BREAKING NEWS : Fort Wayne SWAT spraying, throwing tear gas at George Floyd protesters Full Story

Elayne Boosler: Saying 'joke' is no excuse for offensive behavior

"Comedy" is now the fall guy.Every time someone gets busted for a horrific statement, he or she sudde...

Posted: Aug 20, 2018 1:37 PM
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 1:38 PM

"Comedy" is now the fall guy.

Every time someone gets busted for a horrific statement, he or she suddenly announces: "It was a joke!"

Celebrities

Elayne Boosler

2018 Capital Gazette shooting

Annapolis

Capital Gazette

Companies

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Maryland

North America

Northeastern United States

Shootings

United States

Arts and entertainment

Comedians and comedy

Government and public administration

Politics

Uh uh. No. You are not going to cloud up our art form with your ill-conceived oral feculence.

My gifted comic pals and I work way too hard on crafting humor to allow you to come along and claim your unlicensed, misfiring sawed-off shotgun is actually a sharpened blade that cuts to the truth to illuminate understanding and brings out our shared humanity through laughter.

We now live in a political environment of such stunningly unbelievable rhetoric, we're constantly thinking, "You've got to be kidding." Yet the audience always knows, so if you're going to speak, or tweet, and fall back on comedy as a "get out of jail free" card, you probably won't get out of jail.

An "alt-right" activist said recently that people should start shooting journalists. When he was widely criticized in the wake of the Capital Gazette newspaper shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, he claimed his critics were taking his "joke" as a threat.

But that's not what happened. No one took a "joke" to be a threat; they took a threat to be a threat. They saw it exactly for what it was: a polemicist speaking without a punchline. Jokes are clearly jokes.

When Henny Youngman said, "Take my wife, please," no one came and took his wife. Jokes have a structure; many of these self-proclaimed "comedians" are just stating a sentence. And above all, a joke has to be funny -- the more controversial or edgy it is, the funnier it has to be.

I'll go anywhere with any good comic; down any conspiracist, conservative, liberal, Bible or soy-based rabbit hole, just as long as it's funny. What many fail to recognize is that they're no Bill Hicks.

Roseanne's racist tweet? Well, even professional comedians can miss the mark. In that case, they get to claim, "It was a joke," in the same way that a baseball player can say he batted today, even though he went 0 for 4. The only people who should be tweeting anything about "apes" are Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, and Dian Fossey's dead.

Comics don't get a pass.

You make enough money and have had enough practice at comedy to write jokes that are smartfunny, sillyfunny, or both. Leading with hatred and prejudice doesn't often lead to landing a punchline. If you really wanted to call Ivanka Trump a c***, well, there are ways to intelligently stick that landing and be funny.

What's the point of speaking if a wall goes up before you can be heard? Comedy's only tool is language. A message gets so much further across our current social divide when people are not recoiling from a motherf**kerdickc*** barrage that automatically shuts them down.

You can impart so much more smart, subversive humor when people are actually listening to you and not on the defense. We have all the words in the world on our palettes, why paint with only three or four colors? (Note: Comedy geniuses living or dead are exempt from this rule, because they know how to paint.)

If Louis C.K. had asked me to watch him masturbate, I'd have said, "Dude, I don't even watch your show."

Then there's last month's hilarious incident when comedian John Melendez — aka Stuttering John — called the White House pretending to be a US senator, asking to be connected to the President. Shortly afterward, John got a call back and was on the phone with the President. Talk about using comedy for good. Aside from the laughter, a comic pointed up the dangerous vulnerability to our country when a president thinks he doesn't need experts on staff because he "knows everything."

Our ambassadors are gone, our statesmen are gone, the smartest kids in the room are gone, and the country is vulnerable to any and all interference from those who would hack our democracy. One great comedy bit exposed the ongoing danger.

Pretty good for a joke.

I haven't seen the new Sacha Baron Cohen show yet so I can't comment on it. I can say only, if he is bringing reprehensible politicians back into our living rooms, I hope it's really, really, funny. And remember, when a comic dupes a politician, only the politician suffers. When politicians dupe the public, well, you know.

Vile statements are not "jokes." They're vile statements. You can't call them jokes any more than you can call vomiting "recycling." Besides, the hallmark of a true joke is that after you say it, you never have to say "It was a joke."

Haters, polemicists, politicians, rabble rousers, lazy comics, panderers; stop throwing the craft of comedy under the bus as a Hail Mary pass when you're busted for uncivil discourse.

No one's buying it. Leave jokes alone. And donate a pint of blood and say thanks to our free press.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Annapolis.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34566

Reported Deaths: 2131
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5674256
Cuyahoga4318226
Marion265728
Hamilton2603147
Lucas2202240
Pickaway205036
Mahoning1405173
Summit1380172
Butler86229
Columbiana73951
Stark71691
Lorain67259
Montgomery65117
Trumbull56248
Belmont41912
Warren35920
Miami35530
Tuscarawas3393
Ashtabula33034
Medina32823
Portage32257
Delaware32013
Lake30212
Wood28546
Geauga27732
Wayne26650
Fairfield2586
Clark2526
Licking23010
Allen21232
Clermont2065
Mercer2037
Richland1973
Erie16711
Darke16721
Madison1527
Washington11819
Crawford1104
Morrow1051
Greene1015
Ottawa9513
Putnam9014
Monroe7712
Sandusky7311
Auglaize713
Hocking694
Ross682
Jefferson672
Huron561
Williams541
Union511
Muskingum500
Hancock501
Hardin450
Clinton430
Fayette400
Shelby403
Wyandot392
Fulton390
Coshocton380
Logan370
Preble351
Guernsey340
Defiance332
Holmes321
Carroll303
Lawrence300
Brown281
Champaign271
Knox241
Highland231
Ashland200
Seneca202
Vinton192
Perry181
Athens181
Henry150
Scioto150
Paulding140
Jackson130
Harrison100
Adams91
Gallia71
Van Wert60
Meigs60
Pike60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Angola
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Few Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Decatur
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Van Wert
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Sunny & Pleasant Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events