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The Big Bang Theory Fans Are Glad Chuck Lorre Suggested Kripke's Speech Impediment

Back in 2019, "The Big Bang Theory" wrapped its final episode with the distinction of being the longest-running multicamera comedy in history, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The CBS series from producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady featured 279 episodes of nerdy comedy and was still at the top of the ratings when it ended

In large part, the series' success could be attributed to the show's cast of quirky characters, from intelligent and arrogant Sheldon (Jim Parsons) to sweet yet sometimes scary Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). And it isn't just the appeal of the main cast that floated the show — secondary, recurring characters throughout the show's run, like morose comic book store owner Stuart (Kevin Sussman) and Beverly Hofstadter (Christine Baranski), Leonard's mom, added depth and humor to the show. 

Among these fun secondary characters is Barry Kripke (John Ross Bowie), who appeared in every season of the series after his introduction in season two's episode "The Killer Robot Instability" — a total of 25 episodes. Also a scientist employed by Caltech, Barry was a foil for Sheldon and something of a "frenemy." Like the main male characters, he was intellectually gifted and perhaps socially not as much. One of Kripke's characteristics is a speech impediment that includes both rhotacism and lambdacism: he has difficulty pronouncing his "r"s and his "l"s. And many fans are glad that this particular speech disorder was included in "The Big Bang Theory."

Fans like the speech impediment because it's something that people experience in real life

In a Reddit thread discussing the speech impediment, one TV watcher wondered why it was included, since Kripke's character would have been effective without it. Many fans expressed that they liked the inclusion because it's something that does exist in real life. One, u/bowtiesarecool86, said he had a similar speech impediment growing up. 

Some fans believed it was a way to make the show more inclusive and relatable — and shows someone living with a disorder in daily life. u/ShieldofGondor said, "Some people have a speech impediment. They created a person that has one. It's exactly the same if people would complain someone is [Black], or disabled, or ... they're all 'just as effective' if Asian, abled ... it doesn't restrict them." And u/Purple-Quill-1996 posted, "Honestly, I like the fact that in spite of the speech impediment, Kripke was a character who never let it become his weakness. Many times, in shows and stories, disabilities and abnormalities are shown as crippling and sad and serious. I like the fact that he's shown as someone who lives with the impediment with such confidence." 

But also, "The Big Bang Theory" is a comedy, and some fans think that the impediment was included because it's funny. And indeed, the accent is played for laughs occasionally — as when Raj (Kunal Nayyar) asks, after Barry's first appearance, "I'm curious, what part of America is that accent from?" and when Barry sang "At Last" as the recessional song at Sheldon and Amy's wedding in season 11.

Kripke actor John Ross Bowie does not have a speech disorder in real life

As it turns out, the speech impediment's presence in the comedy series was a conscious decision, and there's information out there on exactly why it was included. In an FAQ he posted to his personal Tumblr page, actor Bowie (who was apparently up for the role of Leonard initially) says that he played Kripke as an arrogant jerk during his audition and Lorre felt the character needed more vulnerability and suggested a speech impediment. Producer and writer Bill Prady, who was also present, suggested changing the "l"s in his words. Bowie explains, "What came out of my mouth was a horrible Elmer Fudd pastiche. Chuck laughed. I got the job." Bowie also notes that the speech impediment isn't written into the script; he adds it to his speech when he says his lines.

While the rhotacism isn't mentioned often, there is one scene in season 7's "The Discovery Dissipation" in which Sheldon makes fun of the way Barry talks and Barry looks like his feelings are hurt — but after Sheldon apologizes, it turns out Barry wasn't upset about it at all — he just wanted to score another barb against Sheldon while Sheldon is down. "There's one moment where you think he's gonna show vulnerability when Jim makes fun of ... his speech impediment and he just turns it around on it beautifully," Bowie explains in a YouTube interview with Nurse Emily.

And no, actor Bowie does not talk that way in real life. If you're listening carefully, you can tell he's not completely consistent in missing those prominent "r" and "l" sounds.