Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can't You Take A Joke?: On Tracy Morgan and Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

by Max S. Gordon

This article is dedicated to my sister, who I watched get beaten with a belt for not finishing a plate of food when I was four and she was two.

I don’t want to talk about Tracy Morgan. I’ve found him funny sometimes, but I haven’t paid much attention to his career, and I don’t watch his show. But I have to write about him, because he’s in the news for saying in his stand-up routine that if his son came home “acting” gay, he would “stab that little nigger to death.”

In this media-driven world we live in, we say things we shouldn’t, we get into trouble, we send apologies that don’t sound anything like us through hired publicists and lawyers, and hope the trouble goes away - or that someone else says or does something they shouldn’t and everyone will forget what we did. (Anthony Weiner should send Tracy Morgan flowers.)

If the trouble is deep enough, a career may end. Or if we refuse to go away, immune to universal contempt (Elliot Spitzer), or make someone enough money, all may be forgiven. So by the time you finish this article, or perhaps when you start it, Tracy Morgan’s words will probably be old news.

But what happened on that stage in Nashville on June 3 is bigger than Tracy Morgan. And I have to talk about it, because frankly, I’m exhausted and outraged that this shit happens again and again. And as a black gay man, I need to deconstruct this, because Chris Rock and Roland Martin of CNN clearly refuse to, defending Morgan’s right to say what he did, without exploring why he said it. I’m not surprised by Rock, but I’m disappointed with Martin, who I once respected, and who usually seems to care about civil rights. And I have a little rage left over for the woman who twittered, in response to Martin’s, “WTF….Comic Tracey Morgan Has Offensive Material” that Martin was “on point.” On another site, someone wrote, “It’s comedy, remember,” and “Can’t gay people take a joke?”

In 2004, I wrote an article entitled Jesusland about hate crimes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in America. I argued that the former president’s attempts to legislate against gay marriage directly led to violence against our community. But I failed to acknowledge that it isn’t only presidents who have the power to influence. It’s actors, it’s comics, it’s neighbors, teachers, pastors, rabbis, your father, your best friend, it’s anyone with any power, and people who have no power. It’s the guy sitting next to you at the bar who says, “What’s that faggot across the room looking at?” because he’s drunk and decides he wants to fight a stranger. It’s all of us, all the time, in a constant moral conversation about which people deserve to be hated, and therefore destroyed.

Last week, I read in the paper that a group is planning a Gay Pride celebration in Harlem this year. A local black pastor responded by saying that he felt all children should be kept indoors on that day. He said to expose children to the Pride events would be the same as telling them that pedophiles were also okay, or people who have sex with animals.

I think black people who hate are often let off the hook; we’re not usually the haters, we’re the hated. But there’s condescension in giving us this free pass – either we’re not refined enough to know better, or we’re so damaged ourselves, we can’t help but hate back. When a straight black man hates homosexuals, the assumption is that what he really hates is white men, and the white culture where homosexuality “originates”. Morgan has been quoted as saying that being gay is a choice that comes from the media and programming, which is code for “white people”. A black son who comes home “acting” gay should be killed not only because of his behavior, but because he’s a traitor - choosing the white gay world over the straight black one. I’ve heard this argument before, although stated less violently: when I came out to my mother, she mourned my going to the University of Michigan where I came out of the closet, and wished she’d sent me to Morehouse instead. (No homosexuals there, of course.)

Martin, in his blog, describes several stand-up comics who have also used “hate” to entertain, as if to argue that just because others have done it, it’s okay for Morgan; or that hate speech is a function of comedy, and if you are easily offended, you should know better and stay home. Then there is the argument that we don’t know the inflection with which Morgan said his comments, so we can’t judge. As if, after hearing or watching a recording of the performance, we’d say, “Oh, that’s different. With that wry little smile at the end and the way he lowered his voice, now I understand what he really meant.”

