Rick and Morty – Comedy and Normalization of Stuttering Protagonists
I’m only now discovering Rick and Morty and it has so many fascinating elements to discuss, but the first one has to be around the idea that the humor frequently relies on the stutters and speech of the protagonists.
I mean, obviously humor in general is often about comedic timing… but in addition to the wonderful content and sci-fi variety in the show, what really hits home for me is both Rick and Morty’s vocal deliveries. They’re so silly yet grounded in their ums, errms, uhhs, and stutters that I pretty much just bust a gut every time Morty gets all worked up and goes off on Rick. It’s so evident that when Rick Sanchez of Youtube edited together all the stutters and belches, it took over a minute.
Placing such a high emphasis immediately in the pilot episode on little speech blips, st-st-stutters of the characters, and what essentially amounts to comedic vocal filler may hint at where the creators of Rick and Morty want the protagonists to embody. It’s a style of vocal performance that continues in most of the episodes I’ve seen, though mellows out a bit intermittently.
But I’m left wondering if other shows have similar performances for characters where their stutter is intentional and pronounced. The other folks in Rick and Morty more or less have no stutters, but the random alt-dimensional character voice are all pretty stupid/silly in their deliveries.
What’s even more interesting is that it seems completely accepted and not something brought up or a narrative focal point they’re trying to move past (like in the King’s Speech). I mean, I’m only up to about half-way through the show and I don’t think it’s even been acknowledged by any other character.
To give credit where it’s certainly due, my homegurl was the one that brought up that it was the first thing she noticed about the show, and how any stutters ain’t even taboo. Speaking with my partner as we’re watching the show, we discussed the potential commentary around the total acceptance of what other characters could label as a “speech impediment”. It’s just as likely that the show is leveraging comedy much higher above any social advocacy, but it’s pretty great to see individuals battling communication struggles still working vehemently to express themselves.
I threw this question out to reddit in threads on r/television and r/rickandmorty and people came through with some fascinating mentions. Some of these resonated pretty heavily with me, so I’ll list my favorites.
- Porky Pig – the effective cous de grace, OG, stutterer. Right? Who’s been stuttering for over 80 years? Damn! Redditor gilgoomesh brought this to my attention and it’s making my curious about the lineage of stuttering or intentional vocal imperfections, especially in animation. I recently watched the documentary “I know that Voice” and I’m a bit surprised it didn’t go into stutterers.
- Walt Jr – originally mentioned by my homie Jacob immediately when asking this question, but then mentioned a couple times in the thread, Walt Jr is a solid and interesting example. Both because he is played by an actor with mild cerebral palsy and because he then studied to hone his craft and intensify the presentation in the show.
- The Waterboy – my personal favorite Adam Sandler character, the waterboy is the perfect combination of meek, polite, southern charm, and of course hilarious comedic timing.
Stuttering can be comedic, about the vocal delivery, and can ground a character by displaying the frequent communication mistakes err’body experiences on the daily. It’s awesome to see phenomenal depictions portraying, normalizing, and representing a diversity of different peeps. Can y’all think of other characters in media, especially protagonists, that have a stutter?