[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN3zrFBXynw?rel=0]

TRIGGER WARNING: I’m going to talk about verbal abuse.

So I don’t know if you got a chance to see this, but it’s pretty awesome. Chelsea Handler lays a stupid kind of mean spirited fat joke on Andy Richter and BOOM, he comes back with an amazing zinger that not only puts Chelsea in her place, but gets Conan laughing his fool head off. If you haven’t clicked on the video click at the top of the page yet, go click it. I’ll wait.

See??? BOOM! I mean, don’t you wish you could come back like this when somebody says something mean or stupid or obliquely snide to you about the size of your body? I wish I could. Usually I do, in my head, 20 minutes later. In the moment however, I don’t often come up with something wonderful and witty to say. I guess now, even after it’s happened to me and all my friends and colleagues so many times, I am still surprised. Afterwards I’m not surprised at all. But in the moment, especially when a complete stranger decides to comment on my body, there’s often that moment of shock. I’m not talking about when people make rude comments to each other about me so I can hear them, or make obnoxious mooing sounds, or shout things across the street. I’m talking about when people confront me directly and say mean, stupid or downright horrible things. There is still a moment of shock. Still a feeling of violation. I feel it in my body like a punch to the gut. And often I’m standing there, mouth flapping open and closed like a recently caught fish wondering WHY a person who doesn’t know me, who has no reason to hate me just threw verbal poo at my head. Sometimes I am able to recover sufficiently to say something reasonably intelligent, and sometimes I just walk away shaking my head. But it’s safe to say, I’m almost never as quick on my feet as good old Andy Richter up there.

Now I am a professional speaker. I have had extensive training in speaking off the cuff. I’ve studied improvisational theater. So I often feel I should have been come up with something witty to say. And so the verbal beating I have taken from a complete stranger is often followed by me beating myself up for not handling the situation better. I find myself, after the fact, reliving the confrontation, calculating and discarding dozens of “comebacks” or “burns” I should have used and feeling battered and miserable.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know. I want to share that even though I’ve been in the space of body love and size acceptance for decades, and even though I’ve been in public debates and had speech training and have given literally hundreds of public talks, I don’t always have a witty comeback when somebody publicly attacks me. I’m telling you this because I am trying to learn to focus my anger where it belongs–not at myself for failing to “burn” somebody who is mean to me, but at the person who was being mean to me! I tell you this, because you may be one of the millions of other people in this world who do not have a witty comeback ready when somebody is mean to you. And I want you to know that’s okay. We all love the fact that Andy Richter can come back at Chelsea that way. We cheer because he does something we all wish we could do in the moment that somebody is mean to us–execute the perfect, 10-point, sustained audience laughter burn. But I want to suggest that we can appreciate Andy’s talent while at the same time relieving ourselves of the responsibility to be him.  And I want to suggest that maybe instead of beating ourselves up for not being funny in the face of cruelty, we should focus our anger outwards and self care and love inwards.  Just a thought.


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • I recently had an experience where I wished I could have said some zinger. My partner is dropping me off at work. There were these two ladies walking towards the opposite direction at the same time I’m getting out of the car. One woman very loudly remarked, “Do you see how fat she is?” I’ve always been big but I’ve ballooned back out to almost 400 pounds. I know I’m fatter than even I’d like to be but in that moment, the only thing I could say towards them was wow. I’m used to the silent judgement from co-workers but I’d never had someone come out that bluntly about it. So thank you for sharing this.–Cat

  • “I can lose weight but you’ll always be an a**hole”
    But probably sounds defensive and pathetic.

  • If it puts Andy Richter’s (wonderful!) zinger in perspective, how many years has he been working in show biz in general and with Conan in particular? I had heard someone point out that while Conan doesn’t go after Andy, he does make fat jokes. Richter probably has had few opportunities to zing a target the audience would accept. Handler is mean enough, often enough, and that remark was casually rude enough, I picture Richter thinking “THANK YOU GOD!”. The perfect zinger requires not just the right words but the right setup and the right room. 8)

  • I can always think of a comeback in hindsight. However I think I am glad I dont want to go to their level. I just pray for the boldness to just say do you really mean to be that rude and mean? We need to hold accountable but not be on their level

  • It’s so sad that people don’t have better things to do than to criticize our fat bodies. So heartbreaking to see when others are so fat-phobic that they can’t keep such negativity inside their faces. So upsetting that this type of hatred is still acceptable today.

    Thank you, Jeanette, for sharing about your vulnerability. This type of honesty is truly helpful for those of us who need the encouragement to not go hide ourselves away in fear after being confronted with ignorance. Love it!

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