THE BLOG

Open Letter to Jimmy Fallon

Nov 25, 2013 | Updated Jan 25, 2014

Dear NBC and Jimmy Fallon,

I want to start off by saying I'm a huge fan of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Mr. Fallon is funny. Like, truly funny. The show is definitely one of the funniest late night shows out there right now.

When I heard about your gluten free cookbook sketch, I had to check it out for myself. At first, all I could say was ... Wow, that was not funny. It wasn't just because I do have Celiac disease or because I'm oversensitive, either.

Instead, the sketch was actually just not funny. I'm still not exactly sure what the joke therein was supposed to be, but I am sure that alienating one out of every 133 Americans is not a very good idea. Making fun of a gluten free cookbook and then smashing a gluten-containing pie in the face of a supposedly gluten-free person doesn't strike me as particularly humorous. Had you included something informational as well, maybe you could be excused, but no, you made fun of us for seemingly no reason.

Now, I can appreciate humor. I can even poke a little fun at things like GlutenFreeSingles.com, or how many different gums/extracts we have to use in gluten free cooking. Yes, it is kind of funny! And look, life is hard if we're not a little self-deprecating sometimes, right? But I'm sorry Mr. Fallon, you took it too far.

Do you realize that people eat gluten free as treatment for legitimate medical conditions? I'll speak to Celiac disease, as that is the one that I'm most familiar with, but know that there are a number of reasons why someone might eat gluten free for health reasons. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition, which -- let me break it down for you -- means that when we eat gluten, our body's own immune system turns on itself. This causes the body of a Celiac to wage full-on war on itself.

To non-Celiacs, gluten is simply what makes your bread rise, but for us, consuming gluten is pulling the pin on a grenade in our body. Pulling that pin will then lead to a host of ill effects starting with immediate, painful symptoms and leading to long-term detrimental health consequences. No, I am not being dramatic, and yes, smashing a gluten-containing pie in someone's face will likely cause enough ingestion of gluten for this to happen. Is that still funny to you?

If it is, let me break it down even more. For a Celiac, eating gluten can cause symptoms from delayed growth to GI symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating. It can lead to infertility, headaches, painful skin rashes and so, so much more. If you think it's okay to make fun of autoimmune conditions, imagine what kind of reaction you would get if you made fun of multiple sclerosis or type I diabetes. Is that still funny to you?

If it is, then think about the greater consequences that making fun of gluten free diets has for those of us who suffer from Celiac disease. When you turn us into a joke on your show, you make it okay for people to ignore the fact that this diet is medically mandated for many. I have experienced bullying firsthand due to my gluten-free diet, and your "humor" provides more ammunition for the bullies I have had to put up with for years. I don't think that helping bullies is funny. Is it funny to you?

Mr. Fallon, you make light of the fact that eating gluten can make us ill. There's a term for that. It's called ableism, and according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as "discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities." When you take your place of privilege, as someone able-bodied, and use it to make jokes against those of us who are differently-abled, you are, in fact, participating in a form of social prejudice. When I put it in those terms, it really stops being funny, doesn't it?

NBC and Jimmy Fallon, I hope you will take this as an educational opportunity. I hope that it helps you learn that the words you use and the so-called "humor" on your show can hurt others. Of course it's important to have a little humor in our lives, and I understand that your model thereof includes making fun of others every now and then. However, poking fun at a group of people who have a credible medical illness is never funny. I ask that you please explain your decision to include this sketch, and I hope that you will take the time on your show to teach your audience about the realities of those of us on a gluten-free diet.

Thank you for your time.

Best Wishes,

Priyanka Chugh