In writing this article, I started to defend some of the examples that Martin used as not being hate speech, arguing that there was a difference between Chris Rock talking about killing his wife in a stand-up about O.J. Simpson, or Bernie Mac’s disciplining a child by beating him with a hammer - but maybe there is none. At first, I thought those examples weren’t the same because Rock wasn’t talking about all women, just “his wife”, Bernie Mac wasn’t advocating beating all children, just the ones who misbehaved. But the fact is, according to The Domestic Violence Resource Center, 1 out of 4 women has experienced violence by a partner, and a statistic once published by the FBI said a woman is beaten in the U.S. every 15 seconds. It's been estimated that five children die a day as a result of child abuse in this country, a majority of them under the age of four.

It’s dreary, citing statistics, when what we want is to be entertained. We laugh at shock comedy and shock jocks, because of the horror and supposed freedom and naughtiness - the fact that “you just can’t say that.” We have reached a point, it seems, where anything is okay for a laugh. Lisa Lampanelli said to David Hasselholf in a comedy roast on Comedy Central, “Your singing is huge in Germany. If they had played your music at Auschwitz the Jews would have sprinted for those ovens.”

Greg Geraldo on Jon Lovitz: “There hasn’t been a more effeminate Jew in the closet since Anne Frank.” You may or may not be ashamed if you laughed, and maybe nothing is sacred anymore; but I think about children, because we’re fooling ourselves if we think our children aren’t watching. We “appreciate” the irony, if there is any, but can they? Is anything fair game?

I’m sure Chris Rock is proud of his stand-up routine, “Blacks vs. Niggers” which arguably took his career to another level, made him rich, and spoke to some of the anger black and white people felt. It was okay, of course, because Rock wasn’t talking about respectable blacks like himself or Oprah. He was talking about “niggers”, the ones who irritate us because they are too loud in public, or fight outside movie theaters, or have babies they can’t afford, so we knew who he meant. Like a woman who lives in my building, and was overheard saying to a black woman having trouble with her public assistance card at the supermarket, “It’s bad enough that you’re on welfare, but do you have to hold up the goddamn line, too?”

I cringed when I heard Rock’s stand-up because I remember thinking, I can’t put this in a container, I can’t fix the world so only black people can hear this. I was ashamed, not of “niggers” but of black wretchedness, which by any other name is called poverty, and which was on display yet again, for public consumption and delectation. Rock looks hip onstage and the camera shows a predominantly black audience, but the audience at home is mostly white. I imagined the laughter as Rock said, “Books are like kryptonite to a nigger”, and wondered, Are they really getting the joke? Is it really that different if a black man says this, than if a white man does? Rock further blurs this line when he says, “I wish they’d let me join the Ku Klux Klan, I’d do a drive-by from here to Brooklyn.” Blacks may understand his contempt, but racist whites may feel vindicated because, finally, a black man is saying what they’ve been feeling all along. The horror that maybe they aren’t getting the joke at all, because there may not be one to get anymore, that what was once irony, has become full-on contempt, is what drove Dave Chapelle to drop the multi-million dollar contract from his show and head straight to Africa for what was rumored to be a nervous breakdown. Where can we send Tracy Morgan – Christopher Street?

I still sometimes curse Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat routine on Saturday Night Live. White kids at my high school found it so funny that I endured several weeks of humiliation when I took my jerri curl out and let my hair go natural. Exasperated, I finally cut it all off. Looking back, I had a beautiful afro, but I was pursued with the jeers of classmates flashing minstrels’ grins and saying, fingers raised in an okay symbol, “Oh-TAY!” I hope Eddie was paid well.

I feel uncool criticizing Family Guy, a show I don’t watch, but you’d have to be from another planet not to catch an episode or two in a hotel room or a friend’s house. And I’ll admit, I’ve laughed, but I’ve also recoiled from the brutality. But even that feels silly to acknowledge about something as supposedly innocuous as a TV show: I mean, what is brutality….can’t you take a joke? In the episode I saw, Peter Griffin, in a fantasy sequence, attacks a teenage girl who has insulted his daughter at school. He grabs her by the hair and smashes her into a glass encasement eighteen times until her face is broken and bloody, leaving her battered on the ground in a pool of her own blood. I imagine what they write on the show is justified because if you watch Family Guy you’re supposed to know it’s “crazy”, just like if you go to Morgan’s show, you should be expecting violence against gays.

Tyler Perry’s Madea is a powerhouse character, standing up to abusive husbands, the police, the court system, and any other adversary that gets in her way, her gun always at the ready. I often find her hilarious, but what isn’t particularly funny once I’ve left the theater is the way Madea often hits and threatens children. Of course, this is part of her “I don’t take shit off no one” fabulousness, and makes us cheer because finally someone knows what to do with these damn kids. Even though, at the time of this writing, Casey Anthony is on trial because she allegedly knew what to do with her damn kid, and you don’t have to wait very long to read a story in the New York Daily News about some child who is scalded or beaten to death because they cried too much, or someone threw them against the wall, or whatever. There’s always a neighbor who heard crying, there’s a social worker who meant to stop by more often, and now another child is dead.

But Madea is not about killing children, she’s about beating them when they need it, like Bernie Mac’s comedy about running a daycare where he hits your child with a hammer. Even though Tyler Perry has publicly discussed the abuse, physical and sexual, that he suffered throughout his childhood, Madea continues to reassure us with her behavior: “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.” When you sit in the audience you laugh because you remember the good old days, when we didn’t have all this pop psychology and rules, back when if you wanted to discipline a child, you didn’t have to reason with him, or talk about time outs, where there weren’t social workers or agencies. When a child was yours, and if you wanted to, you picked up whatever was nearby and you beat his ass.

I’ve talked to adults who tell me how they were glad they got those whuppins, forgetting, I suppose, the actual ritual of getting a beating. For those kids who aren’t numb and haven’t learned after years to sit there, eyes glazed over, and take it, there is the begging, pleading, being dragged across the floor, the belt taken down from the closet, being jerked by one arm, twisted, the screaming, the emphatic phrasing with each hit, “Didn’t, I, tell, you, not, to, come, home, late…”

He’s glad he got whipped, it made a man out of him; she beats her own kids, but only when they really need it. Pam can’t stop eating and throwing up, Tom’s addicted to crystal meth, Chris is in prison again for armed robbery and assault, Shawn stutters when his father walks into the room; James sleeps with his eyes slightly open even though he’s forty, because sometimes he had to run in the middle of the night, Linda can’t remember anything before the eighth grade…but we all laugh at Madea because she knows how to handle those damn kids. And of course, if Madea is too old school for you, and Bernie Mac too evil, you may need something a little smoother, like Jello for dessert. Bill Cosby talking to his kids in his stand-up routine: “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”

I’m not surprised that some people laughed at Morgan’s comments. People are different in an audience. An enthusiastic audience can become a mob - any performer who is fighting for his life on stage knows that. And people do things in mobs they would never do on their own. In James Allen’s book, Without Sanctuary, lynching photographs record groups of white men, sometimes even women and children, in the deep south, standing around the charred remains of a black body. I believe there were a few sociopaths in the crowd who could have held the actual match, but there were probably many others who stood around because they were fascinated, or bored, or it was hot, or everyone else was there, or their husband dragged them, or whatever other reason someone has for watching another human being burned to death.

The problem is, the mob isn’t only in the theater. It’s on the sidewalk, it’s in our homes as we watch television, it’s us, all the time, not just one night watching comedy, but making decisions every day, and comparing notes. That’s why it’s important that people denounce hate speech when it occurs, not defend it. Perhaps one day there will be a man like Adolf Hitler, sitting in a bar with his friends, who will stand up and say, “You know I really hate those people over there. Let’s go put them and their kind in camps.” And one of his friends will say, “No, they’re good people. You’re drunk. Now shut up and sit your ass back down.” And that, as far as genocide goes, will be the end of that. It takes two. But for now, nobody’s saying that, and so all that’s required is for a group in Nashville who saw Morgan’s show and thought it was hilarious, to see a man coming out of a gay bar across the street, walking “funny”. The rest is history.

I’m writing this article, not because I hate Tracy Morgan, although I do hate what he said. I’m asking, Where is the fucking bottom? How far do we have to go before people will stop this hate and realize that they will lose this war; that gay people will get their rights, as black people have (sort of), and we won’t stop fighting and demanding justice until we do?

