There’s a strange or disturbing or downright scary phenomenon going on in the good ol’ U.S. of A. right now. People have seemingly stopped laughing at the usual suspects, i.e., those with a public face. Now, granted, there are many things going on that are quite serious and shouldn’t be treated lightly. But it really seems as if we’ve lost our ability to find humor in at least some antics of famous people or events.
Among those who tell jokes for a living, there seems to be a consensus of opinion that cancel culture is killing comedy. That pretty much goes across the board, from those who live on the edge for laughs to those who kind of stick to more family-friendly fare. Comedians report it’s getting harder and harder to say virtually anything without offending someone. (Although there was one guy who said that as long as you joke about only straight white males, you’re probably okay. They either don’t know they’re being made fun of or they just don’t care.) Jerry Seinfeld apparently won’t appear on college campuses any longer for fear of backlash. And Jerry’s hardly known for Lenny Bruce-style references. His TV show, after all, was about, well, nothing.
Even late-night talk show hosts have to be careful. There’s no doubt the worst thing that happened to them was the election of Joe Biden. When Trump was President, all they had to do was stand up and read his Tweets. Everything about The Donald was fair game, but either Joe’s just not good comedic material or the P.C. police are waiting in the wings ready to pounce.
Would a hugely successful show such as All in the Family even be allowed on TV today? Doubtful. Carroll O’Connor played the bigoted Archie Bunker to perfection, providing countless laughs. If you removed all the 2021 offensive references in those scripts, you’d probably end up with nothing but Edith saying, “Oh, Archie.” You couldn’t even play the theme song. It contained a reference to “girls were girls and men were men.” And forget about producing today any movie Mel Brooks ever created.
If it were still okay to have a little sport with politicians, it might be fun to write about Vice President Harris. As you’ll recall, she was appointed Immigration Czar (or Czarina) almost a month ago now. But, as of this writing, she has yet to visit the border to see for herself what’s going on. Perhaps her absence would bring to mind a song made famous by Groucho Marx in 1939’s At the Circus called Lydia the Tattooed Lady. The words were, “Lydia, oh, Lydia, say have you met Lydia; Lydia the tattooed lady?” Maybe an updated version would be, “Kamala, oh Kamala, oh have you seen Kamala; Kamala the missing lady?”
Then there’s the Washington Football Club (nee Redskins). They’re looking for help in choosing a new nickname. Some of the options include: Wild Hogs, Riders, Redwolves, Aviators, Wayfarers, Ambassadors, Griffins, Warriors, Armada, Rising, Swifts, Commanders, Pilots, and Rubies. I already weighed in on this issue when it first arose, but perhaps it bears repeating. How about the Washington Sloths? Known for their slowness of movement, sloths also apparently spend most of their lives hanging upside down from trees. As I said before, if that doesn’t accurately represent how a large part of America views the denizens of the nation’s capital, I don’t know what does.
Unlike his predecessor, President Biden seems to be in the good graces of most of the nation’s media. But it should be possible to point out one or two items that might be of concern, shouldn’t it? For example, he’s made no secret of his admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his extravagantly expensive New Deal. One source I saw estimated that FDR’s entire program cost about $50 billion. Today, that same amount would be roughly $1 trillion. In his first couple of months in office, Biden has already pushed through a $1.9 trillion spending measure, and now wants to add another $2.3 trillion (with an additional $1 trillion plan to follow). So, if Roosevelt’s plan was the New Deal, would that make Biden’s the BIG Deal? Chances are it’s going to be no laughing matter to those who end up paying for those programs.
And then there’s the FDR-inspired Supreme Court-packing idea being floated at the moment. Who knows? Given the divisiveness in the country, there might be support for more Justices. Whatever your thoughts, though, don’t laugh at the attempt. That’s not allowed. Just ask your friendly stand-up comedian.
By the way, is it still okay to start a joke with “a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar . . . “?
©MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer