This is a full transcript of This disabled comedian is a Jerk as first broadcast on 15 March 2019 and presented by Kate Monaghan and Simon Minty.
SIMON - Coming up...
KATE - [clip] Your mum put makeup on you?
BASHIR - [clip] Yeah, when I was a kid.
KATE - [clip] How do you feel about that now?
BASHIR - [clip] She did it for her own reasons. She would notice people staring.
SIMON - [clip] I was out with my sister recently and she said, "Oh, I've forgotten how people look at you." And I went, "Okay," and I'd forgotten. And then I went to get my car washed this week and I got out of my car and then two people started laughing.
SIMON - Hello, this is the Ouch talk show where we're still shouting #DisabledPeopleAreHot at every opportunity. I'm Simon Minty.
KATE - And I'm Kate Monaghan. And I'm here to tell you that we can also be jerks. And apparently some of us are even extraordinary. Tim Renkow wrote and stars in the new BBC comedy, 'Jerk'. It's about a man with cerebral palsy who is, and I quote, one of life's incurable piss takers. If they can write it on the BBC website then I can say it here. Welcome back to the Ouch podcast. Now, last time you were on you told us a lot about not wearing shoes.
TIM - Yeah.
KATE - But you're wearing shoes today.
TIM - I know.
KATE - What's going on?
TIM - Oh, my girlfriend's going on.
KATE - She's making you wear the shoes?
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - That's quite an influence.
TIM - I know.
SIMON - And because you're now a big celebrity?
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - You've got to smarten up your act.
TIM - I guess so.
SIMON - Don't lose Tim, we don't want to lose Tim.
KATE - Sit tight Tim, we'll come back to you, and 'Jerk', in a couple of minutes.
SIMON - Bashir Aziz and Rachael Reynolds are here from 'The House of Extraordinary People'. Hello.
RACHAEL - Hi there.
BASHIR - Hi.
SIMON - Now, if that sounds like a Channel Five show with disabled people in it that's because it is. Now which genius came up with that title I wonder?
KATE - Okay, full disclosure guys. It is my company, Hey Sonny Films, that made 'The House of Extraordinary People'. So I already know you, Bash, and you, Rachael, don't I?
BASHIR - Yeah.
KATE - And it's a great title.
SIMON - And I'm going to be interviewing my co-host a bit later on. [gasps]
KATE - Exciting.
SIMON - Yes.
KATE - So go on, Bash, tell us what 'The House of Extraordinary People' is.
BASHIR - 'The House of Extraordinary People' is a cluster of extraordinary things and beings. [laughter]
KATE - Okay, I'll put it in a more concise way, that it's…
SIMON - Pitch it to us.
KATE - Well, it's nine people, all with visual differences and disabilities, living in a house together for ten days.
SIMON - So let's get that visible difference bit out of the way so our listeners understand. So, Bashir is a black man born with vertiligigo? No, vertiligo?
BASHIR - Vitiligo.
KATE - Vitiligo. Everyone knows. Vitiligo.
BASHIR - I like to be called Benjamin Button now because the reverse…
SIMON - You're getting younger?
BASHIR - I wish.
SIMON - This causes white patches on your skin?
BASHIR - Hmm-hmm.
SIMON - Okay, so Benjamin Button got younger. Why are you using that as a mantle?
BASHIR - So, as I get older it reverses, and unfortunately I get most of my pigments back.
KATE - Yeah, and you don't want that. We'll talk about this later, but you don't want to be the same as everyone do you?
BASHIR - No.
SIMON - So you're going to lose your visible difference?
BASHIR - I'm going to lose it, yeah. Eventually when I'm about 60, 70, I'll just blend in again.
SIMON - [laughs] Okay. Now, I'm going to mispronounce this. Rachael lives with neurofibromatosis?
RACHAEL - That's right.
BASHIR - Smashed it, mate.
SIMON - Thank you.
TIM - But you couldn't get vitiligo. [laughter]
SIMON - And that means you have thousands of benign tumours all over your body?
RACHAEL - That's right, yeah.
SIMON - Okay. Now, what was it like for the two of you, and everybody, being roommates for ten days?
RACHAEL - Quite an eye opener to be honest, that we've all got different needs and different visual things going on, that we all had empathy towards each other. So whatever was said we understood.
SIMON - That's great.
KATE - Stay with us, Bash and Rachael, we'll chat more about 'The House of Extraordinary People' in a bit.
