had a good laugh about that. Imagine, the inventor of doughnuts being mentally challenged!
But what I learned is that mentally challenged people can do anything. Maybe they can even invent doughnuts. I left the meeting with a newfound respect for mentally challenged people and all the good work they do in the community, from sweeping the floors at Burger King to sweeping the floors at Wal-Mart.
Unfortunately, I came away from the meeting still a little confused, too. The mentally challenged people at the meeting said I shouldn’t use the word “retard” — but I noticed they often used it with each other. One of them greeted another one by saying, “What’s up, retard?” And the other one said, “You know you my retard.” When I then said, “How are all you retards doin’?” the room grew quiet and awkward. Obviously I still have a lot to learn.
Another letter I got this week was from a very “special” person, and please note that I used quotation marks when I said “special,” indicating that this person is mentally challenged, or possibly even retarded. Here’s his letter:
My name is Chris Burke. I played Corky on the ABC series “Life Goes On” from 1989 to 1993. On our show we taught some very important lessons about how to treat one another. We tried to show that when you get past the outward differences, we’re all pretty much the same underneath — except for us retards, because we’re actually very different. We don’t just look different and act different and dress different; our DNA is different, too. There’s a whole genetic thing that’s out of whack. We’re different from other people on a deep, fundamental level.
So what’s the point? The point is that I haven’t worked since 1993. I would love to be a guest star on your show sometime. If you do not think that would be funny, then could I just have $50?
Los Angeles, Calif.
It was a thrill for me to get Chris Burke’s letter, as I have always thought “Life Goes On” was a great show with important values, and Corky is my favorite “mentally challenged” or “retarded” character of all time. Number two is Blair’s cousin on “Facts of Life,” and number three is Paula Abdul. I feel like after meeting with the mentally-challenged-community leaders, and now after getting Chris’ letter, I’m helping to bridge the gap between mentally challenged people and normal, regular, smart people.
* * *
I’m sorry I can’t be here with you today. My publicist is reading you this statement, which I prepared myself.
After further meetings with community leaders, I have come to accept that I have a problem. For that reason, I have checked myself into a rehab facility, where I hope to overcome the anti-retard feelings that have taken control of me in recent weeks. I ask for your thoughts and prayers during this time, and I hope to come out of the process with a greater understanding and acceptance of our less-normal neighbors. The rehab facility is expensive, but I have every confidence that it will be worth it, that I will come out of it a better, more sensitive person. Plus, I was able to jew them down on the price a little bit.
The background (this will be necessary when this column is read five years from now) is the recent scandals involving Mel Gibson and the Jews, "Gray's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington and the gays, and Michael Richards and the African Americans. It became trendy to publicly apologize and then go to rehab, and I started thinking about other possible victims of a celebrity's insensitivity.
In an early version, I went with a totally ridiculous group, like "night owls" versus "morning people." Then I decided this route would be funnier and allow for more possible layers.
Interesting trivia: Chris Burke and I have the same birthday! It is Aug. 26. He's nine years older, though.
And yes, I know I'm going to hell.