I spoke with a black gay man recently who says that he and his friends use the phrase, “BF, GS…” meaning they consider themselves black first and gay second. That even if they encounter homophobia from time to time from other blacks, they are black men who happen to be gay, and not the other way around. You won’t see them at a gay rally led by white men. I thought about it, and wanted to agree, so as not to be seen as a traitor to my community – but my mouth crunched on the words. I am not black first or gay first, and I’m frustrated at having to choose. I’ve explored both those identities separately: as a black man I know how we as blacks have fought for our rights in this country - desegregating lunch counters and all-white schools, being hosed down in the streets, marching against Jim Crow; as a gay man I claim the horrors of bars raided by police, gay people arrested because of their identity, the belief by some that AIDS is a gay disease that we deserve, of having to come out to parents, employers, friends, and standing up against gay-bashing and violence. Then there is the place where my black and gay identities come together beautifully: Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Richard Bruce Nugent, and other incredible black, gay artists now and from all the way back to the Harlem Renaissance. I don’t want to have to choose.

And I’m not so sure, if I’m facing persecution and the white world is hot on my heels, that I can run into any black church as a gay man and ask for help. Can I run into the church of that pastor in Harlem who said those words about pedophiles and Gay Pride? Can I run into any of the black churches that voted for Proposition 8 in California? Whenever I bring that up, of course, someone is quick to remind me that the black vote that helped get Prop 8 passed wasn’t really the black voters’ fault. They were manipulated by diabolical white people who tricked them with big words and scary stories and led them to the polls with the promise of fried chicken dinners. I guess these are the same white people who tricked me into being a homosexual. Clearly, diabolical white people are busy on both sides of the gay fence, recruiting and destroying. You’d think paranoid straight and gay black people would at least find an allegiance there, but even with our common enemy, they are still locking the church doors on our black gay asses.

While I defend Morgan’s right to say what he said, that doesn’t mean people should pay money for him to continue to say it. Sometimes I wish that these so-called “equal opportunity offenders”, who always act as if they make fun of everyone, really did. Charlie Sheen might be the most honest, or the dumbest of them all –at least he made fun of his bosses (while, unconscionably, suggesting a religious slur.) Morgan, and Eminem, and all the others who trash gays, know who they can’t touch, who they won’t go near. They don’t bash the white men who sign their paychecks, that’s for sure.

Morgan is tired of gay people complaining of being bullied? I wish we could stop complaining too, so stop bullying us. How much courage do you have to have to bully a gay person or to hit a woman, to beat a child? When everything in the culture seems to give you a green light, these are the easiest targets of all. Especially when there is a mob behind you saying it’s okay. A hundred years ago, people sent pictures of lynchings as postcards; now we Twitter our hate. It’s all the same.

I want to say that all this will be over with Tracy Morgan, whatever happens, but experience tells me it won’t. There was the story just in the news last week of Kirk Andrew Murphy, experimented on in a study as a child for being “overly feminine”, and who recently killed himself. I winced, but I turned the page, like I’ll turn the page with Morgan.

And like I turned the page in 2000 when I read about Steen Fenrich, a 19-year-old black gay man from Bayside, Queens, who was murdered and dismembered by his stepfather. I wonder how Steen walked when he came in the house the day he died. Was he swishing, or limp wristed, or “man enough”? Probably not. I guess that’s why his stepfather decided to stab that little nigger to death.

copyright Max Gordon 2011

If you are interested in additional articles on this theme, please read "Jesusland" at


Brigitte Lewis said...

beautifully written, thank you so much. I have shared this on my FB page

Anonymous said...

Magnificent. Thank you.

Lucy Lux said...

Being gay is a choice that comes from the media and programming, which is code for “white people”
-Tracy Morgan
That is so wrong!! WTF!! is she talking about...pleaseeee!!

I love all my gay friend,,black,white,latino and they love JOKES (Gay=Happy) they just dont like Hate Jokes.

Rachel Ann said...

