Comedian Ricky Gervais is no stranger to controversy; some insist that his entire schtick is based on irritating people. This time around, Gervais is pushing peoples’ buttons by ranting about nut allergies and their impact on his first-class air travel.
On The Tonight Show, Gervais jokingly complained to host Jimmy Fallon about how someone’s peanut allergies prevented him from receiving free peanuts in first class.
In traditional Gervais fashion, he went as far as he possibly could, enraging parents on the internet.
“They told us ‘We’re not handing out nuts today, because there’s a passenger on board with a very serious nut allergy. Even if someone else is eating nuts, it could kill them,'” he recounted.
“I said out loud, ‘Of course, fine,’ but in my head, I’m thinking, ‘Why is that my problem?'”
The audience, and Fallon, laughed at the joke. Gervais continued.
“I know this person would die, but I’m thinking, ‘I never wanted to eat nuts more!'”
People online, especially parents, were displeased with the comedian’s humour.
American organization Food Allergy Research and Education posted a blog as an informative follow-up to Gervais’ rant, highlighting how easy it is for someone with a nut allergy to suffer life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Even little kids afflicted with the allergies reached out to Gervais directly.
Common foods tied to allergies include, peanuts, tree nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macademia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and walnuts, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish.
The balancing act between protecting kids with food allergies and implementing too many bans in the classroom has become a hot-button issue. While schools ban most allergy-triggering foods, about 1.5 per cent of Canadian kids are allergic to peanuts.
“The problem is for certain allergens, peanuts being one of them, we don’t have a safe threshold of a level you can tolerate. Everyone has a different threshold and that can vary based on your state of health at the time when you’re exposed,” Dr. Christine McCusker explained.
McCusker is the head of pediatric allergy and immunology at Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Death from a severe allergic reaction can kick in fast, she warned. In some patients, they could feel their throat constricting, their intestines could become inflamed causing a steep drop in blood pressure, or lungs could go into a massive asthmatic attack and close down.
“They can go from feeling something funny like their tongue is itching to not being able to breathe really quickly — within minutes,” McCusker said.