Actor Chris Burke Defends Shane Gillis Down Syndrome Humor

Actor Chris Burke attends the Broadway opening night of "Gypsy" at The St. James Theater on March 27, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Wintrow/Getty Images) / Shane Gillis at Chelsea Music Hall (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Actor Chris Burke, who has Down Syndrome, defended comedian Shane Gillis on Monday following Gillis’ “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig where he made jokes about people with Down Syndrome.

Burke starred in the sitcom “Life Goes On” in the late 1980s to 1990s and his defense of Gillis is pretty moving. Gillis hosted “SNL” and made a joke about a niece who has Down Syndrome, but it’s actually a fairly tame humor that makes fun of people who don’t understand the disorder, rather than those who are born with it. He has a similar routine in his special “Beautiful Dogs,” except he describes his Uncle Danny as having Down Syndrome.

Burke said that “people with Down Syndrome are just like everybody else and shouldn’t be excluded from being joked about by comedians,” according to TMZ. He even argued that it would be more offensive for comedians to exclude people with Down Syndrome from their jokes.

Burke went on to tell people not to pass judgement on Gillis because “no one knows how he dealt and coped” having a family member with Down Syndrome. Apparently, the actor feels like Gillis isn’t making these jokes out of ignorance. Burke is kind of here for it. (RELATED: Shane Gillis Inks Deal With Netflix For Comedy Series ‘Tires’)

He argued that had Gillis not made his jokes, the conversation about Down Syndrome wouldn’t be happening at all. His work is helping show others that people living with Down Syndrome are just normal folks who can experience everything in life, including being the subject of a joke.