One of the greatest comedies of all times, Blazing Saddles, couldn’t be made today according to its creator, legendary comedian, writer, and director Mel Brooks.
A comedy with scenes of slavery, where white people use the “N” word? Forget it.
Likewise for another film, The Producers, despite its ground-breaking, satirical look at political correctness with its “Springtime For Hitler” sub-theme. (Ironically, both movies are still widely viewed today and considered acceptable because they were made “back then.”)
Just several weeks after 9/11, comedian Gilbert Gottfried performed at the Friars Roast of Hugh Hefner in New York City and said, “I intended to get a direct flight here, but they said we have to stop at the Empire State Building first.” Groans filled the audience, but a lot of people laughed, augmented with some cries of “Too soon!” His joke and the reaction to it is a sterling example that anything can be made to be funny if the joke is indeed funny.
In 2011, he Tweeted a series of jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and was fired from his job as the “voice” of the AFLAC duck because the company did 75% of its business in Japan. (Interestingly, it’s not so easy to imitate a funny duck, and his replacement was horrible by comparison.)
AFLAC made a business decision that his Tweets would hurt their business, but as Gottfried wisely observed, “Yeah. Right after the disaster, millions of Japanese were logging onto their computers and asking, ‘How do you spell Gottfried? I want to know what he thinks about all this.’ ”
It was a prime example of America bringing brought down to the world’s lowest common denominator (not ours) of “acceptable humor.” Are Americans supposed to take a sense of humor lesson from the Japanese!? (There was a Renaissance of comedy in Japan right after Hiroshima, but it didn’t last very long.)
You can’t really blame AFLAC for their decision, though. Who would expect them to stand up for American values? Also, what do they know about humor anyway? They’re in the insurance business, and their idea of a great joke is a whoopee cushion or putting someone’s fingers in water while they’re taking a nap
The problem is, we’re lowering our own threshold for acceptable within the United States, out of fear of offending someone, and in so doing, we’re losing something very valuable, something that’s part of the American character:
That we know how to take a joke.
But there’s even more to it because in most cases, jokes don’t cause offense at all. Being offended is used as a tactical choice based on politics. Two people can take offense at the same joke, for opposing reasons. Here’s a beautiful example of this recently posted on Facebook:
“I’m afraid that ICE is going to deport my mother-in-law who lives at 368 Eight Street, Apartment 3E, Miami, FL 31653, and who gets home from work at 6 PM.”
Progressives will complain that it’s insensitive and makes fun of cruel deportations. Conservatives might argue that illegal immigration is a serious issue and she should be deported; it’s no laughing matter. Feminists might cry how dare you make fun of mother-in-law. And the LGBT community would be up in arms because the subject of the joke is assumed heterosexual. (God forbid.)
We live in an age where celebrities are afraid to take prestigious hosting jobs (Academy Awards, Emmys, etc.) because just one joke can damage their careers. We want comedians to water down their material because it’s too much for us. Next on the agenda after banning all jokes about Islam, is banning all jokes.
We have to wake up to this nonsense, people from all parts of the political spectrum. It’s not who we are as Americans.
In the meantime, a rabbi, a priest, and Osama Bin Laden walk into a bar…