SIMON - Don't forget, you can subscribe to the Ouch podcast on BBC Sounds. A new episode drops most weeks, and as well as the award winning Ouch talk show we've also got episodes with one to one interviews and programmes responding to the latest news in the disability world. Recent episodes include the lowdown on #ThingsDisabledPeopleKnow, and #DisabledPeopleAreHot. I couldn't shout it that time, I've run out of energy. And of course you can find us using your smart speaker, just say, "Play Ouch disability talk from the BBC," and we're going to be there.
KATE - Now, back to Tim Renkow. Tim is an American stand-up comedian living in the UK who wrote and stars in a new comedy, 'Jerk', which involves you playing basically a heightened version of yourself.
TIM - Yes.
SIMON - Much heightened?
TIM - Not so much.
KATE - So for anyone who hasn't seen it just give us the top line, what it's about.
TIM - 'Jerk' is about a guy that's… he wants to be an illustrator but he's too lazy and too much of a piece of [bleep] to ever commit to doing anything with his life. So it's about him trying to secure a visa but not having the mentality to deal with all the bureaucracy.
SIMON - Where's the separation? So we know it is based on you but there is a separation. Where do you differ from…?
TIM - I've got a visa. [laughter] I like to think he's a lot lazier than I am.
KATE - I guess you've got off your butt and got a comedy series.
TIM - Yeah, I did.
KATE - So to be fair Tim in the show would not have done that.
TIM - Yeah. No, Tim would not. The way I see it is he's me if I made all the wrong choices. He's basically me as a 22 year old, like he's just how you were when you were 22. You're lazy and you're scared of failure, so to avoid failure you don't try.
SIMON - I'm curious. You wrote this but you've got two other writers. How did you get thrown together?
TIM - So the co-creator is a guy named Stu Richards, and he came to me and asked me if I wanted to write a sitcom together. So we developed it together.
KATE - Does he have a disability?
TIM - No.
KATE - And how much of the other character…? So there's two other main characters, you've got your very lazy carer and your Job Centre friend?
SIMON - Yeah, they call it a disability employment adviser.
TIM - Yeah.
KATE - Okay.
SIMON - Called Idris. [pronounces it Eyedris]
KATE - Idris.
SIMON - Idris, okay.
KATE - Are they people that are drawn from real life?
TIM - Yeah, they're kind of archetypes. Idris is the guy that really wants to help, but he wants to help so badly he's not a help at all. Like, he's trying so hard, but what he's doing is not useful.
KATE - And what about the carer?
TIM - The carer, she's lazy, but she does care for Tim, a lot. And in my head she's not a bad carer in that she makes Tim do as much as he can do.
KATE - Well, let's hear a clip from the programme where we meet Tim's carer.
Carer: But you're just scared to get a job because you'd be crap at it.
Tim: Well, maybe.
Carer: Look, it's easy. I've got a job.
Tim: Barely. What exactly do you do?
Carer: I'm a carer. I care. I went on a two day course. They gave me a certificate. Look, just try and stay. You're one of the least depressing ones that I look after, and…
Tim: And, and you what? You like me? You're friends with me? Oh God, you're so emotionally retarded.
Carer: Tim, you know that we never use that word.
Tim: I'm sorry. You're not emotional.
Carer: Thank you.
SIMON- You weave so much in this, there's so many layers of it.
KATE - Also, you were really enjoying listening to your own clip. You really enjoyed that.
TIM - I love Sharon. Yeah but just great.
KATE - And I love the woman who plays your carer, she's amazing.
TIM - Yes.
KATE - She was in 'My Big Fat Mad Diary'?
TIM - Yeah, 'My Mad Fat Diary'. She's so funny, because that character was really hard to do as it was written, because she's not nasty but you can definitely play her nasty. And Sharon just nailed it from the first audition.
SIMON - I love your relationship with the carer, I think you're right, she has nailed it and there's just something really cool. The other bit which I haven't seen yet but you have a fight with Lost Voice Guy who's also a comedian with cerebral palsy. When I saw that that was going to happen I laughed out loud, before I'd even seen anything.
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - I mean, how did you get that through? Because I'd imagine people are a bit jumpy.
TIM - I have no idea how we got it through. We've been writing this for three years and he was the first character we nailed down and so we wrote that for him, and then he won 'Britain's Got Talent'. He plays a jerk in the show. The more famous he gets the funnier it is because he's the nicest human being on the planet.
KATE - What I love about this show, and I'm going to be honest, when I saw it I thought this isn't for me. Even though I'm disabled, I've got a real interest in disability, I was like I don't want to watch another disability comedy, right. And then I knew you were coming in so I watched it and I was like, this is brilliant. Because you reverse the stereotypical jokes about disability. Like Idris comes in in the first scene and points to your carer and says, "Is this your girlfriend?" and then you're like, "No, it's my carer." It's those kinds of things that are so clever, because obviously normally it's all about that somebody is the girlfriend and they get recognised as the carer.
