Comedian Offends, Apologizes: “He’s Criminal AND Non-Judeo-Christian,” says anonymous commenter

June 10, 2011

Remember when a comic could bomb on-stage with some bad material and we didn’t get our panties into a twist? Neither can I.

A popular and highly successful comedian (it doesn’t really matter who) recently made remarks during a stand-up performance that offended a portion of his audience. One especially annoyed patron posted about this non-event online and the story has lodged into a few spins of the news cycle. At this point more people have commented about the incident than were present in the audience.

Because the remarks made were directed at a minority group, members of this group felt a duty to voice their displeasure. Non-members of this sub-group have spoken up as well; they’re offended on behalf of those originally offended.

If there’s anything thing that unites us as a country, it’s the speed at which we take offense. We’re offensive and offended pretty much 24-7 these days.

In general, I think we should cut stand-up comedians a little more slack. They have a really hard gig: making drunk 20-somethings laugh at anything more sophisticated than dick jokes in dark, dank rooms we politely call ‘clubs.’ And by its very nature, comedy always skirts with the offensive.

For most comics, a scandal like this is simply part of their career arc; it hardly seems to qualify as news. But because the Interwebs give everyone license to vent their opinions, these non-events can become small media firestorms. Most of the time they blow over – anyone still hating on Ted Danson for his blackface routine at a roast for then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg? Sometimes though, a comic loses a lucrative gig (Gilbert Gottfried) or, worse yet, their career nose dives and they become unemployable (Michael Richards).

If you want to find the most emotional, least thoughtful opinions on such matters, it’s impossible to beat the Reader’s Comments in the New Daily News. Years ago the great Steve Allen used to read the incensed letters published in that paper to great comedic effect. People who write to the Daily News are seriously pissed off. And that over-the- top anger, out of context, is pretty funny. Like this one:

“. . .this rant goes beyond freedom of speech; he’s talking about killing his own son if he is gay. That’s criminal. AND non-Judeo-Christian.”

So this commenter takes it as a given that a multi-millionaire performer is literally going to act out  an apparently ad-libed part of his comedy routine, go home, grab a knife and kill one of his children. Could we get the statistics on successful comedians killing their families, please? Not too great a risk, is it?

As befits a city that calls itself a melting pot (or a glorious mosaic, if you remember David Dinkins), Race and Class seem to be the main ongoing themes in these comments.

If you don’t have money, the problem is the people who do have money. If you’re White, the problem is Black, and if you’re Black, the problem is White. It’s all so easy! The problem is always over there, caused by them. Self-described ‘hard-working’ white New Yorkers routinely bemoan the fact that a portion of their tax dollars go to state and city welfare to support ethnic groups they despise. The ethnic population is usually called ‘animals’ in these complaints. Let’s point out here that 60% of people on welfare are – can you see this one coming? – white.

What hard-working, white New Yorkers miss in their anger is the recognition that welfare actually works for about 2/3 of the people taking advantage of it. They use it only for a short time or on-and-off.  But there is an underclass of 30% who may remain on welfare for a lifetime, even passing this down to the next generation. If welfare actually worked to move those people up in to the middle-class, I think these angry white New Yorkers would like it even less. Especially the increased competition in a very tight job market.

But by all means let’s get offended by a bit of bad stand-up. And let’s have the constituency of the New York Daily News explain it all to us.

I just wish that Steve Allen was around today to take all this spleen and spin it into comedy.


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