Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Mar 04, 2014

Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday, March 25 at noon. You may submit questions here.

Although the weekly edition provides an update between live chats, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

I was going to start where we left off answering pubic questions, but that will have to wait for next week.  One of the leftover questions linked to a really interesting standup routine, and I think we need a poll.   So, let us cue up the pertinent question, please --

Have you seen this bit from D. L. Hughley? http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/bid40t/stand-up-d-l-hughley--slow-kids After a few jokes about how stupid children are these days, he talks about how kids die in hot cars. He explains that when he was a kid, he would have been smart enough to get out of a hot car. I heard it (audio only) a few days ago while only half listening. First, I was horrified. Second, I thought that maybe I was being oversensitive. Maybe the joke was at his own expense, parodying the whole "kids these days" cliche. are these days. Babies dying in hot cars are the ultimate innocent victims, so actually suggesting that they are at fault is therefore something only someone who is completely oblivious and self-centered could say. Then I found the video and listened and watched again, and I had no doubt that this is the most offensive and least funny comedy routine I have ever seen. The most painful part is the cut to the laughing audience. Am I missing anything?

Okay, so.   We are going to have a poll right now, about this standup routine, which IS safe for work.  (The curse words are bleeped.)   Ready?  And then afterwards I will tell you what I think.   And that will be today's update because this is pretty heavy. 


Here's my answer.

Yes, of course you can be very funny and offensive.   It may not EXCUSE the joke, or make it publicly tellable, but that doesn't mean it's not funny on its own terms.  (I will laugh at almost anything if it is funny, because I find stereotypes funny, usually because they are ridiculous.  They are making fun of themselves.)

I don't personally find this routine offensive or tasteless, but I can see how reasonable people might.   I'll tell you why I feel this way, and then begone.

First off, I find this vastly less offensive than the beady-eyed self righteous commenters who read news stories about the latest parent going through this hell  and then append their views about what savage monsters these parents are.   Usually this is preceded by a statement about how they could never have done that to their babies because they LOVE their babies.

So  THAT offends me greatly because it is a reality-based opinion.  There is a real person, to whom a real tragedy has occurred, and real people expressing their self-righteous sanctimony.  

This is a parallel universe the comedian has created.  He knows these are children so young they cannot leave the car.   He knows we know that; he is changing the rules to make a joke.  There is nothing serious about his suggestion that these babies are too stupid to help themselves, and he knows you know that.  He is doing this to boldly enter a forbidden arena: Yes, it is a joke about babies dying.  If that is per se offensive, and you might well think so, then fine.  But don't condemn it because he's making fun of the tragedy of babies dying in hot cars.  He isn't. 

The mental retardation thing is, to me, a little different.  To me he goes over the line when he talks about their physical characteristics.    I wouldn't go there, but I do find it funny. 

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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