TIM - Yes, the point of the show was kind of I am disabled so there's no getting away from that, we need to address it, but the real problems of the show and the problems the character creates for himself have nothing to do with disability.
KATE - Yes, they're more just him being a bit of an annoying person.
TIM - He's just a twit.
SIMON - But also has no fear. I mean the things that he does are just fearless and I adore that. There's also this is happening a lot now where somebody goes, "Oh, I've got something, I've lost my sense of smell," your Job Centre person, and you're thinking, everybody's got to have something, and you're like, oh come on. So all those little subtle bits I think we're all a bit different aren't we? Like, seriously? [laughs] I'm not asking questions am I, I'm just laughing at the bits I like.
TIM - I don't mind. It feels good to me.
KATE - And one of the other things that I love, and I have no idea how you pulled this off, is your mum, who you Skype, it's a bit like they had on 'Catastrophe' where they had a super humongous Hollywood star and in your case your mum's played by Lorraine Bracco, who's famously from 'The Sopranos'. How the heck did you get her?
TIM - I don't know. So in the pilot we had somebody else, a big star, and she dropped out last minute, so Stu, who produced the pilot, just emailed, if she didn't do it my real mom would have done the pilot. That's how bad it was. We had one day to get her to agree before we shot the pilot. So Stu just sent her a bunch of my clips.
KATE - And she's like a very bolshie American woman. Is that like your mum?
TIM - No. Well…
KATE - Okay.
TIM - My mom's sweet, but like Lorraine actually met my real mom for the part and…
SIMON - For research?
TIM - For research I guess, and the funniest thing, because there's a part in the series that actually got cut where she just hangs her bags on my walker, and Lorraine didn't like that and so she went to my mom and she was like, "I can't believe…" Oh God. She used language that I know I can't say, but "Who the hell would hang their bag on a walker?" And my mom was just like, "I do it all the time." [laughter]
SIMON - We have a clip. This is where Tim accepts a Skype call from his mum whilst he's at work.
Mom: You never had a job. Well, you did have that weekly paper round. It was supposed to be daily but at the speed you walk… [laughs]
Tim: I'm an office guy now, Mom. I'm in the old nine to five, doing the rat race.
Mom: You're not pulling any of your usual Tim crap are you?
Tim: No. Well yeah, a little. British people are so nice it's hard not to [bleep] with them.
Mom: You got your shoes on?
Tim: [pauses]Yeah, totally.
SIMON - What sort of feedback have you got inside and outside the disability community?
TIM - Oh, it's been all positive. I am about to fall off this chair.
SIMON - Okay, can we do anything.
TIM - No, just wait.
SIMON - Just wait. Oh, you really are aren't you? Can we take photos? [laughs]
TIM - Just laugh.
KATE - Do you want a hand, Tim?
BASHIR - Can I give you a hand?
TIM - No, I got it. I was just slipping down for fun. I just played this up.
KATE - Yeah, you styled that out nice. Yeah.
SIMON - No one knew. We didn't notice. Didn't notice. So, are you ready for a question?
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - Yeah. Feedback, sort of inside and out disability communities. What's it been like?
TIM - Oh, it's been mostly positive, yeah.
KATE - Only mostly?
TIM - But way more positive than I thought. I was expecting a Marmite reaction just because I don't hold punches back. But it's been great.
KATE - And what about the negatives?
TIM - It's just like it makes me uncomfortable, which is fine.
KATE - Yeah, that's the point.
TIM - Yeah, it's fine. I can't complain about that because I did set out to do that. My only sad thing is in the pilot. For the pilot, I got a few complaints that they didn't cast a disabled person as me. [laughter] I haven't got any of those complaints.
SIMON - Just to clarify for me, I thought the title is because you're an absolute jerk.
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - Whereas someone said, "Oh, it's related to CP."
TIM - I think it's a pun. My favourite thing is if you look up #Jerk on Twitter you just get a lot of porn.
KATE - Okay, don't look at that at work guys. Just a tip.
TIM - Well, it depends on what your work is, doesn't it?
KATE - I mean Tim would definitely, the character of Tim would definitely look at that.
SIMON - Anarchy Hamster.
TIM - Yeah.
KATE - So is there going to be a second series?
TIM - Hopefully.
SIMON - Do you have lots of ideas still up in your head?
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - They're not used up yet then?
TIM - No, no.
SIMON - You seriously have got to get a second series because it's a joy.
KATE - It is brilliant.
SIMON - There's something very fresh.
TIM - I think people should like it but I'm open to the idea of not.
