I thought that this was an interesting discussion because frankly, I don’t think that there should necessarily be “a line” … as Jimmy says, as long as comedy is the intent. Comparing the Michael Richards incident from a few years back is really a great example because although he was on stage, it really didn’t seem like he was trying to be funny at that point – he was just being a jerk. There have been plenty of examples of comedians heckling back at their hecklers and it being hilarious, but that just wasn’t it and the world was right to call him on it.
On the other hand, I actually did think that the Quvenzhané Wallis tweet from The Onion was pretty funny because she’s nine years old and apparently currently just about the nicest kid in Hollywood. That’s the joke – calling someone a horrendous name that she’s most definitely not. But I guess you get a lot more airtime if you denounce the joke as obscene and horrendous and raise you and your audience up on a pedestal above it because that’s what nearly every media outlet did in reaction.
But the thing is, humor is subjective and what I may find funny you might not find as much. Hell, over time I don’t find the same things funny that I did a decade or more ago, and that’s completely ok. I have fond memories of the summer of 1997 when one night I abruptly smashed my new Firebird that I’d only purchased a couple of months prior. And yet the memories are still “fond” because the way I coped with the tragedy later that night with my friends who’d been through the accident with me was by staying up half the night reading dead baby jokes to each other out of a book that we’d picked up at the mall earlier that day.
Sure, they were tasteless.
Hell, I think the name of the book was Truly Tasteless Jokes, but in that moment, they were hilarious and we all had a ball seeing how far the next one would push the envelope, and they helped us to forget about otherwise being in a really dangerous situation that could’ve gotten somebody killed earlier that evening.
Now of course, I’ve gotten complaints about that page on Just Laugh – many several pages long from people who’ve lost babies or whatnot themselves … and yet I’ve also gotten emails asking for more and it’s still one of the most popular pages on the site, so you be the judge. At the end of the day, most jokes make light of somebody or something, and if you were to eliminate anything that could possibly be offensive to anyone, we wouldn’t have much left to laugh about at all. And typically that’s not how most people get offended, anyways – it’s not really fair to get all up in arms about something that offends you if you then turn around and enjoy the things that offend other people … a la a Christian who’s offended by Christian jokes, but doesn’t have a problem with jokes at the expense of Muslims.
What’s funny to me is that through it all, I’ve yet to see anyone specifically interviewing Quvenzhané Wallis herself to show that she was offended by a satirical publication calling her a dirty word … just lots of people with microphones eager to be offended on her behalf.
Again, it’s funny because she’s actually not a cunt at all! 🙄