When Humor Isn’t Funny

I read a couple of things recently that were supposed to be funny.   One set of remarks involved President Obama and the First Lady, the other pertained to Rush Limbaugh.  I found both sets to be pretty offensive.

I read an article about an orangutan that almost escaped from the zoo.  Below the article where readers can make comments, more than one person drew a parallel between the ape and Barack Obama and another person compared the ape to Michelle Obama.  How incredibly not funny.  Not only were the comments hateful,  unfunny, and dumb, but they actually make things more difficult for the people who write them.  It is no stretch to believe that someone who writes something so racist really doesn’t like the President’s policies.  Well, the more racist rhetoric you throw around, the harder it is to fairly debate the issues.  People are more likely to cite racism as a factor in any criticism when racismseems so rampant on the Internet.  So good job, racist guy, way to undermine your own cause.

Recently there was some kind of Correspondents Dinner in Washington DC, and a comedienne made fun of Rush Limbaugh.  Now, Mr. Limbaugh dishes it out, so it doesn’t seem unfair that he should have to take it, too.  Thus, when the joke was made that maybe he had memory loss because of his Oxycontin addiction, well, it was the type of thing Limbaugh himself might have made at someone else’s expense.  However, there were two remarks that bothered me.  One was comparing him to a terrorist.  I am troubled when people direct terms like “terrorist” or “Nazi” at those who have different political beliefs.  It bothers me because it cheapens the impact of those words.  People who really are terrorists or Nazis have done truly despicable things.  To call a Republican or Democrat those things displays an ignorance of history, and it’s a slap in the face to those who have truly suffered.

I also didn’t appreciate the remark at the Dinner about hoping Limbaugh died of kidney failure.  Some people on the Right and Left are upset by that, but there are some who want to dismiss it with an it’s only a joke response.  Imagine if we flipped the politics of it.  Imgaine if Miss California was asked what she thought of gay marriage and replied that she wished that everybody who wanted one would just die an early death.  I don’t think anyone on the Left would be laughing, and rightfully so because such “humor” isn’t funny.

I like to laugh, and I know a lot of people like edgy humor.  But we don’t need to promote hate in our public discourse (or our private discourse for that matter).  Comparing the leader of our country to an animal isn’t funny and neither is joking about a painful and premature death for someone whose politics you don’t like.  On the Left and the Right, let’s stop the hate.