KATE - Yeah. But you're pretty busy at the moment. You're off on tour aren't you?
TIM - Well, I've got two dates at Hull Theatre, April Fool's Day which you should get tickets for because once Brexit happens the pound is going to be useless anyway.
KATE - May as well spend it now.
TIM - Spend it now.
BASHIR - Oh, dear.
KATE - And what's your show about?
TIM - The show's called 'Tim Renkow Tries to Punch Down' and there's a thing in stand up which is no punching down.
KATE - What does that mean?
TIM - Which means you're not allowed to make fun of anyone worse off than you are. The insulting thing is I'm a disabled Mexican Jew and I've been doing this for ten years and so far I haven't found any group I'm not allowed to make fun of. So it's getting insulting, so I'm just trying to find a group.
KATE - Well, 'Jerk' is available on the BBC iPlayer for at least the next six months. Check it out, I promise it's worth it. Thank you, Tim, and please stay with us for the rest of the show.
TIM - I got no choice. [laughter] Oh Tim, help me…
KATE - On a more sombre note now, the trouble with being disabled and hanging out with other disabled people is that death is never far from our minds. This month we've lost several key figures in the disability community. Visual artist, Katherine Araniello and Mike Oliver. He coined the phrase, the social model of disability. Simon, why were they so important?
SIMON - The similarity was there. They were uncompromising, they were unflinching, they had their beliefs and they stuck to them, and they paved the way. With Katherine it was Disability Arts which was…
KATE - Tell me about Katherine. What was she like?
SIMON - A severely disabled woman, used a wheelchair, bright orange hair. Had a warmth when you spoke to her one to one but on stage you had no idea what was going on. She would just be in her own world doing something quite complex and interesting. I remember seeing her do a show at the Royal Festival Hall and her and a collaborator left the stage and everyone started clapping, and Liz Carr, who was the compere, came on stage and said, "Well thank you, Katherine." And then you heard from the back of the auditorium Katherine go, "I'm not finished yet!" and it was part of the show that she was still doing. I mean, she had art degrees coming out of her ears…
KATE - But was it disability specific art then?
SIMON - It was, but it was sort of deeper. It was about how society treats us. She was fearless. I think about the comedy that we do, and we do think about it a lot. She had no boundaries, should would just go there and it didn't matter. It was about making the statement.
KATE - And how about Mike? I mean, the social model of disability, we talk about it a lot on Ouch, I think I kind of understand it but for anyone who doesn't what is it?
SIMON - In all honesty I think nowadays it can be whatever you want it to be. It's a lot more fluid and broad than it was. The essence of it originally was, depending on how you look at disability you medicalise it and say there's a medical problem, and then there's this other model that says, you have an impairment and that's your condition. So for mine I have dwarfism, I have arthritis, I have hearing loss, they're all the things that are my impairment, but it's society and how it's structured. So whether I can reach things. Whether people look at me. Whether people treat me with respect. They can be the most disabling things.
It can be incredibly powerful and liberating because it takes it away from you blaming yourself to saying, actually, if I was treated better, if I was included more I'd feel okay. The argument being, if I went to live with short people everywhere my disability wouldn't exist anymore because no one would look at me and everything would be my height. But I live in a world that doesn't include me.
The social model varies now, and I think the next generation, some of them reject it and that's absolutely fine. Mike didn't come up with the idea of impairment and disability, he coined the social model as a term.
KATE - He was a bit of an academic?
SIMON - He was absolutely an academic, and he brought disability, politics disability, as an academic discipline into the universities. He wrote with Jane Campbell, one of the famous books is 'Disability Politics'. He also moved it away, he said, "We've got to stop all the health professionals studying us, we must be studying disability. This must be liberating, we must understand ourselves, our places, because then we can change the world or change how we fit into it."
KATE - We owe a lot to both these people I think.
SIMON - You know the standing on the shoulders of giants, and even if you've never heard them or never come across them the things that they did, probably, if you have a disability, may have slightly improved, just because of their existence. And to lose both of them in a couple of weeks is awful.
KATE - And last month we did a podcast on parenting with a disability and that raised a lot of important points. But someone else that we lost in the last few weeks was Carrie Ann Lucas who was a top ally for disabled parents in the US. She was a black wheelchair using lawyer who over the course of her life, along with her partner, adopted four disabled children and supported disabled parents around the United States. She was a massive campaigner. She was an incredible woman, and again, she was taken a bit too quickly I think. She didn't recover from some surgery and now she's gone. And I think, yeah, we've just lost a few good people recently.
