Posts Tagged ‘the F word’

We live in a world where anything goes. Sort of. Okay, not really. It depends. Money has a lot to do with what’s acceptable. So does
influence—who has it, what she does with it, how it relates to making money. Tastefulness or appropriateness? Sure that might come into play, somewhere behind money and influence.

I’m reminded of what flies—and what doesn’t by two seemingly unrelated New York Times articles. In one, entertainment critic Jon
Pareles noted
the ubiquity of the F word; three out of the top ten songs on Billboard’s “Top 100” have the word f-ck in the chorus—at least I think that’s what he meant when he referred to a “percussive four-letter word.”  This was front page in the print edition, mind you. Of course, the author also recognized that the F word was so common in popular songs right now that it’s kind of lost its punch. If Enrique Iglesias, the smooth-skinned, smooth-voiced Latin crooner, is using it in the title of his new song about, er, making love, then who can argue that crude sells?

The other article, buried in the business section, announced that Gilbert Gottfried, the irascible comic with the irritating voice, was fired from his presumably lucrative gig as spokesduck for insurance giant Aflac. Gottfried’s grating sound and on-stage persona was a perfect match for the reliable, if short-tempered duck. Apparently Gottfried tweeted tasteless jokes about the situation in Japan—and that was that.

My first reaction was one of disbelief that Gottfried had sabotaged his day job so foolishly. Hello? Brain to mouth (or in this case,
fingers). As an ad agency executive put it (in the careful manner of someone who used to walking a fine line): “I think you should think before you speak, and you should think before you tweet.”

Well yes, but let’s recognize that Gottfried is a raunchy comedian of long-standing who has cracked tasteless, inappropriate jokes for years now. His jokes (reported online, although pulled off his website) were stupid, sophomoric and silly—vintage Gottfried. Here’s one:

“What does every Japanese person have in their apartment? Flood lights.” Source: Syracuse Post-Standard

I know—it makes you squirm; me too. But that’s what Gottfried’s known for; and that’s what his employers must have known about him.
Yet they were offended; rather, they were shocked and offended, which prompted my second reaction: Really? A raunchy comedian who has built his career making frequently offensive jokes has surprised you?

Gottfried has a long history of in-your-face humor. Columnist Frank Rich recalled in 2005 that the comedian told what may have been the first 9/11 joke only two and a half weeks after the attacks that took the lives of so many, including my husband. According to Rich, Gottfried, appearing at the Friars Club, claimed he couldn’t fly non-stop to California because “they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

The joke fell flat

Undaunted, Gottfried pushed ahead and offered up his version of a famous dirty joke that was being recounted by various comedians, whose
performances were then made in to a movie—“The Aristocrats.” Like the professional provocateur that he is, he got the audience guffawing in short order.

I wasn’t offended by the joke. We humans often joke as a way to find relief, especially in the wake of horrific events. Obviously, there’s a
line that separates humor from cruelty, but I’d like to think we can parse the difference. Besides, tragedy is also part of life and life is fair game for the comedian.

Those people who suggested 9/11 was retribution for our sins; or the earthquake in Haiti was a response to devil-worship; or the Japanese “got what they deserved”—those are the people who should be ostracized. But that’s not how things work in our mixed-up, everything goes and nothing goes society. Some can sing about screwing to an audience of screaming preteens, using that percussive four-letter word, and end up being the goose that lays the golden egg.  But a comedian might well be censored—or worse—for doing what he does.

That’s just quacked up.


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