stuttering blog

Prank call to a man who stutters: Mean-spirited or harmless?

By AIS, 3:32 pm


“Nephew Tommy” is a comedy routine on the popular radio show The Steve Harvey Morning Show. Listeners submit a request through the show’s website for ‘Nephew Tommy’ (played by comedian and Harvey’s real-life nephew Thomas Miles) to prank call their friend. The ensuing phone conversation is recorded and played on the show.

In a recent installment of “Nephew Tommy,” Miles calls a man who stutters about an order with a rental store for an upcoming party. For the prank, Miles poses as an employee of the store who happens to stutter as well. The man’s sister requested the prank.

Listen to the prank call here. [WARNING: strong language, but beeped out]

Do you find this prank call disrespectful toward people who stutter, or is it harmless fun?


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  2. HI,

    I think it is obviously mean spirited because it was as a prank on someone who was known to stutter, how could it possibly be harmless fun?

    Now if the audio was of one stutterer talking to another stutterer on the phone and THIS was played for amusement purposes then this would be mean spirited too.

    However it is of course possible that one person who stutters can call up another person who stutters and they have a conversation but that is between the two people talking on the phone.

    However I noticed that since my speech isn’t bad anymore and I don’t have the kind of blocks and repetitions like I used to have I sought of found it interesting to hear them talking actually. I think if my speech was as bad as the person who called I either would be offended or I might block out the whole recording.But since I have much more control over my speech, I did find it amusing but not because I was laughing at the people involved but because it was funny one person with another person both stutterers trying to communicate with each other. It sought of came off like an Abbot and Costello routine, it was creative.

    I don’t understand why AIS put this up on the blog, I think anyone who heard it and stutters would think and feel that it was inappropriate, some people who don’t stutter and visited this site might think it was funny but if someone is visiting this site you would think it would be someone who stutters or someone related to someone who stutters so they would not find it funny at all.

    If AIS is putting it up on the blog to show that they understand and care about people who stutter then they have accomplished this but I always thought AIS cared.

    However if they think that putting this up at their blog and having people who stutter play it ,and feel good that it was at the AIS site, will improve the speech of people who stutter I do not think that this is true. I think it will just make people who stutter more self-conscious and possibly stutter more after hearing it.

    Comment by Steven — August 5, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  3. Thanks for sharing, Steven. I think most people who read this blog would agree with you that its probably mean spirited, and not harmless fun.

    Regarding your later points, I think its important to note that the purpose of this blog is not purely improving the speech of people who stutter. Obviously, a major goal of ours as an organization is evaluation and treatment of people who stutter, and providing support to these people and their families. However, the AIS blog includes many different types of posts, addressing a variety of different topics related to stuttering.

    Yes, we do blog posts that explain some of our therapy techniques and activities, but many of the blog posts may purposes other than, “improving the speech of people who stutter,” Some posts help us share who we are as an organization, share basic information about stuttering and research about stuttering. And, sometimes, we share an interesting (even disturbing) story like this one. By sharing stories like this, we’re aiming to create an avenue for thought and discussion about stuttering. I think in this case, I think its better to talk about it than to ignore it.

    On a personal note, I’m definitely disturbed by this prank. Steve Harvey says at the beginning or the piece that he used to stutter and knows the pain. I think this makes it even more disturbing, just considering the fact that he allowed this to be part of his show.

    Comment by Carl — August 6, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  4. HI Carl,

    Thanks for the explanation.

    I don’t think that people understand how bad a person who stutters feels about their speech. I don’t think people who stutter always knows how bad they feel about their speech!

    When my speech was much worse and I would have a bad day or some bad speech incidents I would get thru the day as best I could and then on the way home in the car or at home I would work it out mostly trying to forget about it.

    I think most people think that people who stutter are just perhaps annoyed about their speech problem with respect to their blocks and repetitions. Generally a person who stutters would not want to tell someone else about how they feel about their speech because it is very painful, they would feel a loss of self-esteem, and more importantly their speech might get worse. Of course if you are told that you have a speech technique that will work if you keep at it and if you perhaps tell people you stutter, and that eventually you will become fluent, then you will have the will power to use the technique and tell others you stutter in the hope that it will work. Of course you could tell someone close to you that you stutter because you feel comfortable with this person but just telling the person does not automatically lead to less stuttering.

    I guess my point is that people don’t know how bad a person feels about how they stutter and so they feel that it is just harmless fun to do that telephone gag. And a person who stutters doesn’t admit to themselves sometimes how bad they feel and when they talk to someone the other person only sees them perhaps annoyed with their temporary blocks and repetitions. People who stutter try to get past their speech problems and get on with their job or life like everyone else does.

    Of course there are people who are cruel and sadistic and do make fun of people who stutter and they do know that they feel pain but they are few and far between. Perhaps the person who has that radio show is sadistic. Most people are not that way.

    The only way a person who stutters can get by in this world is to provide them with a speech technique that really works and gives them control over their speech so that if someone bothers them or makes fun of their speech or something else they can tell them how they feel or tell them off and walk away happy with the fact they stood up for themselves and express themselves.

    People who stutter have to function in the world, make a living, interact socially with other people and try to enjoy themselves and get caught up in this and perhaps forget about for the most part how bad they feel due to all these activities. This is the face most other people see.

    I think that someone has to come up with a speech technique that really gives control to people who stutter so that they can ignore a radio program like the one with the gag or choose to complain about it if they want. I don’t think that drawing attention to the program and getting people to stop making fun of people who stutter is really going to help people who stutter be more fluent. The change has to come within the person who stutters themselves.

    There will always be people who make fun of other people whether it is stuttering or something else.

    Give a person who stutters real control over their speech and then they can join all the other people in the world who don’t stutter and see the everyday joy and the misery of the world.

    Thank you for letting me post.

    Comment by Steven — August 6, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  5. Hey Steve, thanks for responding. No doubt, people don’t seem to get that stuttering has a profound effect on people’s lives.

    Just a note on our philosophy here. We definitely teach people various speech skills. Speech skills with promise, that may help them improve fluency. However, our goals for the people we work with is bigger than improving fluency. We work to help people become fearless, so as to join the other people in the world, as you said, but to do this regardless of whether or not they may stutter.

    I’m not be able to help people become completely fluent speakers. What I can do is help people improve as a communicator, despite stuttering. When this is accomplished, even slightly, it makes the use of a speech strategy so much easier.

    Comment by Carl — August 6, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  6. I thought it was harmless fun. If you actually listen to the audio track, the guy who the prank was on actually was excited to be pranked when he realized what was going on. He was telling people he just got pranked. He took it lightly, maybe other people should too.

    Everyone wants to be treated the same, but special at the same time. I’ve seen people complain about jokes on people with mental and physical disabilities who aren’t disabled themselves. And the funny thing is, the people who the jokes are directed at actually laugh at the jokes, not complain.

    There are some things that should be taken as harmless fun and some things that should be complained about. I wouldn’t say this prank is one of them.

    Comment by Nicky — September 12, 2010 @ 11:49 pm

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