SIMON - And as we said at the beginning, we know this happens and it can happen with disability. And Katherine, when Colin used to ask her, "How are you?" and she said, "I'm busy staying alive." And there's that little bit of you've always got something else going on. So yes, a pretty tough few weeks, but you know, we can celebrate what they did, they were awesome people.
Okay, we're going to move from quite a sombre moment to something very different, and this is new Channel Five documentary called 'The House of Extraordinary People'. In it there's nine people with physical differences who are put into a posh house together and then filmed for ten days. Kate was on the production team and two of the housemates, Bashir and Rachael, are with us in the studio. Hello again.
RACHAEL - Hi.
BASHIR - Hello, hello.
SIMON - A question for all three of you. I can't believe I'm interviewing Kate.
KATE - Hello!
SIMON - My co-host.
KATE - Lovely to be here, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
SIMON - It's going to get awkwardly Alan Partridge or something weird. There's no prisoners, this has got to be a proper interview.
KATE - Okay.
SIMON - So, a question for all three of you. Why make the show?
KATE - Well, I'll say why I made it and you guys can tell us why you decided to take part.
SIMON - I think I ask the questions, Kate.
KATE - Sorry. Sorry, Simon. Sorry, sir, sorry. We were trying to think of a way of doing disability on television which is generally our job, coming up with ideas. We sat down with Channel Five and the people at Channel Five were talking a lot about 'The Greatest Showman' and about how a group of disabled people sort of banded together in that film and they said, "Is there a way we could do that with real people and show the outside world that we're all the same, it doesn't matter if we're different?"
And from that conversation 'The House of Extraordinary People' was born. And I thought it was very important that it was led by somebody who had a disability and who understands that world to a certain extent and can ensure that it's done in the right way. Which I think tonally we have done, but that's for you lot to decide.
SIMON - And I'm going to come on to that part. Does that mean sometimes you'd have to push back? Were there any little moments with Channel Five that you disagreed?
KATE - There's always moments that you disagree with and you push back on and some you win and some you lose, but we're making a programme that is important and doing an important job, and Channel Five know that and we as a production company know that, and we were all pretty much on the same page. And that was really important.
SIMON - Good answer. Very good diplomatic answer.
KATE - It's true, it's true.
SIMON - Yeah, okay.
KATE - And we've got these incredible people like Bash and Rachael.
SIMON - Rachael, why did you take part?
RACHAEL - Basically, my condition, neurofibromatosis, is very visual, and a lot of people out there are very judgemental. I want to get the message out there that don't judge a book by its cover and that there's more to me than you'll ever know. So try to get to know me rather than go by appearances. And I want to get the message out there for everybody with my skin condition and with my hearing impairment, and also with other people with visual differences that it's okay to be different.
KATE - Because one of the things you were really worried about when you first came into the house, your skin, if I can try and describe it, is covered in raised lumps. Is that how you'd describe it?
RACHAEL - Well, they do say it's like benign tumours, but I do call them lumps and bumps. I prefer that word to tumours because tumour's quite scary.
KATE - But you were worried that people thought you were contagious and people didn't want to touch you, didn't want to come near you and that made you feel a bit other and different didn't it? And one of the reasons you wanted to come in was to try and help people understand that actually, there's nothing, you won't catch anything, just treat me the same.
RACHAEL - Of course, yes.
SIMON - Bash, your reasoning. Why did you take part?
BASHIR - Kind of the same reason that Rachael did, to not judge a book by its cover. I thought this was a chance or opportunity as well, because like say for example when I'm talking to an audience or when I'm saying these things to different people, like say the majority of the time it's to someone who's normal, in quote marks. So like it sounds selfish but I want it to be a pot of gold, also let anyone know that anything is possible and just spread positivity about the place.
SIMON - It's quite a brave thing, you both… I mean, Rachael, you were nervous and this is a tough thing to do, and Bash, you're like get out there and show it and flaunt it.
BASH - Yeah, that's right.
SIMON - But both of you have come with a sort of mission to see… This is quite a tough way of doing it isn't it?
BASHIR - To be on such a platform I thought it was like all right, cool, we might as well just make the most of it, and there is nothing to shy away from now, you're in it.
KATE - I mean, Bash, you grew up not as confident. You used to hide your difference didn't you?
BASHIR - Yeah, yeah.
KATE - What did you do?
BASHIR - Like I used to wear long sleeves all the time, even in summer and I used to wear hats all the time. And I hated the colour of my hair. I can't believe I hated the… Oh, anyway.
SIMON - Because you have a white stripe going through the middle. Is that what you…?
BASHIR- Yeah, like I just wanted it to be all black. But then like the more I got older the more I realised, okay, this dude's got pink hair, this girl's got green hair, this person, once they actually see my real hair goes, "Do you know how many people want to dye their hair your colour to get that white as well?"