Thank you so much for writing this spot-on piece!! I will pass it on. All the best, Rachel

Lester Bryant III said...

Very thoughtful and well written. When are we all going to realize that we are all connected? When we hate it hurts everyone. It has a rippling effect. It diminishes our target(s) as well as ourselves.

charles said...

Amazing thoughts on paper.... I've shared this on my facebook wall as well - Kudos!

Anonymous said...

super ultra gay

Lea said...

This was sent to me by a fan. I am now your fan. Well written on point quite funny. Damn straight!

Anonymous said...

what a powerful piece. thanks so much.

Lisa S. said...

Wow! Thank you so much for writing what I've always thought.

Anonymous said...

You are a genius and a star. Outstanding.

Anonymous said...

amazing words. thanks so much.

Knitman said...

Thank you. As a white gay man I could not have written this. Morgan's joke and stance are vile. I own a Rock dvd and so have sat thru part of his 'nigger' routine. I felt wrong for feeling so shocked and ashamed and sad. Thanks for telling me I@ wasn't wrong to feel that.

Anonymous said...

someone posted this on facebook and i clicked. bravo. fucking bravo! in a world that can seem like reasonable discourse no longer exists, you read something like this and finally feel redeemed. brilliantly written. i'm floored.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for writing this. As a teacher and a survivor of what is euphemistically referred to as "a rough childhood," I can say you really expressed my feelings on jokes about child abuse, in particular. There's some sort of swagger in proclaiming oneself to be "unshockable," but there are things we as human beings and citizens of the world SHOULD be shocked by. You hit the nail on the head so many times here - thank you.

Victoria said...

Thank you for this post. As a lover of comedy but a hater of violence, I have been in that weird spot of laughing at something that is patently not funny, like George Lopez's descriptions of child abuse. I do think that laughter can be a catharsis of the fear and 'frozen' feeling of suffering abuse, but as you point out, that's not what laughing looks like. It looks like approval.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I shared it on my Facebook as well. Hopefully my relative who just posted something in defense of Tracy Morgan will see it.

Jack Veasey said...

This is brilliant and very much needed -- the best thing I've read on this subject. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I'm so relieved to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way! -Glad I clicked on the link to read!!!

The Butchards said...

I am so naive. I can't believe this sort of thing still goes on. I thought we had all grown up. I am sure its against the law in the UK where we have anti racism laws, so jokes like that would be so unacceptable!!!

Anonymous said...

You're a fucking idiot. I wrote something long, constructive, and open for debate. However I'm still floored that you take any bit of the joke seriously. Do not go outside. Continue to write blogs. Only watch Fox news.

The Butchards said...

I am so naive. I didn't think this sort of thing went on. I am certain that comedian or otherwise, this would be against the law over in the UK, and would certainly not be allowed in the workplace. My jaw dropped open when I read what had happened!!!

Relationship rantings said...

Thanks Max. It's this "over the edge" stuff I find so disturbing. Thanks for naming it.

Anonymous said...

"I get a sense of [Tracy] as a father, and there’s no way he would stab his kid. It’s a dumb thing to take at face value. You’d have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise." — Louis CK on Tracy Morgan

How can you say that Chris and Bernie were talking about specific people, so that changes the dynamic of the joke while Tracy was talking about a specific person but that argument does not apply to him?

You've taken the worse case scenarios (for example on child abuse and laughing at Madea.) Most of us got spankings as kids few of us suffered abuse you point out to make your argument.

"What Tracy Morgan says on a stage in Nashville does not make the world a more dangerous place for anyone– gay, black, white or otherwise. To maintain otherwise is melodramatic to the point of hysteria.

To say that Morgan, “could be partly responsible for violence against gay people,” is to say that Andrew Dice Clay might have been responsible for spousal abuse or that Carlin or Hicks or Dave Attell– or any of a number of comedians who joke about violence against another human being– could be responsible for the actions of another. To say that there might be a cause and effect between a comedy routine (even a ham-handed one like Morgan’s) and a violent incident gives no one in the audience any credit and puts way too much responsibility on the comedian. And has a dangerously dampening effect on free expression." Sheckymagazine on Tracy

Anonymous said...

