‘The Conners’ marching band joke angers Waukesha County residents

The ABC show “The Conners” recently made a joke about a character hitting a marching band in a parade in Wisconsin. Many people are upset about that joke, including the Tiegs family (Tyson, Don, Jessi, Bree and Erick Tiegs pictured at the Dec. 4 Waukesha Christmas parade).


@ffdonnie Can't believe writers would write something like this and it would make it to national TV. Makes me angry and sick. #waukeshaparade #waukeshastrong #theconnorshow #abc ♬ original sound - Donnie Tiegs

WAUKESHA — A primetime network television show is facing local backlash after a joke was made about a person running over a marching band in Wisconsin.

On a recent episode of ABC’s “The Conners,” characters Dan and Louise Conner are talking to Louise’s mom, who just drove from Wisconsin. Doris Goldufski tells her daughter her night vision is not great. Dan asks about pedestrians and bicyclists and asks if she noticed any “bump bumps” on the way. Doris replies, “I could drive over a marching band and not feel a thing,” Doris said.

Stay up-to-date on all the latest Waukesha County news with a subscription: Click here

Don Tiegs, a Waukesha resident, was disgusted by the joke.

“They talked about a ‘bump bump’ going over a parade and hitting a marching band. That bump bump was my son,” Tiegs said in a TikTok video.

On Nov. 21, 2021, Don Tiegs’ sons, Erick and Tyson, were walking with the Waukesha South High School Marching Band in the Waukesha Christmas Parade when Darrell Brooks Jr. ran over parade participants with his SUV. Brooks was convicted and sentenced in November. Six people died and over 60 were injured during the parade. Erick Tiegs was seriously hurt, suffering a broken femur, broken ribs, a bruised and collapsed lung and skull and vertebrae fractures.

Don Tiegs was working in Caledonia during the parade when he received a call from a friend asking if his sons were OK. He called his wife, who heard from Tyson something bad had happened.

“All I knew was Erick was hurt,” Don Tiegs said. Tyson, who wasn’t injured, watched his brother get run over.

The Waukesha South freshman had nightmares following the parade, but was able to process things through the help of a therapist. Erick is now without crutches or a wheelchair and both boys were in this year’s Christmas Parade on Dec. 4.

Don questions how the joke made it into the show, given that the parade was a national story.

“You can say all the coincidences in the world; if you are talking about Wisconsin marching band, everyone asks about the parade. Everyone knows about the parade,” he said.

Don hopes for an apology from the show or the episode to be pulled.

“I’m not sure how something like that gets through editing, the producers and everything else and no one knows,” Don said.

Don said Erick didn’t want any part of the Brooks trial. He just wants to move on with his life.

“For him, he didn’t see himself get hit. He knows what happened. My younger son saw it and was dealing with the trauma of witnessing. To us it brings back memories of hearing your son was in a car accident and ran over. Then find out it’s the whole parade. It brings back that day again,” Don said.

Don said he can appreciate the value of humor and admits within his own family they joke about serious things.

“As a family we use humor to deal with trauma. When it is coming from complete strangers and especially a major national television show joking about ... I mean, Roseanne lost her job. People get in trouble,” he said.

Don was referring to actress/writer Roseanne Barr, who was fired from the relaunched “Roseanne” show in 2018 for racist tweets.

Aaron Sparks, father of Jackson Sparks who died in the Christmas parade, didn’t find the joke funny at all.

“I don’t buy it for one second. You don’t put ‘Wisconsin’ and ‘running over a marching band’ in the script together by accident. This was by design by the @ABCNetwork and now they are cover their a****. Disgusting,” Sparks tweeted.

Trista Jerling is one of the administrators for the Waukesha Strong Community group on Facebook.

“It’s very sad when tragedy is used in a storyline, to be joked about, it was not funny, nor will it ever be something to be anyone will laugh about.

“Lives were lost and too many injured physically and mentally. Some will never return to a parade. The parade tragedy made world wide news, no way the writers of ‘The Conners’ didn’t know of this themselves. The show aired just 2 days after our televised parade. The writers, producers, the cast, the network and local station owe the community a huge apology,” Jerling said.

Statement from show ’s executive producers

After The Freeman contacted the executive producers of “The Conners” for this story on Monday, they responded with the following statement: “On behalf of the entire team at ‘The Conners,’ we’re deeply sorry and extend our sincere apologies to those who are still reliving the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy. We would never consciously make light of such an event and are mortified that it was perceived that way. We have pulled the episode in its current form and will ensure this dialogue is removed from future airings. Our hearts are with the victims and their families.”