SIMON - Did you go as far as makeup and stuff like that?
BASHIR- Yeah. I mean, I didn't personally, my mum did.
KATE - Your mum put makeup on you?
BASHIR - Yeah, when I was a kid. Like a MAC cosmetic trial.
KATE - How do you feel about that now? Because obviously she did that for a reason.
BASHIR - She did it for her own reasons. I mean personally and for my own reason, yeah, I can understand that she would notice as a mum walking around with me like people staring. So on her side it's like, oh I don't want anyone to stare at my son, but also she had the thought of I wonder how he's feeling and I don't want him to feel like [beep] for the rest of his life.
KATE - And Rachael, how long have you had this skin condition for?
RACHAEL - It's genetic, so I've had it all my life, but as a young child I didn't have to hide it because nobody could tell that there was anything wrong, only the café au lait marks and freckling, but to the outside world they would have thought they were just freckles and birthmarks. But as I've got older from age 14 the lumps and bumps started appearing slowly. By the time I was 19 I was covered. That's when I started covering up. Wearing long sleeves, wearing tops, not putting a bikini on, covering up because I was getting stared at. If I go on holiday, I get looked at. Whatever decision I made I was getting looked at.
I still do cover up but the house has made me be more positive about myself because every single person in the house was accepting of each other. So I was able to be more confident, wear short sleeves, and be me. And I kind of found myself to get this knew found confidence.
SIMON - And does that stay with you? Because I think when you're in the house and there's the unity and the strength of all of you, but then you've got to go out in the big wide world on your own again, is that still there?
RACHAEL - A little bit. If I'm honest, not completely at the moment, I'm trying to get there, it's baby steps. I'm more confident of talking about it but not taking clothes off etc.
SIMON - I'm visibly different. I was out with my sister recently and she said, "Oh, I've forgotten how people look at you, how much they look at you." And I went, "Yeah, okay," and I'd forgotten because you get on with it. And then I went to get my car washed this week and I got out of my car and the two people who were there started laughing. They nudged each other and started laughing.
SIMON - And I'm thinking, do you think we'll ever crack this? And we're strong but it can eat away a little bit. How do you flip that off? Is that how you gain strength?
RACHAEL - I've taught myself something from the film, 'Wonder' that why are we trying to blend in when we were born to stand out? And I'm now trying to tell myself that I am different and so what? I've got to do it for my family, for my future, for everybody else with visual differences for the future. I've got to get the word out there that there's nothing wrong with being different. I'm trying, but it's baby steps. I'm not completely there yet but the house has given me a new found confidence, I will be honest.
KATE - Do your lumps…? Are they painful, Rachael? Because obviously, Bash, you're not affected by your vitiligo, you know, you look different, but Rachael, do you have pain?
RACHAEL - Yes, I do. Every day I've got pain in various places, random places, like I might just get one in my arm or my head or a fuzziness. It feels like somebody's pricking my skin with a needle in various places, because I've got them inside as well as outside. That's what people don't realise, that I've got like pain and fatigue and I get tired a lot. My short term memory. I'm on medication and I have treatment, I have laser treatment, which is helping my skin down my face which is where you can see the little white patches, and I have plastic surgery as well, which I'm still waiting for more treatment. I've had half my back done which I'm happy about.
KATE - Is it better when they're off, as in just physically rather than just visually?
RACHAEL - Both, yes. Yes, definitely. It's helping massively. I've still got pain in the same places, believe it or not, but it is helping.
SIMON - Tim, you've seen the show?
TIM - Yeah.
SIMON - You also have a visible… Where are you at on this? What are your thoughts?
KATE - Are you going to come into the house for series two?
TIM - Would you pay me? I would do anything if you pay me.
RACHAEL - You would spice things up anyway, definitely.
TIM - Yeah.
BASHIR - 100%.
SIMON- What did you think of it? Did you have empathy? Did you think it was not the same?
TIM - I try not to have empathy with anyone. [laughter] No, but I liked… because I had turned it off right as the guy with BIID came on, so I want to know what happens there. But yeah.
KATE - So just to explain, in the house we have…
SIMON - There's a little twist.
KATE - There is a bit of a twist that one of the guys in the house is an amputee.
BASHIR - Self-made amputee.
KATE - Yeah. He decided he wanted to cut his own leg off, so he went to a surgeon and that was why he had amputated his leg. Which is a bit of a spoiler for the end of episode one, and that was quite a shock to you guys?
SIMON - And how did you react to that? I mean he didn't do it on the show did he?
BASHIR- No, of course not.