The title says it all, It's a joke, not a funny one, but it was a joke. As a comedian, when he speaks at a comedy club it's to be taken as a joke. If he had grabbed a gay member of the audience and told him if he was his son he'd stab him, that'd be different but no; all he did was make an unfunny joke. Take the tampon out and grow up, just because it wasn't funny to you doesn't mean someone out there won't view it as humorous.

the observationalist NYC said...

Thanks for writing an eloquent response to all the mess that Morgan has voiced. It frustrates me that we aren't having more of a dialogue on how this IS "hate speech;" apparently, coming comedian's can say anything, label it as a joke, and walk away without having to defend taste, humanity, or responsibility. Yes, he may have meant his insane comments to be funny, to be jokes; but you can't tell me every person in the audience took them as that. Someone may have taken it to heart, thinking that kind of speech is okay in life. THAT'S a tragedy.

Hate speech and violent speech is what it is. I can laugh at all sorts of inappropriate jokes. I'm gay; I have a thick skin. But this crosses too many lines.

Fred L. said...

Thanks for writing such an honest and thoughtful article. I believe that by putting your words of hope and concern out there into the collective consciousness, you've helped to counteract some of the poison of hate-speech, however jokingly it may be disguised.

I've never really been a fan of Tracy Morgan. I've often felt that more people laugh at him and his stupid black guy persona than with him. I recall Alec Baldwin saying "Everything Tracy says is funny, even something simple like 'where's da bafroom'" I find it ironic that Morgan should denounce the media and white people for propagating an image of homosexuality. Is he aware what image his own presence in such white owned media presents concerning African Americans?

I also seem to recall some SNL sketches where he has played a woman or gay. Maybe "acting" gay is ok, but "being" gay is not.

I'm going to stop throwing the hypocrite card and just say concerning this instance that a joke about violence towards homosexuals stems only from ignorance and hatred. Those who find it funny and acceptable may hold traces of such in their own hearts, and those who don't may be hoping for more tolerance and love in this world. Humor is subjective. Hatred is not.

brooklyntop said...

This is a great post. I was particularly struck by the memories you evoked of beatings I'd received as a child which were in no way unusual for the time. I have to say, until now, I hadn't really really thought about the child abuse side of Morgan's 'joke', just the anti-gay violence side. I also very much appreciate your remarks about how these 'rebels' like Morgan and Rock and Eminem know exactly whom they can publicly hate and whom they can't. I despise the idea that open abhorrence of marginalized and disempowered people constitutes any kind of iconoclasm or nonconformity when, in fact, it's just the sharp edge of convention. Lupe Fiasco calling Obama a terrorist, however, is the real deal. We need more of that.

I find Morgan a very strange and malignant performer generally. I have to say I have never grokked this idea of meta-racism, or ironic bigotry, so I have never really found the line between his caricature on 30 Rock and Steppin Fetchit. I have also almost never found him funny.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Yes, we're overdue for serious conversations on these issues...when a joke's not a joke.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this article but I feel that it is a bit of an overraction to certain items. For example, "you don’t have to wait very long to read a story in the New York Daily News about some child who is scalded or beaten to death because they cried too much, or someone threw them against the wall, or whatever." You can eliminate every comedic joke about abuse in the world and this will still be the case.

I think jokes are more about the sensitivity and timing, e.g. you shouldn't make jokes about killing a gay kid at a time when gay suicide is at an all time high. I do not think for a second though that people overlook genocide or discrimination because they are de-sensitized by a joke.

Anyways this is my humble opinion and I appreciate the article and am glad many others enjoyed it so mcuh for it is a good article so I will leave it at that.

smaller said...

"I think jokes are more about the sensitivity and timing, e.g. you shouldn't make jokes about killing a gay kid at a time when gay suicide is at an all time high." - Anonymous

So, when IS the appropriate time to make jokes about killing your gay kid?

Anonymous said...

