Showtime at the Apology

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on July 30th, 2012

The title of this post comes from the Male Half’s tweet from July 27:

Cook created this week’s “Comic Under Fire for a Video/Audio Recording Taken Out of Context and Splashed Across the Social Mediasphere” controversy when he did a joke– onstage at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, naturally– about the Aurora shooting.

So I heard that the guy came into the theater about 25 minutes into the movie. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but the movie is pretty much a piece of crap — yeah, spoiler alert. I know that if none of that would have happened, pretty sure that somebody in that theater, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, was probably like “Ugh! f*cking shoot me.”

We briefly considered writing another opus defending Cook and taking some of our sistren and brethren to task for being such turncoats, pussies, scolds and weasels, but we decided instead to run the video below. It’s from August of 2009, taped shortly after the death of Michael Jackson. It’s Episode 1 of our video series, “Lying About: Standup” entitled “Is It Too Soon?” In the video, we bemoan the ridiculous comedians who, in the hours and days after the death of the King of Pop, took to Facebook and Twitter and told their colleagues that it was “too soon” to make jokes about Jackson.

The points we made three years ago are startlingly similar to the ones we make in 2012. It’s getting a little tiresome, defending our colleagues (against scurrilous comments often made by our colleagues!), but we can’t just let it slide. But it’s also getting tiresome watching our colleagues apologize.

I am devastated by the recent tragedy in Colorado and did not mean to make light of what happened. I made a bad judgment call with my material last night and regret making a joke at such a sensitive time. My heart goes out to all of the families and friends of the victims.

Particularly nauseating are the comments on the websites– sites that cater to both the left and the right– which trash Cook, trash comedians in general, and fail miserably to understand that one of the functions of a comedian in our society is to say the unsayable, to give voice to our darkest or most uncharitable thoughts in the service of evoking laughter. We often fail in doing so, but we should be given wide latitude. Cook, by the way, did not fail in this case– the reaction to the joke was described thusly: “His comments regarding the shooting were met with groans that morphed into loud laughter and cheers.” (Daily Caller) Which is as it should be. Does anyone, for one nanosecond, think that the assembled comedy fans who laughed and cheered that night were doing so out of some sort of vulgar or wretched disrespect for the victims or survivors of the Aurora shooting? Can we explain their reaction in a way that allows for some coarseness but also recognizes a healthy catharsis? Are we not told that one way we deal with our darkest fears is by laughing at them? Is this not a case of dealing with fears by laughing? Is it too soon? Apparently, not. Not for the people who showed up at the Laugh Factory a week after the shooting. They were probably keenly aware of the misery and death in Aurora. And they might have been at a comedy club to blunt their fear or their pain. And, who knows– maybe they were subconsciously skittish about being packed into a theater one week after the worst mass shooting in American history. Their reaction might have been borne of that collective consciousness. It may have been that Cook addressed their long-term as well as their vague, immediate fears. We’re speculating, of course. But have you seen some of the speculation as to Cook’s motivation? Have you seen the comments that call him everything from an insensitive douchebag to a has-been to a homosexual? (Yes… that’s right– the comments from left, right and center employ the the “triumvirate of ultimate put-downs.” So far, no one has figured out how his comments were “racist.” Give them time.)

And we just noticed that, in our last few posts, we’ve spent a lot of time defending the people who laughed. That’s kind of important, as the people who laugh are the people who buy our product– live, recorded, televised, etc. It would be deadly if the folks who laugh are made to feel– through repeated tongue-lashings from perpetually offended busybodies– that their laughter is almost as egregious an offense as the “reprehensible” jokes being told by the “potty-mouth” comedians. We stand by them, just as we stand by the comedians who’ve come under fire. Who would you rather have in the audience? The folks who laugh at “inappropriate remarks” or the people who videotape them and seek to squeeze apologies out of the most successful comedians on the planet?