So Tracy Morgan is in a heap load of trouble for his homophobic “joke” during his stand-up routine. In case you haven’t heard, Tracy Morgan “joked” that people who complain about gay bullying are just whining, and if his son whined about gay bullying, he would kill said son. See, that’s so funny because it’s completely over-the-top and not something that would ever happen in real life, so the absurdity of it all makes it funny! LOL!
Except not. There are different schools of opinion about how harmful this is, how much retribution he should face, and how much time we should even spend talking about it. Me? I’m mostly disappointed to see this side of a performer I enjoy so much on 30 Rock (hence the “dammit (janet)” tag). But Morgan’s apology is what interested me the most:
“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville. I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”
I’ve heard the “equal opportunity jokester/offender” defense before. I’ve used it myself. That was before I started thinking more carefully about how I and others use comedy. It’s really quite simple and easy to say, “Either everything’s a fair target for humor, or NOTHING IS,” and I used to live by that rule. Now, I believe that comedy and the debate over “fair targets for humor” is a lot more complex and nuanced than a simple all-or-nothing, black-and-white rule.
But I’ll talk more about those nuances at another time. Right now, my eyes are still pointed to the top of my head. See, when I heard Morgan’s apology, my eyes rolled so hard that they got stuck.
“I’m an equal opportunity jokester/offender.” I’m still amused at how many comedians, how many people, use that excuse and think they’re being oh-so-clever and “edgy” – or even better, egalitarian. (Martin Luther King, Jr. would be so proud; that’s TOTALLY what he was talking about in his “I Have a Dream” speech.) They make jokes that rely on tired stereotypes and cliches and then claim to be edgy and original, and then they defend themselves by pretending to be “equal opportunity jokesters.”
Well, equal opportunity jokesters, I have news for you. You likely have many friends and fans who appreciate you for “telling it like it is!” (e.g. “repeating the same stereotyped shit that’s so old it’s practically fossilized”), but there are others, like me, who are not impressed.
You want to know why?
Every time I see or hear you make a “joke” like this, I no longer see your face. I no longer hear your voice. You cease to exist to me as an individual. Your individual personhood vanishes before my eyes, and all I see in front of me is a third grader who squints hir eyes, flops hir hand, beats said hand against hir chest and makes a “DUHHH” sound in a crude impersonation of someone who has a disability.
Basically, you’re no more original than the kids on the playground who made fun of the retards.
How does that feel?
Or hey – maybe I just don’t get your sophisticated humor. Tell me another gay joke – one I haven’t heard before. I bet it’s hilarious.