@smaller - anytime that joke is funny. There are countless jokes about killing people (carlin did a few, Pryor, Rock, Attell, Mac etc.) but the reason no one said anything is they were funny jokes.

for the record how many people were actually there and are not going by a 3rd hand account of what he said? None of you. ok, that's what I thought.

Sean Christensen said...

@anonymous But that's exactly the problem, that we're getting this second hand. Out of context, the words are powerful, and the context doesn't seem to matter anymore.

"You can eliminate every comedic joke about abuse in the world and this will still be the case." For one, that isn't something you can account for, there are too many effects on the public to measure. Besides, comedy has this ability to get past the filters of our brains, it is enclosed within this protective shell of "comedy", something to not take seriously, and therefore something that can more easily be absorbed. Max cites several times how younger kids would quote these routines as part of homophobic or racist remarks. Or just plain bullying. "Comedy" is labeled as something that's "ok" to say out loud, because such and such already did, and it's just second hand, and what's the harm, it's only comedy. That in itself is such a dangerous tool. The ability to say anything under the guise of comedy.

I'm off on a tangent. My point was simply that the effect of comedy on the public, on the individual, is deeper and more subtle than expected. Comedians are powerful. Please read Michel Houellbecq's "La possibilité d'une ile", in english the possibility of an island. Great points on comedy routines, their effects.

I was shocked to read more senseless remarks from readers. Perhaps they didn't read the article all the way through.

To Max, we know each other, and this only confirms how I view you, a sensitive and strong voice.

Karen said...

I stumbled across a link to this post and am so impressed.

"Can't you take a joke?" is one of the most frustrating, mean-spirited, cowardly get-out-of-that tricks in the world. You don't get to discuss inequality, injustice, the nature of truth and how microaggressions are as debilitating as overt abuse because, hey, it was a joke!

Like this, from Anonymous:

Take the tampon out and grow up

Yeah, because being a gay man is like being a woman, and women are hysterical, irrational, hyper-sensitive, whiny little less-than-people who... can't take a joke.

Thank you, Max. This white, British, middle class and middle aged, cisgendered bisexual woman thinks you rock.

Anonymous said...

@Sean "But that's exactly the problem, that we're getting this second hand. Out of context, the words are powerful, and the context doesn't seem to matter anymore."

that is the whole problem, context does not matter anymore to people who are now offended by something they did not hear. That they only know about based on a second hand biased blog entry.

Context always matters. The way some of my gay friends talk about other gays, if I took that out of context is worse than anything Tracy said.

People are so quick to jump on a comic, who is not a politician, not a newscaster, but rather someone who is a glorified buffoon (I'm speaking of Tracy in particular and not all comics) and hold his words as fact. When a comic said I would kill my wife, should all wives unite and have the Women's Alliance call the comics employer? NO, because it's a joke not to be taken literally. We understand that, that is until it's gays who are the butt of the joke; then everything a comic says is literal and should be viewed as hate speech and forced apologies should be coming soon.

Context it the key, and no one is looking at it. Couple that with the fact that no one even knows exactly what he said, and you've got a recipe for self-righteous grandstanding.

funny the original blogger, Kevin, had no issues with Tracy's act regarding the racist, misogynistic aspects of it (he even mentioned that he didn't in his blog), yet he had a problem when Tracy targeted the group to which he belonged. If you don't see the bias in this and the problems it has caused, then you have to be acting deliberately obtuse.

babygirlmari74 said...

wonderful article beautifully written!!!!!

babygirlmari74 said...


Anonymous said...


Biagio said...

really well written and some great points

Chei S. said...

Wow. That's all I can say is, Wow. This was written so eloquently. I love that you never once lash out at anyone, or anything. It's just to a target audience, and no one specific hateful person. Even though this is about Tracy Morgan, it's rarely sought out to attack him, if at all even.

I really admire when a writer can bring something like this to attention without getting so violent and hateful right back with their words. It's so contradictory when this happens, but you steered clear of it.

Cheers, my friend!

Anonymous said...

This is a phenomenal piece.

Some of the hate filled comments from readers only reinforce the the problem and the importance of the article.

Max, you are brilliant, gorgeous, and a hero. Our country needs your writing.