TIM - That would be amazing. I would definitely be part of the segment.
KATE - No, he did it with a surgeon, just to be clear.
SIMON - In Thailand though, because no one else would do it.
BASHIR- In Thailand, yes.
RACHAEL - Yes. At first I was like oh my God, why the heck would you do that? Really mixed emotions about it, but then I went to my room and I did some homework on it, because I didn't quite get the term that he came out with, so I said right, I've done some homework on it, I've come across another word which is transabled, which might help people a little bit more. And I said, you know, "I do apologise for the negative response, I've come up with a new word, transabled, and I accept it more." But it was his choice, it made him happy to do that, because he wasn't happy in his own body and so why not?
SIMON - I had a weird… I mean, it's a bit Mike Oliver and the social model and what disables us and all this, and this is someone electing to be, and if part of our argument is saying we're okay as we are, if someone wants to be like that should we not judge that…?
RACHAEL - I don't think we've got the right to do, to be honest.
TIM - So I really wanted to do a documentary about BIID because I'm fascinated by the way the brain works, and the research I did said that the way your brain works is it maps your body so you know where everything is, and for some reason people with BIID, the brain hasn't mapped that part of the body.
KATE - Oh, that's interesting.
TIM - So it doesn't register as your body.
SIMON - And the reverse would be the phantom, so you'd have an amputee and your brain still thinks it's there.
TIM - That's how I got into it.
KATE - BIID stands for Body Integrity Identity Disorder, which is a longwinded term, but transabled is quite good, because in the same way that somebody's transgender…
SIMON - There's a lot of Americans in the show. Is that so you can sell it on?
RACHAEL - Yes there are.
BASHIR - Yeah, I was wondering.
KATE - People in America do have more of a confidence and are more happy to be on television. Well it's about half and half, Brits and Americans, but the Americans are quite incredible. Bash, tell us who else was in the house with you.
BASHIR - So my room mate alone, Rowdy, Rowdy from, hold on, don't tell me, Montgomery, Alabama.
KATE - Impressive knowledge.
SIMON - Both legs, amputee. I liked him.
BASHIR - And he was the first one I saw, so me and him had a chat before everyone else got in. I was like, oh right, cool, I could get used to him duh, duh, duh. I'm not going to lie, it was a shock at first, I didn't even know he was going to be in the house. So yeah, he was chilling there and I was like, oh right, cool, no legs, this is wicked, all right, let's chat.
KATE - And he just gets around on a skateboard doesn't he?
BASHIR - Yeah, and then like he didn't react to me and I didn't react to him almost, and that was the best part about it. I mean there was also… Who else was there? Kristin, my darling Kristin.
RACHAEL - Oh, yeah.
SIMON - Which one is Kristin?
BASHIR - I call her Ant Woman.
SIMON - Ant Woman?
BASHIR - Yeah, because she's small.
KATE - I think the official term is primordial dwarf.
TIM - I'm going to go off subject here, because I was watching the show and I noticed there's a shot where the tall lady goes in the bathroom and the bathtubs did not look extra small.
KATE - All right, Tim…
TIM - Did you notice that?
SIMON - No, I didn't.
TIM - Look at the bathtubs.
KATE - Can I say, everybody's needs were met in the making of the programme. We had an access audit, everybody was happy, Tim. Just because one person's bathtub in that room might not have been accessible doesn't mean they all weren't, okay? [laughs]
SIMON - Oh, I really need to see this one back now. I noticed there were two steps getting into the kitchen and someone's wheelchair by that. Was that accessible or was there another ramp or something?
KATE - There were ways around the house, Simon.
SIMON - Again Kate, there's not a lot of people about with primordial dwarfism, and you've managed to find her.
KATE - Yeah, we found some incredible people and we…
SIMON - Extraordinary people in fact, yeah.
KATE - And I think one of the reasons why I'm so proud of this programme is because Channel Five put so much into making it about everybody's abilities and the differences and how great everyone is. And I think there is a worry that it could be exploitative or a freak show…
SIMON - And you're going to get it.
KATE - And we're going to get a lot of people saying that about it, but in reality I think if you watch it it doesn't come across in that way. And that was the importance of Channel Five choosing to go with a disability led production company.
SIMON - Has it made a difference to you? Do you think it's made a difference to the rest of the housemates?
RACHAEL - Yes, definitely. I mean when I walked in I was the last one that day and nobody batted an eyelid at me and that was the best thing about it. It was amazing. And I looked round at everybody and thought oh wow, this is great. And I didn't single anybody out in my own mind either.
KATE - And one of the reasons that you were wanting to do this was because you wanted to have more confidence to be out in public with your kids. Is that right? Because were they getting some negativity?
