When the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up in 1986, killing all on board including Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space Project, the following joke hit the streets within minutes of the disaster:
Q: “What were Christa McAuliffe’s last words?”
A: “What does this button do?”
If that joke had made the rounds today with the Internet as our Orwellian gatekeeper, the person who first said it would be spending hours apologizing to the McAuliffe family and explaining themselves to the press. And if they were employed they probably would have been fired.
Like it or not, comedians say things others are thinking but are afraid to speak out loud. It’s brave. It’s often cringe-worthy. But mainly it’s brave.
The purpose of comedy is to make people think. Its purpose is not to make you comfortable or make you smile. Its purpose is to make you laugh. And in the pursuit of that end, there will be casualties.
What other profession combines making you think with making you laugh? Politics, but that’s probably not on purpose.
Does this mean we can’t make fun of death or tragedies but can make fun of little old ladies driving in Florida, Mexicans trying to get into the U.S. or Tiger Woods and his white mistresses? Where do you draw the line and do you draw it for everyone? Or just for yourself? The correct answer to that question should be Just For Yourself. Please leave the rest of us out of it. Don’t tell me what I can’t say and I won’t tell you how badly you need a nose job.
I was unfollowed on Twitter by an irate gentleman who took exception to this tweet of mine:
“People in Mississippi can't wear white sheets after Labor Day.”
The U.K.’s most controversial and, according to him, most fired radio personality Neal Mayhem was unfollowed for this tweet:
"Police now use an iPhone app that scans irises to ID suspects. It replaces their previous method: scanning for dark skin."
Of course both Neal and I thought our tweets were hilarious. Others did not. That’s because comedy is subjective. Not forbidden.
While she was interviewing people on the red carpet, celebrity basher Kathy Griffin said that Dakota Fanning was in rehab. Steven Spielberg’s movie War of the Worlds was coming out and insiders speculated that he insisted that the E! channel ban Kathy for saying such a "horrible" thing to the young star of his movie.
Off the wall comedian Tracy Morgan was performing in a comedy club and after a lengthy anti-gay rant ended it by saying he would not talk to his child and would stab him if that child was gay. NBC threatened 30 Rock with pulling advertisers if Tracy didn’t apologize.
Because 75% of Aflac’s business is in Japan, well known shock comic Gilbert Gottfried was fired from being the annoying duck voice on the annoying Aflac commercial because of a series of dark but funny tweets he made about last year's Japanese tsunami.
The world jumps on the lone tweet, comment or sound bite from a comic while we let movies like The Hangover - which is phobic, racist and sexist – slide. The 40 year Old Virgin had an entire scene of "You're so gay because…" and it was never criticized once in the press. There appears to be selective outrage when it comes to products that make millions of dollars, like hit movies, and stand up comedians, who don't.
Stop the political correctness; I want to get off.
I don’t have to like or agree with anything anyone says but threaten me and you threaten the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights:
The 1st Amendment protects the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.
We have to let the Westboro Baptist Church protest at funerals of soldiers, gays and public figures like former First Lady Betty Ford because it’s their right. We wouldn’t dream of taking away someone’s religious freedoms even if it is as hateful as theirs.
Firing someone, forcing them to resign, threatening them with loss of income doesn’t work. Because people keep speaking their minds. As recently as Academy Awards producer Brett Ratner, who made a gay slur and ‘resigned’ from this year's event. Did Ratner live in a bubble so small that he was unaware of the trouble Gilbert Gottfried and Tracy Morgan got into? Did he, a movie director, not hear about Danish movie director Lars von Trier, who was ousted and banned from the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for saying he sympathized with Hitler and was himself a Nazi? Apparently the Danish are not known for their comedic talents because Von Trier said he was trying to make a joke.
Not all of my jokes go over either.