By Chris Johnson
Laughter is powerful. It has been called the “best medicine,” the “shortest distance between two people,” and an “instant vacation.” It can shame people or unite people, and it can apparently turn horribly insensitive comments into acceptable “jokes.”
The most recent example of this comes from comedienne Sarah Silverman who made a crack on Twitter about aborting her burrito. The tweet included a before picture of her swollen belly after eating a burrito and a picture after her stomach was again it’s normal size along with the words, “just had a quickie aborsh in case R v W gets overturned.”
Hilarious, right? Who wouldn’t laugh at that? Besides the babies that can’t because they’ve been killed, of course. And maybe the parents who are scarred by the memories of their own abortion procedures. Who would have thought an abortion joke would be in poor taste?
Silverman’s text is just one example of line-crossing humor that has received some publicity, though.
Not too long ago, Rush Limbaugh got into hot water when he equated Sandra Fluke with a “slut” and a “prostitute.” There was justified controversy over those comments which was somewhat quelled when conservatives pointed out that liberal comedian Bill Maher had called Sarah Palin much more derogatory names which ADA cannot publish and live up to its name.
President Obama’s communications director, David Axelrod, justified Maher’s comments, saying, “understand that these words that Maher has used in his standup act are a little bit different than — not excusable in any way — but different than a guy with 23 million radio listeners using his broadcast platform to malign a young woman for speaking her mind in the most inappropriate, grotesque ways.”
So, in other words, it’s not as bad when Maher says something sexist, because he’s a comedian, and can’t attract an audience.
Going back a little further, there was FOX’s show, “Family Guy,” joking around about September 11. In the episode, two of the characters go back in time to prevent the 2001 terrorist attacks. When their actions don’t turn out so well, they go back in time again to undo them. When they successfully cause the 9/11 attack to happen again, they give each other high fives. This sparked a discussion on whether or not it was “too soon” for 9/11 jokes.
One final example is David Letterman’s joke about Sarah Palin’s underage daughter being impregnated by the New York Yankee’s star hitter Alex Rodriguez. It took Letterman a week to realize that just because something is a “joke” doesn’t mean it should be told in front of millions of people and apologize.
Abortions, demeaning women, terrorist attacks responsible for the death of thousands of people, raping teenage girls – is that seriously what we’re depending on for laughs now?
According to an old Yiddish proverb, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” I would say the opposite is often true these days. What are considered to be jokes often serve to just make our souls more dirty.
And, while it’s easy to blame people for saying offensive things for others to laugh at, the fact is these people are entertainers. When they find material that works for them, they will keep on using it as long as people keep laughing. That doesn’t make it right because it isn’t right. So many aren’t grounded in “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely. … think on these things.”
I’m thankful for a mother and a grandmother who not only contested any miscreant talk and laughter but pointedly showed me the error of it and the potential damage done by it.
May God help us set the pace in our circles – letting our light be light.