RACHAEL - Absolutely, yeah, definitely. And they spot people looking and they feel so uncomfortable with it that they obviously either give a negative response back to the public or they're looking and feel uncomfortable and they'll give me a hug to make me feel better. But they don't deserve that. Why should they have to put up with the public responses towards me?
KATE - Do you feel like you're growing in confidence to deal with that yourself and help them deal with it?
RACHAEL - Definitely. The show exceeded my confidence to do that. I'm teaching them that it's okay, just let it go over your head, just ignore them.
SIMON - And on the other end of the scale, Bash, so your inner confidence, where does this come from?
BASHIR - I don't know. I read a lot of books in my adolescence, self-love things. I don't know, I'm one of those people that's like things could be worse.
KATE - All of you around the table have a visible disability and if I'm in my wheelchair I guess I do as well. How do you deal with the nosy public reactions? Is there a toolkit? Is there something you use that can help us? Tim, I feel like you've got to have some good comebacks?
TIM- Rosie Jones told my favourite one, which was to walk by somebody and then fall down, and go, "What the hell, man!" [laughter] Rosie Jones is another disabled stand up. I tell people it's a gypsy curse a lot when you're with a hippie-dippy person that's trying to be nice but being patronising, is talk about what you did in your past life to make you like this now, because that makes them feel uncomfortable and then they just leave.
SIMON - In three months we should get you back because I know it with Lisa Hammond, I've seen it with Lost Voice Guy, they've gone from people looking and laughing and pointing to people just come up, talk, chat, hug.
TIM - Yeah, people already do that.
SIMON - Now they know you. Suddenly this goes back to why disability can be a social phenomenon, they don't care anymore.
KATE - That's what is hopefully going to happen for you guys as well in a matter of weeks.
SIMON - So, Bash, do you have a comeback?
BASHIR - If I'm emotional at the time it's, "Do you fancy me? If you want a date you can take my number."
KATE - Have you got any comebacks, Simon?
SIMON - Sometimes I just have to let it go, sometimes putting your headphones on because I don't want to get involved. I've had it with youngsters and I've shouted back sort of, "Just grow up," but I realise that's not the best one because they could throw it back straight to me and it would sort of unravel…
SIMON - So I remember saying it and thinking oh damn it, that didn't work. When they laughed at me in the car wash recently… I couldn't get out, I nearly left but I couldn't get out, there were loads of cars, so I didn't tip them, that was my…
KATE - Oh, well firm.
SIMON - Oh, you should have seen their faces. Yeah, devastated.
KATE - That will have killed them.
SIMON - Devastated they were.
KATE - Yeah, I bet they were. I don't really have any comebacks.
SIMON - When you're in a wheelchair though?
TIM - You can always run over their toes.
KATE - Yeah, and I think like Bash I just kind of go, "Oh hello, you're into me right now."
BASHIR - But the funny thing is yeah, you never know the outcome. If someone's like, "Oh, you know, I actually do." Ah, fantastic.
KATE - Here's my number. [laughs]
SIMON - Rachael, have we given you any comebacks or have you developed them?
RACHAEL - Like a couple of you said, I've let it go or stare back, but sometimes I stare back and I smile and I don't get a smile back and I think, whoops. I just have to turn away and I just have to get on with it and I think, you know what, it doesn't matter.
KATE - I think killing with kindness.
RACHAEL - I've had it yesterday, I tried smiling at someone and she just glared at me and I thought oh, what have I done?
SIMON - You've reminded me, if someone stares, if I look and smile and they smile back I'm kind of all right then. If they don't then smile I'm like no, no, no. I think we've helped our listeners no end with those.
TIM - Oh, awesome! Ask them for change.
KATE - Ask them for change. [laughs] Right, I'm going to plug the show. 'The House of Extraordinary People', Channel Five, 18th March at 10 pm and it's going to be Monday to Wednesday that week. Anyone who is worried about them just tune in and see what you think. I'd be very interested.
SIMON - Absolutely.
KATE - Right, so how are we doing, guys? Is there stuff you'd like to hear us talk about more, or do we rabbit on too much about one particular issue that you really don't care about?
SIMON - Change BBC Sounds.
KATE - We love hearing from you, but not Simon, so please get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we're bbcouch on Facebook and Twitter.
SIMON - That's it for the March 2019 Ouch talk show. Thanks to our guests, Tim Renkow, Bashir Aziz and Rachael Reynolds. The team is Beth Rose, Niamh Hughes, and the producer was Emma Tracey. The studio manager was Robbie Heywood.
KATE - Goodbye.
SIMON - Bye.