Humour and jokes about epilepsy

Many young people we spoke with talked about humour as an important way for them and their friends and families to deal with epilepsy, to bring down barriers and brighten up a bad day. Here people talk about the role humour plays in relation to their epilepsy.

Most people said humour helped them to cope and deal with having epilepsy. Humour also helped them not to get too depressed about their seizures and about living with epilepsy. One woman said she'd 'go mad' without having a laugh about her epilepsy.

For some, having a sense of humour and making jokes about epilepsy reflected their general outlook on life; they said they were generally very positive and joked about most things, so why not about epilepsy too.

People said that having a sense of humour about epilepsy showed that they were open and able to talk about it. Many said that they preferred their good friends to have a laugh about epilepsy rather than take it too seriously or fuss over them - this showed that their friends were comfortable with it. One woman said, “If people are too afraid to joke about it, then they're probably the ones that are most uncomfortable.”

A couple of people said that using humour was a good way to break down barriers about epilepsy with people who seemed scared or awkward about it. One man said that making jokes about his epilepsy showed to others that he was comfortable about it and made it easier for everyone to start talking about it.

Seizures were a common topic of jokes. People said their behaviour during a temporal lobe seizure, for example, could be funny, or when they missed the punch line of a joke if they had an absence. People gave nicknames to seizures and talked about their 'breakdancing', 'gravel grovelling', 'wobbly', 'spassy attacks', 'spassing' and 'Mr E'. A couple of people said that giving nicknames to seizures made them less scary and easier to talk about.

“[Seizures] seem quite scary to talk about, not for me, but for like other people, whereas picturing somebody spontaneously breakdancing out of control is actually quite funny. And that doesn't make it as scary.”

In addition to seizures, people had a laugh about medication, their side effects, having a seizure during sex and other incidents that happened to them in daily life. 

Some said that occasionally other people were shocked about them making jokes and one man said his mum doesn't like him joking about his seizures. Another man said he sometimes makes non-pc jokes about epilepsy which can shock other people but he felt it's OK for him because he has epilepsy himself.

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Some said that they didn't appreciate jokes about epilepsy and found them silly. One woman said:

“I personally don't use humour. I know some people that do and if that's the way they feel that they can cope with it, then it's whatever works. I mean, there are different strategies and if that works, then that's fine, but not personally for me, no.”

Another young person pointed out that sometimes there's a fine line between joking with someone and joking about them: “It depends if they're laughing sort of with you or at you about it”. One woman said that, although she and her friends have a laugh about her seizures, she would never joke about someone else's seizures because they might be offended or upset. Using humour can offend people and it's important to know people well and to know where they draw the line.

Many said that what mattered was who was telling the joke or having a laugh, and that they wouldn't 'cross the line'. Most people had a laugh about epilepsy with people close to them, mainly friends, family or other people who have epilepsy. These people knew what living with epilepsy was like and what they'd been through, so people didn't find their humour disrespectful or offensive.

Last reviewed May 2016.

Last updated May 2010.


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