On Eight Types of Hecklers and the Comedians Who Shut Them Up

seriously. I was just thinking that.

Posted on March 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm 0

On Looking Back at Mr. Show

Mr. Show was so great. Awesome article.

Posted on March 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm 0

On Should "Retarded" be Retired from the Comedic Lexicon?


Posted on March 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm 0

On Should "Retarded" be Retired from the Comedic Lexicon?

Since you seem to think people need to give their credentials before expressing an opinion, here are mine. I worked with a Crisis Call Center for almost five years where I helped council mentally challenged individuals as well as victims of all kinds of abuse and hardships. I also worked briefly teaching sign language to autistic children in college, and one of my older cousins who I love deeply is autistic. I'm also no stranger to being bullied and called names like faggot, fat-ass, and retard. I was also in special ed my whole life and was friends with all the kids in that class. I learned, more than most, I would guess, to hate words like "retard" and "short-bus" because I associated them with the pain I felt growing up. Kids are really cruel, no doubt about it. And it doesn't seem to change much when people get older. I understand the desire to say, "Let's just not have people make fun of this thing anymore or use these words anymore because it hurts me and the people I love." Believe me, I get that. But the issue is more complicated than that. This isn't just about bullying, this is about comedy in general. To answer your other questions, hshore, yes, I have used the word "nigger," on stage, in Oakland, to a crowd of predominantly black people, and yes, they laughed, because the joke was funny and made fun of white people. I have also used the word "Kike" on stage in a diss rhyme that I wrote for my good buddy Jack Solomon at a going a away roast for him. He loved it more than anyone. The reason why these jokes worked well is because jokes, and the words we use to create them, are inherently neutral, it's only if there is real hatred behind them that could ever make them offensive. A joke takes something true about the world and then heightens it. If it isn't at least partially true, or if it isn't heightened in a clever way, the joke won't be funny. End of story. The joke about the "photo wrecker," for instance is really funny. Is it in bad taste? Yeah. Could it be used to hurt someone? Oh yes. Could it also be made by a mother of a special needs child to that child and they both laugh? Absolutely. The offensiveness of a joke isn't determined by which words are used or necessarily by what true element of the real world is being heightened, but rather, by who is telling it and how. If there's no malice, it's not that they're picking on you, it's that they're bringing something up that you're insecure about and don't feel comfortable making light of. I'm not defending bullying and I'm not defending hate. I also loved the majority of the writings on the website that Ben linked. It was poetic and beautiful and everyone should read it. What I didn't like, what I didn't appreciate, and what I can't defend, is the idea that we should elevate this pain we feel about these words or that topic above that of everyone else and feel like we are in a position to dictate which words people can use and what topics people can make light of. I feel this way not only because of my love of comedy as a healing and coping mechanism, but also because I don't think that trying to limit what people say really gets to the root of your pain. I think that even if no one ever made any more off-handed comments or jokes in poor taste, it still wouldn't really make you feel any better. Because really, your pain probably has nothing to do with them. If you face it on your own terms, without endowing these words and these strangers with so much power over you, I think you'd be better off.

Posted on March 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm 0

On Should "Retarded" be Retired from the Comedic Lexicon?

A couple years ago, I became a suicide survivor, twice over. Less than a year apart from one another, two of my very close family members took their own lives, both with gunshots to the head. I mention this because now whenever someone unthinkingly mentions that they had such a bad day at work that they wanted to "blow their brains out," I have a strong emotional reaction, and I can't help but be a little upset at them. But then I try to relax, and remember, what happened wasn’t their fault, or anyone else’s. The reason I can’t get on your team to put limitations on how people communicate is because whether you’re joking about suicide or racism or sexism or religion or the mentally challenged, no one’s pain is any more or less real than anyone else’s. Everyone has legitimate arguments for why you should use this word over that word or why certain topics should just be off limits. If we’re seriously going to talk about this, the real question can’t be whether or not we should joke about the handicapped; the real question is, can we joke about anything? My answer (shocking coming from a comedian) is an unqualified, unapologetic YES. The reason I answer this way is because I feel that by pouring so much attention and energy into the inert words of strangers, you are ignoring the true source of your pain that’s deep down at the heart of the matter. It’s not so much that people are unfair and insensitive and shitty, it’s that life at its core is unfair, insensitive and shitty. We all expect or hope for a life full of joy, good luck, equality, meaning, but very rarely can the universe afford to give us any of it. So we’re all just trying to deal with it, hopefully together. That’s why art is so important. It brings people together and helps them find some beauty in the incomprehensive cruelty that we all try so desperately to ignore. Humor is how people face the absurdity of life head on and still continue living in spite of it. Humor doesn’t degrade the sincerity of life; humor redeems its shortcomings. To attempt to take that away from even one person is a bigger outrage to me than even the most offensive joke that anyone has ever heard.

Posted on March 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm 0