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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

There Is Nothing Funny About Hitler

Where do you draw the line with comedy? At what point would you consider that someone has gone “too far” in the pursuit of a laugh? Of course, everyone has their own ideas about what is out of bounds in humor, everyone has different standards, but can we all agree on a few basic topics that are forbidden? It would be extremely difficult to come up with a universally agreed-upon set of standards in the realm of humor. Would it be possible to insure that not a single American be offended by any of the offerings produced by the vast humor industrial complex operating in this country? I think that we owe it to ourselves to try.

How about Hitler? Does anyone have an argument against banning history’s absolute biggest prick from being employed in the attempt to get a cheap laugh? My initial instinct, my knee-jerk response is to say that in deference to the millions of victims of his terrible reign of terror, Hitler should be a forbidden subject of gags, limericks, knock-knock jokes, sit-coms, funny greeting cards, and humorous anecdotes of any sort. I’m glad we could all agree on that one.

But think about this for a minute. I don’t think that I will get any argument when I say that Jewish people make up an extremely disproportionate share of comedians. Now take a situation in which millions of Jewish people were being persecuted by just about the silliest-looking fucker in history and you just have to believe that there were a lots of Fürer jokes. And come to think of it, I also remember watching a Three Stooges episode when I was a kid in which Moe did a very convincing, and hilarious impersonation of that infamous Nazi shit heel. If I were to denounce that humorous portrayal of Mr. Hitler, wouldn’t I be guilty of rewriting comedy history? I am ashamed to say it but I can also remember a fairly funny joke having to do with Hitler and tequila. Let’s leave Hitler off the banned list for now.

In today’s newspaper there is an article about a consumer group warning parents of certain toys that pose a choking hazard or other dangers for children. Surely only a monster would consider as fair game for laughter a subject that involves over 210,000 emergency room visits for children annually. One of the products the consumer advocacy group mentioned was a toy guitar that could damage a child’s hearing because it puts out 117 decibels. If there were a child anywhere near me playing with a toy that put out 117 decibels, the last thing you would have to worry about would be the kid’s hearing—unless the child’s hearing could somehow be damaged by me smashing the guitar repeatedly over his head. I don’t think there is a court in this country that would convict me of any wrongdoing, and they would probably get a chuckle out of hearing that story. A jury of my peers probably wouldn’t object if I had also gone after the parents for providing their child with such an incredibly obnoxious toy.

Finding subject matter that is totally taboo to everyone is harder than I thought. Something that I find particularly heinous is anyone who finds humor in the day-to-day cute things that kids say and do, but Family Circus is one of the most beloved comic strips in America, so what do I know? Something even more unpardonable for me would be someone who cuts a Family Circus panel out of the paper in order to show it to coworkers around the office. To me, that violates all standards of human decency. Is Family Circus worse than Hitler? We may never know. I am also horribly offended by the canned laughter used in television situation comedies, but I seem to be in the minority on this issue and so will remain silent.

I will close this essay with the issue unresolved. Until we come to some kind of agreement all of you sick minds out there go ahead and make jokes about handicapped kids, 9/11, Princess Di’s premature demise, dying Popes, dead babies, Helen Keller, necrophilia, leprosy, and the glory hole in Michael Jackson’s bathroom stall. It’s open season on everything. Happy hunting.

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