ITV has sparked fury after comedian Jimeoin mocked people suffering with Alzheimer’s on Sunday Night at the Palladium.
The Portstewart funnyman opened his sketch on the family show, which aired at 7.15pm, by making light of the illness.
The comedian quipped: ““I think I am losing my memory. Do you ever think you have Alzheimer’s? Do you do that thing when you walk into a room and go ‘what did I come into this room for?’ Open up a fridge, and go into soft focus. And close the fridge and go ‘what did I open the fridge for?’ Driving my car and thinking where am I going. I was looking for something in the fridge.”
Later he remarked: “Have I done the Alzheimer’s joke?”
However his joke sparked anger from charities and viewers - with the broadcaster apologising afterwards.
George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Society said: “The 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK deserve much more than serving as a punchline.
“It’s hard to imagine that a comedian would find it acceptable to make jokes about having cancer or heart disease so it’s incredibly disappointing to see Alzheimer’s disease get this kind of treatment.
“While we’ve come a long way in terms of raising awareness this shows that there’s still a stubborn core of stigma about dementia.
“We know that sometimes laughter can be the best medicine.
“Many people with dementia and their carers tell us that they use it as a way of coping with what can sometimes be difficult situations. However there’s a big difference between laughing with someone with dementia and laughing at them.”
Dementia UK said in a statement: “What Jimeoin described in his joke is a daily reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. There are many people affected who find solace in jokes, but for others who are struggling with the stigma around dementia, the lack of specialist care, and symptoms that can feel very alien to them; it’s harder to laugh.”
Reader Lisa Evans, whose mother suffers with dementia, said: “It’s disgusting he can make light of this.”
An ITV spokesperson said “We apologise for any offence caused.”
Jimeoin has earned worlwide acclaim for his brilliantly funny wit and charming observations on the absurdities of every-day life.
The 48-year-old went to school in Portstewart and lives in Melbourne with wife Catherine Arena and their four children.
Critics have praised him for engaging the audience to laugh at their own unnoticed foibles.