It started with being really, really pissed off.
That’s how I decided to create a comedy about Type 1 diabetes.
My sister was diagnosed when she was ten. Type 1 is often referred to as the “invisible disease” because people with it operate with such structure and routine that sometimes we, as non-diabetics, don’t even notice the prick of a finger or the punching in numbers on an insulin pump. But that’s a person…playing the role of a their own pancreas. Ummmmm…yeah. Every person with Type 1 is acting as the role of an organ. Every. Moment. Of. Every. Day. (Can they put that on their LinkedIn?)
There are times, though, that this disease is not invisible. And then, when people take notice, they act with about as much tact as a drunk Packers fan.
At a festival on a lovely summer day, I witnessed two such encounters with my sister:
Hallie and I were chatting with an acquaintance of mine. There was a pause in conversation and the woman caught sight of Hallie’s pump. “Nice pager,” she said.
Let me elaborate, since it’s hard to capture tone in text:
She did not say it with any of these tones:
- “Nice pager, that’s so cool that you’ve taken the 90s retro trend to the next level!”
- “Nice pager—oh my gosh, are you a doctor?”
- “Nice pager! I’m sorry, that’s my awkward way of asking about what that device is that you have.”
She did say it with this tone:
- “Nice pager, loser.”
Any older siblings can understand, every fucking Mufasa instinct rose up in me. Unfortunately, it manifested into a mind blowing muteness. I’d like to think that it’s because if I did open my mouth, I would’ve said something so scathing that she would have burst into tears and apologized profusely.
But I didn’t. I just drank my beer in a dark silence. My sister said, “Thanks.”
This was worse. And I have no idea how I didn’t punch someone.
Another woman—an acquaintance (obviously, none of these people would ever actually be my friends) stopped mid-conversation and literally pulled on Hallie’s pump cord, asking like Regina George, “What’s that?”
Again. Rendered speechless with anger. Which is really the most frustrating kind because all you want to do is dump beer on someone’s head.
“Um, my pump. It you know, keeps me alive,” Hallie said with a deadpan tone.
My sister doesn’t even remember that day with Instance 1 and 2. Because such things–and much worse atrocities–are commonplace for people with Type 1. And that’s because people have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 has been misconstrued over and over throughout mainstream media. Take a look at even progressive comedies, like 30 Rock. In season 3, episode 9 there’s a joke about Tracy Morgan not being able to eat candy and getting his leg amputated from diabetes. Um, cool. In the Lifetime movie with Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig (IMDb lists it as a drama, but let’s be real), they don’t know what to do when the girl they kidnapped doesn’t have her insulin, so their solution is to get candy to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis. No writer thought to do a 30-second Google search on that one? Or maybe they were just cool with perpetuating ignorance.
It’s certainly not Hollywood’s responsibility to educate people on anything. But can you imagine if we took another group of people and joked in such an uninformed manner about their disease?
It is time for people to have an understanding about what Type 1 is and what it isn’t. And what better way to fight ignorance than pulling out a giant giraffe out of a Louis Vuitton purse?
I created Type One as a way to uninvisiblize (totally a word) the disease by using the most effective weapon–laughter. It’s the same weapon my sister and many people with Type 1 use on the daily to cope with this disease…while, you know, simultaneously acting as their own pancreases.
After seeing our show, the most common reaction we’ve gotten from people with Type 1 is: “I’ve totally done that.” We portray reality–well, an exaggerated version of reality–to show the ins and outs of what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes.
We have just a few days left in our Kickstarter, and I’m asking for you to support our cause. Check out our pilot episode (the giraffe comment will make a lot more sense), throw us a few bucks, and share it out.
Let’s kick the shit out of some ignorance and make people laugh.